The production process of chocolate
In the countries of origin in the tropics
Harvesting cocoa beans
Cocoa tree (*)
The main locations of cocoa culture are Central and South America, Africa and South-East Asia. There are 3 broad types of cocoa plant: Forastero and Criollo plus Trinitario, which is a hybrid of Forastero and Crillo. Forastero is now by far the most important commercial type. After 4 months the pods are ripe and workers cut them from the trees while taking care not to damage the flowers or buds. The pods are split open by hand and the beans, which are covered with pulp, are scooped out of the fruit.
Fermentation and drying
Cocoa pod (*)
By fermentation over 5-7 days, the pulp of the beans is removed, allowing the true chocolate flavour to develop. The fermented beans are then dried in the sun or by special drying machines and lose more than 50% of their weight. After stringent quality control and packing into sacks, the raw cocoa is now ready for transportation all over the world.
By the Belgian chocolate manufacturers
After sorting and cleaning the beans, they are roasted at 120°C. During this roasting process, the cocoa beans acquire their characteristic chocolate flavour.
The roasted beans are broken down into 2 to 3 mm pieces (nibs) and the shells are blown away.
The clean cocoa nibs are grounded in mills. The resulting chocolate coloured liquid (mass) contains more than 50% cocoa butter.
Blending beans (*)
Removing shells (*)
Conching powder (*)
Moulding blocks (*)
(*) Source: Barry-Callebaut
Mixing the ingredients
According to the type of chocolate, the following ingredients are mixed:
- Dark chocolate: cocoa mass, cocoa butter, sugar
- Milk chocolate: cocoa mass, cocoa butter, sugar, milk powder
- White chocolate: cocoa butter, sugar, milk powder.
Heavy machines with rollers crush the mixture till the particles are reduced to microscopic fineness. This gives the typical smoothness of chocolate.
This is a unique process that blends the chocolate ingredients at high temperatures. During conching, complex chemical changes take place that further develop the chocolate's delicate flavour.
Now the chocolate is ready to be moulded or coated and the different varieties of chocolate we know can be produced (bars, praline, ...).