The process of making chocolate is complex and time-consuming, starting with harvesting cacao beans by hand and continuing through molding the chocolate into shape. In between these two stages, the process of making chocolate includes grinding, fermenting, drying, and roasting the beans to create a liquid paste. This paste goes through a sieve to separate cocoa butter, which is mixed with other ingredients before it is refined and tempered. The final step in the process of making chocolate is molding and packaging.
Cacao pods are plucked twice a year by hand to protect fragile bark and flower clusters from damage. Workers typically use a long-handled blade to remove ripe pods from the tree. Machetes are then used to open the pods before seeds and pulp are removed.
Fermentation represents an important step in the process of making chocolate to promote its distinctive flavor. In some areas, seeds are covered with banana leaves and left in the sun. As the sun heats the pulp surrounding the seeds, enzymes produce the chocolate flavor. The dark brown seeds then go through a drying process to evaporate any excess moisture.
Some farmers use the sun to dry the product, while others use commercial dryers. Seeds shrink to about half their original size during this procedure. They are packed into burlap bags and shipped to buyers for inspection. If the seeds appear satisfactory, they are sent to factories for the next steps in the process of making chocolate.
Seeds are sorted and cleaned to remove any leftover pulp before being roasted in large ovens. Heat releases the scent and flavor. The heating process could take between 30 minutes and two hours, depending on the type of seeds and where they were grown.
Next, brittle shells must be cracked to expose roasted seeds before crushing. When seeds are ground, they produce a liquid paste called liquor. Liquors are squeezed by machine to separate cocoa butter, a fatty substance that makes up the main ingredient in white, dark, or milk chocolates. The remaining paste is ground to create cocoa powder.
Sugar and milk are added to the liquor, along with more cocoa butter to preserve freshness and keep the chocolate from melting. This mixture is crumbled by large rollers before conching occurs. Conching means putting the paste in vats to grind away any coarse particles, such as grains of sugar. This step in the process of making chocolate ensures a smooth, creamy texture, and can take up to six days.
Tempering also requires time. The chocolate is heated and cooled repeatedly to make it glossy and allow it to melt in the mouth. Some factories, such as ice cream manufacturers, buy chocolate in this state. Finally, the tempered chocolate is poured into molds of various shapes and sizes.