Chocolate is a word that almost everybody has heard of. A lot of people find comfort in chocolate and joy in this ingredient. It's so widely popular that there have been books and movies dedicated to this sweet treat. Have you ever wondered how chocolate is produced? And why is there so much traction around chocolate? Read along to know more about this confection.
HOW IS CHOCOLATE PRODUCED?
Chocolate is a product that necessitates a number of steps to manufacture. Harvesting cocoa, refining cocoa into cocoa beans, and delivering the cocoa beans to the manufacturing factory for washing, conching, and grinding are all part of the process. These cocoa beans will be imported or exported to other nations, where they will be processed into various chocolate products. The following steps are taken to manufacture cocoa:-
1. GROWING THE COCOA BEANS:
Chocolate production begins with the fruit of the cacao tree. The first ever cacao trees originated somewhere in Central or South America. Some sources also state that the first trees grew in the Amazon basin of Brazil, while others place its origin in the Orinoco Valley of Venezuela.
VARIETIES OF COCOA:
There are two main species of cocoa: Criollo and Forastero. Criollo is sometimes called the prince of cacaos because it is a very high-quality grade of cocoa with exceptional flavour and aroma. Less than 15 percent of the world’s cocoa is Criollo, grown mainly in Central America and the Caribbean. Forastero is a much more plentiful variety of high-quality cocoa, representing most of the cocoa grown in the world. Grown mainly in Brazil and Africa, it is hardier, more productive (higher yielding) and easier to cultivate than Criollo and is used in just about every blend of chocolate that is made. A third type of cocoa also deserves mention. Trinitario, a hybrid or cross between strains of the other two types, originated in Trinidad nearly 300 years ago. It possesses a good, aromatic flavour and the trees are particularly suitable for cultivation.
2. THE COCOA BEAN HARVEST:
Cocoa pods are harvested by hand one by one. Each pod is carefully cut with a sharp tool. Pods that grow on the tallest branches are harvested with knives attached to long poles.
After picking the pods cut from the trees, they are collected in piles in an open area that are close to the cacao trees. Here, the woody pods are opened with one or two lengthwise taps from a very sharp tool like a machete.
FERMENTATION AND DRYING:
Fermentation is a typical "yeasting" process in which the sugars in the beans are converted to acids, primarily lactic and acetic acids. Depending on the cacao varietal, the fermentation process might take anywhere from two to eight days. The beans are placed in large shallow wooden boxes or, on smaller farms, are left in piles and covered with banana leaves.
The drying process takes several days. Farmers or workers turn the beans frequently and use this opportunity to pick through them, removing foreign matter and flat, broken or germinated beans. During drying, beans lose nearly all their moisture and more than half their weight. When the beans are dried, they are ready to be shipped to chocolate factories around the world.
3. FROM BEAN TO BAR (CHOCOLATE):
The production process takes a long time and requires meticulous attention. It takes at least two to four days to make an individual-size chocolate bar, for instance.
After the cocoa butter has been extracted, the pressed cocoa cake can be cooled, pulverised, and sifted into cocoa powder. The powder is packaged for sale in grocery stores and in large quantities for commercial use as a flavor ingredient by dairies, bakeries and confectionery manufacturers
MANUFACTURING EATING CHOCOLATE:
Once the cocoa beans have reached the machinery of chocolate factories, they are ready to be refined into chocolate. Generally, manufacturing processes differ slightly due to the different species of cocoa trees, but most factories use similar machines to break down the cocoa beans into cocoa butter and chocolate (International Cocoa Organization, 1998). Firstly, fermented and dried cocoa beans will be refined to a roasted nib by roasting. Then, they are heated and melted into chocolate liquor. Lastly, manufacturers blend chocolate liquor with sugar and milk to add flavour. After the blending process, the liquid chocolate will be stored or delivered to the molding factory in tanks and will be poured into moulds for sale. Finally, wrapping and packaging machines will pack the chocolates and then they will be ready to transport.
WHITE VS MILK VS DARK CHOCOLATE
Dark chocolate: Cacao liquid and sugar should be the only two ingredients in dark chocolate. Cacao butter is sometimes added to make the chocolate smoother. Dark chocolate, on the other hand, does not include any milk components. If you consume a 70% dark chocolate bar, it indicates that 70% of the bar contains pure cacao liquor and the remaining 30% is sugar.
Milk chocolate: As the name implies, milk chocolate contains milk components. Only powdered milk can be used to make chocolate. It would spoil the cacao liquor in its liquid form, causing it to clump and solidify rapidly. A milk chocolate bar is made up of cacao liquor, sugar, milk powder, and occasionally cacao butter.
White chocolate: White chocolate has no cacao liquor, which many people are unaware of. Cacao butter, sugar, and milk powders are the sole ingredients. Its melting point is much lower than that of milk or dark chocolates due to the high butter content. Because the price of cacao butter has risen over time, many large manufacturers now employ vegetable oil replacements to make white chocolate, resulting in a lower quality product.
TYPES OF CHOCOLATE AND COCOA POWDER:
1. BAKING CHOCOLATE: Baking chocolate used to be an unsweetened bar of chocolate that was used in baking. However, in recent years, a large choice of sweetened baking chocolate products has been available. These chocolate bars are typically ‘cheap and cheerful' options rather than gourmet chocolate products, as evidenced by their low prices.
2. BREWED COCOA: It's interesting to note that cocoa beans can be used in the same way that coffee beans can. Brewed cacao is a drink made from pulverised cocoa beans that is becoming increasingly popular. The taste of brewed cocoa is rich and chocolatey, and it has no calories or sugars.
3. CHOCOLATE MILK: Chocolate milk is a popular dairy beverage made with chocolate powder, milk, sugar, and thickeners. Chocolate milk is relatively nutritious, despite being a heavily processed drink. Although it contains added sugar, it is a strong source of protein and provides a decent spectrum of minerals owing to the cocoa content. A pinch of salt can bring out that hidden flavour in chocolate!
4. CHOCOLATE SPREADS: Chocolate spread is another popular cocoa-based product.There is a wide range of chocolate spread products available in the market. Due to its sugar and oil content, chocolate spread has a soft texture and a sweet taste. The product remains spreadable even after refrigeration, and people tend to use it on bread or wheat-based products like pancakes.
5. COCOA BUTTER: Cocoa butter is the fat that is extracted from cocoa beans during processing. Although pure cocoa butter can be purchased, it is most typically utilised in the production of chocolate bars. Cocoa butter, on the other hand, is one of the most expensive isolated fats. As a result, many chocolate products use less expensive fats like palm oil.
6. CACAO NIBS: Pure cacao beans that have been cut into little chunks are known as cacao nibs. These small pieces of chopped cacao are frequently promoted as a "health food," because they contain a wide variety of nutrients. They do, however, have a highly bitter flavour that many people find difficult to enjoy. For example, because they are 100 percent pure cacao, they are substantially more bitter than the darkest dark chocolate bars. Due to their crunchy texture, cacao nibs also work well in homemade trail mixes or as an ingredient in yogurts and desserts.
7. COCOA POWDER: As its name suggests, cocoa powder is a powdered form of cocoa. After extracting cocoa butter from cacao beans, the remaining cocoa mass undergoes a drying process. Following which it is ground to make cacao powder. Since it has a lower fat content, cocoa powder is more nutrient-dense. In other words, it contains higher proportions of vitamins and minerals than cacao nibs.