Do You Know How Hard It Is To Make Chocolate?
Most cacao is grown on small family farms. Harvesting cocoa pods is very labor-intensive because the pods must be pick by hand to avoid disturbing pods that are not ready to pick. Usually, the family along with their neighbors get together to help each other during the short harvesting season.
After the cocoa pods are collected they are taken to a processing house where the pods are split open by hand and the seeds (or beans) are removed. The seeds are covered with a sweet white pulp or mucilage and must undergo a two-part curing process before they are shipped to chocolate manufactures for further processing.
Fermentation is the first part of the curing process. Fresh cocoa seeds do not taste sweet like chocolate. In fact, the seeds of the cacao tree have an intensely bitter taste and must be fermented to develop the chocolate flavor. There are two basic ways to ferment cacao beans, but the outcome is the same.
1) placing the beans in wooden boxes with drainage holes to allowing air flow and liquid from the fermentation to pass through. This process takes 6-8 days and the beans are turned and mixed twice.
2) The heap method which involves piling wet cocoa beans (surrounded by the pulp) on banana leaves and placing them on the ground and covering them with more leaves. The beans and left for 5-6 days, and turned regularly to ensure even fermentation.
The next step after fermentation is drying the beans.
Traditionally Cacao beans are spread out on mats and placed in the sunlight, but now some places use special drying equipment that makes this step faster. When the beans are dry they are packed into sacks for transportation to begin the process of making chocolate.
Once the cocoa beans have reached the manufacture they are inspected. Any bad beans, small rock or other debris are removed. The dried cocoa beans will then be roasted. This enhances the flavor and color of the cacao bean then the outer skin of the cacao bean is removed by winnowing where the beans are broken into small pieces called “Cocoa Nibs”.
Next comes the grinding of the cacao nib. The Nibs are ground until they become a smooth chocolate liquid. This liquid is often called “cocoa mass” and it’s a combination of unsweetened cocoa and cocoa butter. At this point, the manufacturer usually separates the two product from each other and recombines them later as they blend them with sugar and other items that the manufacturer uses to make chocolate formula (each manufacturer has their own secret recipe).
After blending is completed, the cocoa mass is allowed to cool and harden into different shapes depending on the mold of the manufacturer. Next chocolate is packaged and distributed to stores or chocolatiers to make chocolate candies.