HOW CHOCOLATE IS MADE
WHERE DOES CHOCOLATE COME FROM?
Chocolate comes from a fruit which grows on cacao trees. Cacao grows in a warm, wet climate, found only in areas along the equator belt, specifically South America and Africa, where there is plenty of rainfall. Due to the consistent climate in these areas, cacao trees produce buds year round. Together with The Grenada Chocolate Company, Rococo owns Grococo, a small organic cocoa farm in Grenada. All of the cocoa grown on this farm is used to make the bars at The Grenada Chocolate Company.
World Cocoa Classifications
There are three main varieties of cocoa:
- Forastero – makes up the bulk of the world’s production, known for being more robust, heavy yielding and not known for its flavour. Classification: BULK
- Criollo – recognized as the finest bean in the world, with the most delicate flavour, highly susceptible to disease. Classification: Fine & Flavour
- Trinitario – A hybrid of Criollo and Forastero, believed to be a combination of the best of each of the other two resulting in robustness and excellent flavour. Classification: Fine & Flavour
HOW DOES CHOCOLATE GO FROM BEAN TO BAR?
Cocoa pods can grow directly on the trunk or the branch of the tree. Cocoa is harvested continually throughout the cocoa season which runs from October through April.
HARVESTING: The cocoa pod is cut from the tree with a machete, taking care not to damage the bark of the tree. The harvested cocoa pod is sliced open to reveal a white fleshy fruit. This fruit looks like a lychee, can be eaten and has a flavour similar to sour mango or green apples.
FERMENTING: The fruit is placed in compost bins for fermentation, normally in one tonne lots. The white fruit, naturally high in sugar, precipitates fermentation, which is critical in the development of the aroma, and flavour of the finished chocolate. At the end of the fermentation process, the flesh has transformed into acetic acid and run away. The cocoa beans are now referred to as green cocoa beans.
DRYING: The cocoa beans are laid out to dry. Ideally this happens naturally in the sun but with the high tendency for rain in the growing region, many are put on solar dryers or have roofs on rollers which are used when needed. After drying, the beans are sorted to remove any bad beans, which could taint the flavour of the chocolate.
At this point many beans are shipped directly to chocolate makers for the remainder of the process.
ROASTING: The beans are roasted to each manufacturer’s specifications to achieve delicate aroma. Each chocolate producer will have their own recipe for how to make chocolate and this is apparent in the different flavours and textures produced.
WINNOWING: After roasting, the outer skin of the cocoa bean is blown away, the seed is cracked, leaving only the cocoa nibs.
REFINING & GRINDING: In Grenada our cocoa nibs are then stone ground in an antique melangeur, bigger manufacturers will use a series of metal rollers. The heat and pressure allow the chocolate to be ground into a paste.
At this stage, good chocolate makers will add some extra cocoa butter to the cocoa mass along with sugar, vanilla & soya lecithin (a stabilizer) and possibly milk solids(for milk chocolate), and continue grinding until its really smooth with a velvety texture, the particle size will be less than 20 microns.
CONCHING: The chocolate is transferred to a conch. The effect is to refine and aerate the chocolate, removing any residual astringency. This process can last from a few hours up to a few days, depending on your machines.
TEMPERING & FORMING BARS: Tempering is a process of realigning the particles in chocolate to create something more stable, shiny and with a longer shelf life. After the chocolate has been tempered, it is ready to be formed into a bar or poured into a mould of your desired shape.