Did you know it takes a year’s harvest from one cacao/cocoa bean tree to produce 1lb (450g) of cocoa? Have you ever wondered how chocolate is made from cocoa beans? Well, now all will be explained to you.
The cocoa bean tree is only cultivated in West Africa, Northern & Central America, the Caribbean and some parts of Asia. These trees are extremely sensitive and need protection from wind and excessive sunlight. Banana, lemon or coconut trees are often planted with the cocoa bean trees to protect them. These protective trees are known as “cocoa mothers”. The trees are similar in size and shape to an English apple tree.
When the tree is a few years old, it starts to produce melon-shaped pods which contain 20 to 50 cocoa beans each. These pods are harvested twice a year. They are split open and the beans are left to ferment in the sun. This turns the white bean dark brown and gives it its chocolate taste.
When dry they are shipped to factories where they are cleaned, roasted and shelled. They are then broken into large pieces called “nibs”. These are ground to form a rich brown chocolate liquid called chocolate liquor. Some of this liquor is hardened into moulds to form bitter baking chocolate, but most is pressed to extract the fat. This is known as cocoa butter. The solid mass which remains is crushed and sifted, producing cocoa powder.
Cocoa butter and sugar are added to some of the chocolate liquor to make plain eating chocolate.
To make milk chocolate, milk is added to sugar and chocolate liquor.
By adding cocoa butter to sugar you produce white chocolate.
This is a very simplified version of what takes place. Different companies blend different cocoa beans and add varying amounts of cocoa butter etc to produce their own unique chocolate.
Remember, chocolate is a high energy food containing both caffeine and a related alkaloid, both of which stimulate the nervous system to give is our “feel good” feeling.
Chocolate also contains: protein, carbohydrate, calcium, phosphorous, iron, sodium, potassium, vitamin A, thiamine, riboflavin and niacin – which only goes to show that a little of what you fancy does you good!