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All you need to know about Chocolate

Wednesday, May 6, 2009 at 9:57 AM
Chocolate is a product derived from the cocoa bean, found in pods (illustrated above) growing from the trunk and lower branches of the Cacao Tree,. It's Latin name is 'Theobroma Cacao' meaning literally; "food of the gods".
How Chocolate came to be;
In the year 1828 A.D. Johannes Van Houten, a chemist from the Netherlands, invented a method of extracting the fat or "cocoa butter" from ground cocoa beans.what we now know to be called as 'cocoa' powder was the resulting extract, which as we know already, is much less bitter tasting and, when combined with sugar or honey, and hot milk, became one of the Western world's most popular bedtime and breakfast drinks of living Human History!
This method used by the Dutch chemist eventually received the name "Van Houten process". Directly because of this invented process, Fry's and Sons (one of Englands oldest sweetmaking institutions), was able to make commercially viable extraction of cocoa powder and were the first manufacturers in History ever to have produced a "Chocolate Bar" - this was acheived for the first time in the year 1847.
In the year 1875 the Swiss commercial manufaturing brand Daniel Peters was able to utilise the Van Houten process to successfully mix the pure cocoa powder with powdered milk and were the first ever to make real "Milk Chocolate".

The steps in the process from treepod to chocolate;
  • The first step is taken by harvesting the cocoa pods. It is these pods which contain the cocoa beans, which are used in the making of Chocolate.

  • The Cocoa Pods are then crushed up into a fine pulp, which is then extracted and fermented using natural methods for about six days. This is either done by piling the mixture up in the open, or is put into boxes. After fermentation, the beans are then dried.

  • The finest chocolate is produced through the drying process. This is most commonly done naturally by laying the mixture in the open air under the the sun and left for a period of 7 days or so.

  • 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. This is why there is such a massive difference in the taste of quality chocolate and mass manufactured chocolate.

  • Careful Crushing process then separates the kernel or 'Nib' from the shell or husk (like shelling a nut), the husk is then removed and separated from the essential ingredient (yeah.. Chocolate, slurp!).

  • 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.

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    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.


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