Have you ever wondered how chocolate comes to be? In this month’s Notes from the Chocolatier, I’m going to share with you the 5-step journey the cacao bean takes to become a chocolate treat.
First, farmers harvest pods from the Theobroma cacao tree once they are ripe. It’s important that they are fully ripened. Otherwise, they won’t deliver enough cocoa butter or sugar to be delicious.
After the pods are harvested, farmers remove the cocoa beans from the pods and pulp to prepare them for fermentation. Fermentation is the process that turns raw cocoa from bitter to sweet. For seven days, the cocoa beans sit out in the heat. Humidity must be present to interact with the yeast and bacteria of the cocoa beans and allow fermentation to occur. After a week has passed, the beans are dried.
Just as espresso beans are roasted to become coffee, so are cocoa beans to become chocolate. Using the dry roasting method, the cocoa beans are constantly stirred. This consistency helps evenly roast the beans.
Once roasted, the roasters remove the hull from the cocoa bean and extract the nib. This nib is ground into a fine powder containing both cocoa butter and solids. During that grinding process, the cocoa butter liquifies as a result of the friction. This is called cocoa liquor. Then the cocoa liquor is poured into molds, creating unsweetened bakers chocolate.
Finally, the real chocolate magic happens. Chocolatiers create various chocolatey treats using cocoa liquor, bakers chocolate, cocoa powder, or cocoa butter by combining them with other ingredients. Typically, we’ll blend cocoa liquor with a bit more cocoa butter to produce that classic smooth texture of chocolate. To create white, milk, or dark chocolate, we simply blend in varying degrees of sugar and milk.