How is Chocolate Made? From Farm to Factory to Your Front Door

Chocolate is a catch-all term describing sweet confection made from the cacao bean. There are many ways to prepare chocolate dating back thousands of years.

The cacao bean grows on cacao trees which grow largely in the tropical regions of the world. In fact, it can only grow within 20 degrees latitude of the equator. The main cocao exporting countries are Ivory Coast and Ghana with smaller amounts produced throughout Africa and South America.

The answer to “how is chocolate made” starts with harvesting these cacao beans. The beans are harvested by hand using machetes. What is harvested is the pods. The pods are then cut open and the beans are removed. The husks are used for other purposes, but not in the chocolate making process.

The beans and cacao seeds are left to ferment. Fermentation is critical because it mellows the flavor of the beans. It also imparts the fruity undertones to the chocolate. Usually, the beans are left in wooden boxes for 5 to 10 days. When the beans take on moisture during the fermenting process, they expand and turn a brownish-red color. They also take on a strong fragrance.

Then the beans are dried either in the hot sun or in a special kiln. The cacao is then cleaned of twigs, dust, and contaminants, and then they can be bagged and shipped.

The chocolate beans are roasted to make the flavors come out. The temperature of the roasting depends on the type of beans and how much moisture they have in them.

Then the beans are cracked and blown through a fan to remove the shell from the meat. This meat is referred to as the chocolate nibs. The nibs are then crushed by hand or machine and processed into a chocolate liqueur. This is poured into a mold where it hardens into blocks of dark chocolate.

At this point, the chocolate can take dramatically different turns. For instance, some chocolate is made by adding cocoa butter, sugar, and vanilla to make a sweet chocolate. If the cocoa liqueur is left out, you’ll get a white chocolate.

Conching is the final step in the chocolate making process. It is put through a conching machine. It is called this because the original designs looked like sea shells. The conching machine works by kneeding and massaging the chocolate mixture. The final texture of the chocolate is based on the speed, temperature, and length of time spent in the conching machine.

After conching, the chocolate is tempered. Tempering is where the chocolate is cooled to a precise temperature to produce smooth, shiny bars.

The chocolate is turned into a variety of products such as eating chocolate, cocoa mixes, liquors, baking chocolate and more. Generally chocolate is shipped in liquid form and processed locally.

And that is the answer to “how is chocolate made?”

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