Chocolate is a product that undergoes complex procedures to turn into what we get to buy in the markets now.
Though it has been used for centuries, chocolates have suddenly become a key ingredient in many foods such as milk shakes, candy bars, cookies and cereals in the past couple of decades and its popularity has been increasing with every passing day. In North America and Europe, it is ranked as one of the most favorite flavors. But, despite its popularity, most people are not aware of the unique origins of this popular treat. The process starts with harvesting cocoa and ends with transformation into different type of chocolate products. I am pretty sure you have never given much thought to the fact that the Godiva chocolate Bars that you buy in the market today has its origin somewhere in the fields of Asia or Africa.
Let us discuss and understand the steps that are involved in the process of chocolate making:
Harvesting and Processing
Harvesting cocoa in the forest marks the beginning of chocolate production. Cocoa comes from tropical evergreen Cocoa trees, such as Theobroma Cocoa, which grow in the wet lowland tropics of Central and South America, West Africa and Southeast Asia. It needs to be harvested manually in the forest. The seed pods of coca are first collected; the beans are then selected and placed in piles. These cocoa beans will then be ready to be shipped to the manufacturer for mass production.
Plucking and opening the Pods
Did you know that cocoa beans grow in pods that sprout off of the trunk and branches of cocoa trees? These pods are generally about the size of a football. This means they are quite huge. From green, these pods turn orange when they’re ripe. As they grow ripe, harvesters travel through the cocoa orchards with machetes and hack the pods gently off of the trees.
After the cocoa pods are collected in baskets, the pods are taken to a processing house where they are split open and the cocoa beans are removed. A pod can contain up to 50 cocoa beans each. Interestingly, fresh cocoa beans are not brown at all and they do not even taste like the sweet chocolate they later produce.
Fermenting the cocoa seeds
The next process that follows is the process of fermentation. The cocoa beans are either placed in large, shallow, heated trays or covered with large banana leaves. Depending on the climate, if it is right, they may simply be heated under the sun. But it cannot be kept just like that. So, workers come along periodically in order to stir them up so that all of the beans are equally fermented. This process of fermentation that may take up to eight days turns the beans to brown color.
Drying the cocoa seeds
The last process that takes place under the supervision of the grower is drying. After fermentation, the cocoa seeds are dried so that they can be scooped into sacks and shipped to chocolate manufacturers. During this, the farmers simply spread the fermented seeds on trays and leave them in the sun to dry. This leaves the seeds about half of their original weight.
It is after this that the manufacturing of Chocolates like Callebaut starts in the factories.