Have you ever wondered where it comes from and how chocolate is made? That delicious sweet product we love to eat in so many formats? Filled with caramel, flavoured with chilli flakes or peppermint oil, wrapped around nuts, toffee and all manner of things; chocolate, white, milk and dark, is known appropriately as the food of the Gods. Well surprisingly, every chocolate you’ve ever eaten began it’s life as a pod on the Theobroma tree and Theobroma means Food of the Gods.
These melon like pods, in rich hues of orange, yellow and reds, are harvested once ripened, and are cut down off the trees, and then split open. Each pod contains 30-45 cacao beans encased in a sticky white pulp. Where the beans are grown, the soil type and local geographical environmental has a huge effect on the final flavour of the chocolate; and it is for this reason that origin chocolates offer such an interesting tasting experience. The cocoa beans and white pulp are scooped out of each pod and put into wooden fermentation boxes, covered in banana leaves and left to ferment naturally for between 5 and 7 days. This method of fermentation, using the natural yeast and bacteria on the beans, in essence kills the beans; and starts to develop the precursor flavours that are vital for a good tasting chocolate.
Drying takes place after the fermentation process is complete, and this natural method of laying the beans out in the sun and heat, helps to prevent the growth of mould. The beans are turned over daily to ensure even drying, and left out for between 5-7days.
Once dried, the beans are ready to be roasted; cleaned of all sticks, debris, and stones; and then roasted according to the type of bean, the roaster, and the desired flavour.
Roasting is necessary for a couple of reasons; killing off the volatile acids and bacteria, puffing up the shells, as the water in the bean evaporates, and in a similar manner to a popcorn kernel, the shell puffs up, making it easier to remove from the nib. The roasting process also develops the flavour of the chocolate, by producing a series of reactions that aids the flavour precursors develop into actual flavours. This is the step in the process where bean to bar makers can really affect the final taste of the finished chocolate.
Once the beans have been roasted, we need to remove the thin papery shell from the nib. The shell is crunchy and doesn’t add any ﬂavor to the ﬁnal product, so needs discarding. Just in case you didn’t know, they do make a terrific mulch for the garden, so a great environmentally friendly by product. A winnowing machine cracks open the shell, and air blows the thin papery shells away leaving the heavier cocoa nibs behind.
The pure nibs are now ready to be ground by heavy stone rollers into a paste known as cocoa liquor, or cocoa mass. This is a pure and unrefined form of chocolate, which is made up of both cocoa solids and cocoa butter; a natural occurring fat within the cocoa bean. By pressing the cocoa mass, the cocoa butter is extracted and added back in at a later part of the process to add a glossy and good texture to the finished chocolate. Some large manufacturers replace this with a cheaper vegetable or palm oil, and you can read more about the effects of palm oil here.
This cocoa mass is then ready to be conched, which takes place in a machine where two stone wheels grind and refine the mass into very tiny particles, which is where the mouth feel of the finished chocolate comes from. This conching can take anything from a few hours up to several days, depending on the chocolate makers preference. This is where the other ingredients; sugar, vanilla, milk powder, cocoa butter and soya lecithin; are added to the mass. The ratio of each additional ingredient along with the conching time will determine the final flavour of the finished chocolate.
The finished chocolate is now ready for the final part of the process that we call tempering, which is what creates the nice clean glossy surface and sharp snap when you break a piece of chocolate. Tempering is a process where within controlled parameters, the chocolate is melted to a certain temperature; then the temperature is lowered, whilst creating movement, to create a particular type of crystal. The chocolate is then moulded and cooled. You can explore our classic range of milk, dark and white bars here.
For our flavour infused collections of bars, it is at this point that we add the flavours to our chocolate bars to create our exquisite range of Signature Collection bars
Each bar of delicious chocolate is foiled in embossed silver foil, wrapped in a foil finished recycled wrapper, ready for you to enjoy.