Chocolate- the word that brings almost a sinful temptation in all of us is at present one of the most popular treats across the world. Chocolate bars, chocolate cakes, chocolate syrup, chocolate sauce, hot chocolate, chocolate milkshake- the list of delicious chocolate dishes is endless. But have you ever wondered about the origin of your precious chocolate? Yes, you might know that chocolate is derived from the seeds of cocoa, a fruit that grows in the equatorial region. But, the journey of a cocoa been to become a chocolate bar is fascinating in its own right. Let us bring you some glimpses of this journey.
Chocolate is made from seeds of the cocoa fruit which was first discovered by The Mayans and they called it the “food of the gods.”
The Mayans of South America discovered cocoa in 900 AD and learned that the beans inside cocoa could be turned into a liquid. In fact, the word ‘chocolate’ is believed to come from the Mayans word ‘xocolatl’ which means ‘bitter water.’
In the equatorial forests of Africa and North America, grows the cocoa tree. Its fruits were traditionally used by native tribes to make drinks which were an integral part of their culture. However, it was later dicovered that the cocoa seeds could be processed to yield a beautiful component-the chocolate.
Today, most of the world’s chocolate is produced in the African continent, with a little amount also grown in Mexico and parts of North America. Ivory Coast is the world’s lagets producer of cocoa seeds and exports its produce all over the world. The first step in chocolate production involves the harvesting of ripe cocoa fruits from trees. As the fruits ripen they become yellow and are plucked from trees manually using sticks and other contraptions. As the use of machines might harm the cocoa flowers and other parts of the tree, cocoa harvesting largely relies on manual labour. Beans are then taken out from the fruit although locals make jellys and drinks from the pulp and rind of the fruit.
The beans from the cocoa fruit have to be fermented for three days, sun-dried and then roasted to develop the intoxicating chocolate flavour that we all love
Once the fruits have been plucked, the beans have to be taken out and fermented. The process of fermentation needs to be done just right so that the chocolate flavour is fully developed. The cocoa beans are placed in large fermentation chambers for three days, so that microorganisms form on and the process can start. It is the aroma of alcohol that develops on the beans that tell you that the process has been executed correctly. Also the beans swell up.
Next, the beans have to be dried in the sun evenly on both sides. This process takes considerable amount of time as well. The sun-dried beans are then roasted so that the cover of the beans can be easily peeled off and the chocolate flavour is fully developed.
The fermented, dried, roasted cocoa beans are now ready to be shipped to a chocolate factory.
The roasted cocoa beans from Africa travel to chocolate factories where they are grinded, processed, tempered and moulded before they take the form of fancy chocolate bars
The dried cocoa beans are now put through a grinding or a miling machine to liquefy the cocoa butter and produce a smooth chocolate liquer. Optional materials like sugar, milk crumb and letichin are then added to the cocoa mass and the mixture is put through a second refining process by passing it through a roll refiner. The chocolate mixture is now smooth and waiting to be put into the conch machine. The conching proces is where you continuously knead the chocolate fixture for eight to ten hours to give a silky shiny and smooth texture to your chocolate. The chocolate next has to be tempered evenly so as to eliminate any air bubbles and then put into molds. And voila! A fruit up in an African tree has now become the chocolate bar in your hand. Fascinating, right?
Chocolates are what dreams are made of. Now that you know how a humble cocoa bean travels all across the world to become the dessert on your table, we hope you will appreciate it even more. Happy eating.