The manufacturing of chocolate is a precise and scientific process, and yet, it still holds some of this magic and inspiration. From the cacao farms that can feel like enchanted forests, to the manufacturing plant, each step impacts the final quality of the chocolate and each step is a combination of science and art. Due to the great care and pride that our producers put into their work, these beans can be transformed into chocolate that will wow the senses and put a smile on your face.
Once the pods are ripe, they are cut down from the trees, typically with machetes or, for the higher pods, using long poles with a cutting edge. They are cut with care so that the stalks are not damaged and can produce fruit the following year. Though pods can be harvested year round there are two major harvest times: the main harvest and the mid-harvest, which falls about six months after the main harvest.
The pods and pulp are placed into large wooden containers, where the pulp is allowed to ferment for five to seven days. During the process, the beans are turned to help them ferment more evenly. This is the first stage in developing the flavour of the chocolate, and part of the reason why a farmer can have a direct impact on the quality of the finished chocolate.
After fermentation, the next step in the process is to dry the beans. This is usually done by spreading them out into a single layer in the sun. Most beans are transferred into sacks and transported around the world after drying, so in order to prevent mold, it’s important that they’re completely dry at this point
Roasting & winnowing
When the dried cacao beans arrive at the processing plant they are first cleaned to remove any debris. Next, the beans are roasted to darken the color and to further bring out the flavor characteristics of the cacao. The beans can be roasted at different temperatures and for different lengths of time, depending on different variables such as humidity, size of the beans, and the desired flavor. After roasting, the beans are “winnowed” to remove the shells from around the bean, leaving only the roasted cocoa nib, which is the key ingredient for making chocolate
Grinding & Conching
The cocoa nibs are ground with stone rollers until they become a paste known as cocoa mass or cocoa liquor. This pure, unrefined form of chocolate contains both cocoa solids and cocoa butter (the natural fat present in the bean).Cocoa butter can be extracted from the cocoa mass with a hydraulic press. This is useful because most chocolate makers often use extra cocoa butter to give their chocolate a smoother, glossier texture. Some confectionery manufacturers replace this extra cocoa butter with cheaper vegetable fats, and this is something you should look out for on the ingredients and try to avoid. The only fat in real chocolate is cocoa butter.
Tempering & Molding
After the conching is complete, the chocolate is then “tempered” through a slow, stepped decrease in temperature. During this process, the chocolate is cooled and then warmed, then cooled further and warmed once again, and so on until it reaches the correct temperature, creating an even crystallization of the ingredients throughout the chocolate. If done well, tempering is what gives the chocolate its smooth texture and snap when broken in two. After the chocolate is properly tempered, it is ready for additional ingredient inclusions such as almonds, coffee beans, or sea salt. The chocolate is then poured into molds, which form the shape of the bar. The chocolate cools until it becomes solid and is then removed from the molds as chocolate bars. Once the bars are cooled, they are wrapped in their inner wrapper to keep the chocolate fresh for 12-24 months. They are then labeled, packed in cases and stacked on pallets ready to be shipped to and to be eaten!
Once cooled, the chocolate is wrapped up ready to be sent out. While some of the biggest makers have machines to help with this, most makers still wrap their bars completely by hand (often roping in family members and whoever else is around to help)