Producing chocolate is a time consuming and complicated process, but we have endeavoured to provide a simplified guide which we hope you will find easy to understand:
The first step is the harvesting of the cocoa pods containing the cocoa beans.
The Pods are crushed and the beans and surrounding pulp extracted and fermented naturally for about six days in either open heaps or boxes after which the beans are dried.
The finest chocolate is produced when the drying process is done naturally by the sun for 7 days or more.
Accelerated or artificial drying is quicker, but produces inferior quality chocolate, mainly used in mass produced products and cake coverings.
The next process is shared with coffee in that the beans are first graded, then roasted. Roasting times depend on the type and size of the beans, like coffee this can also affect the final flavour of the chocolate.
Light Crushing separates the kernel or 'Nib' from the shell or husk (like shelling a nut), the husk is then separated or 'winnowed' out and discarded.
At this stage most manufacturers put the Cocoa Nibs through an alkalisation process to help develop flavour and colour. However, some purists producing the finest chocolate prefer to rely on the quality of the beans and natural processing to produce the best colour and flavour.
The nibs, which are very high in fat or cocoa butter, are then finely milled and liquefy in the heat produced by the milling process to produce cocoa liquor. When cocoa liquor, otherwise known as cocoa mass, is allowed to cool and solidify.
At this point the manufacturing process splits according to the final product. If the end product is chocolate, some of the cocoa liquor is reserved, the rest is pressed to extract the cocoa butter leaving a solid residue called press cake. Press cake is usually kibbled or finely ground to produce the product known to consumers as Cocoa Powder.
The retained Cocoa Liquor and/or solid Cocoa Mass is blended with Chocolate Butter and other ingredients to produce the various types of chocolate.