Making chocolate is a long and complex process that is both science and art.
It all starts with the cacao (Kah KOW) tree. Growing on the tree trunk are cocoa pods, filled with cocoa beans. The pods are harvested, cut open and 20 to 50 cream-colored beans are scooped out to be fermented and dried. Dried beans from an average pod weigh less than two ounces and approximately 400 beans are required to make one pound of chocolate.
Next the beans are passed through a winnower machine, which cracks open the bean and removes the thin shell from the meat or nib.
The nibs are then roasted to specific temperatures, which brings out their aroma, color and rich flavor. After roasting, the nibs are crushed by hammer mills to produce a thick paste called chocolate liquor (non-alcoholic liquid).
Chocolate liquor is used to manufacture cocoa and chocolate. Some of the liquor is processed through presses that remove the cocoa butter. That cocoa butter is either sold as a by-product or saved to be added back during chocolate manufacturing. The pressed cake that is left after the cocoa butter is removed can be cooled, pulverized and sifted into cocoa powder.
To make eating chocolate, extra cocoa butter is added to the chocolate liquor, plus other ingredients:
Dark Chocolate = Cocoa butter, chocolate liquor, sugar, soya lecithin
Milk Chocolate = Cocoa butter, chocolate liquor, sugar, milk powder, vanillin, soya lecithin
White Chocolate = Cocoa butter, sugar and milk
To develop the flavor and a smooth texture, the chocolate is put through a kneading action called conching. During conching, rotating arms move back and forth through the mixture, continually breaking down any particles and thoroughly blending the ingredients.
Next the chocolate goes through a tempering process, which consists of heating, cooling and reheating. Tempering gives chocolate its shiny appearance and smooth texture, allowing it to set quickly so it will release easily from moulds.
The chocolate is then poured in moulds, panned, enrobed or dipped with other products to create the chocolate items that we love.