The Different Stages of Chocolate

Most of us know chocolate to be the delicious earth coloured slab of heaven wrapped in foil, brought out only special occasions or when one is travelling through an international airport. For amateur bakers though it’s something very different. It’s that special ingredient that makes the cake tastier, your loved ones happier and a full proof way to save any semi failed attempt at making dessert.

Chocolate comes in many types and forms; unsweetened, single-origin, coverture, compound, 80% coca, etc. Chocolate in it’s rawest form is a combination of coca mass and coca butter. Raw chocolate is combined with fat (coca butter or hydrogenated fat), sugar and in some cases milk to form chocolate that we consume as dessert.

For those wondering how a simple bean can be transformed into something so sinfully delicious, here’s how the magic happens:

  1. Coca pods grown on the Cacao Tree (Theobroma cacao, grown 20′ north / south of the equator) in full bloom are a vibrant yellow / orange colour, about 5 to 12 inches long and contain on an average 30 to 50 cacao seeds. These seeds are covered with a white fleshy pulp called baba.
  2. Ripe pods are split open; the seeds are cleaned thoroughly by hand and kept aside. The seeds along with the flesh are then tightly packed into cascading boxes (Latin America) or pilled into heaps (Africa) and covered with banana leaves. The fermentation process can take anywhere between 2 to 9 days.
  3. Once fermented, the seeds are then left to dry under direct sunlight on wooden boards or bamboo mats for 7 to 14 days. The seeds are constantly turned and steered to ensure they are completely dry. Once dried, these beans can be directly shipped to chocolate makers.
  4. The dried coca beans are then blended with other beans or kept separate in the case of single-origin. They are roasted at low temperatures to develop flavour. Shells are separated to form nibs by a process called winnowing, which are then ground to form coca mass a.k.a. coca liquor. At very high pressure this paste yields coca powder and coca butter.
  5. Coca Liquor is then mixed, ground and kneaded with sugar, essence, fat and milk to form a paste. Depending on the type of chocolate to be created different elements are added to the paste.
  6. The paste is then placed in a large agitator where it is constantly stirred and smoothened through grinding and mixing over heat. This process, called conching, creates chocolate.
  7. This chocolate is then tempered or moulded and sold to end- users.

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