Chocolate is a delicacy that everyone savours; be it in your milkshake, cookies or even candy bars. But have you ever thought of the processes that takes place before your favourite candy bar is delivered to you? The process is complex, and it begins from the moment the coca is harvested, to when its refined to cocoa beans, shipped for manufacturing procedure and finally to the point your delicious bar is delivered to you.
At Lake Champlain Chocolates we are a chocolatier dedicated to ensuring that you experience the magic in our carefully curated and produced chocolate confections and bars. It’s the science, flavour and the art behind crafting chocolates that enables us to deliver to your table finished products that are 100% fair trade certified. We source our raw cocoa beans primarily from the Dominican Republic.
The chocolate making process is essentially the same despite the origin of the cocoa beans. Whether you source your cocoa beans from Africa or Latin America, it all starts with the cocoa tree, the pods and the beans. Hang it tight as we take you on a virtual discovery ride on how we source raw cocoa beans, roast, winnow, grind and perfectly create for your our delicious single-origin bars. Flux Pumps are used in the process of making chocolate, as they help transfer foods and liquids.
The Cacao tree, otherwise known as Theobroma Cacao is the origin of the cocoa. It is an evergreen tree that thrives within 20° North and South of the Equator. It does well in wet lowland where there is a mix of rain, shade and hot temperatures for example in central and South America, south East Asia and west Africa. Cacao trees bear pods or oval shaped fruits that are about 5-12 inches in length. The average content per pod is up to 50 seeds of cocoa beans. You may be wondering what the difference between cacao and cocoa is. Well, “cacao” refers to the tree, beans or pod while “cocoa” is used to refer to beans that have already been fermented, dried and roasted.
A change of colour in cacao pods prom green to a vibrant yellow or orange colour is the first indicator that they are ripe and ready for harvesting. The harvesting process typically occurs bi-annually though some farmers prefer to harvest their pods continuously. The pods are chopped off from the trunk, opened up and seeds are removed.
The standard size of a cacao seed is usually the same as an olive. Within the pod, the seeds are usually surrounded by a white pulp and they grow in 5 columns. For over 3,000 years, people from Latin America have been using the white pulp which they refer to as “baba” to produce a type of fermented wine.
This next step is where the cacao beans are manually cleaned by hand, exposed to light and left in the baba which is believed to be a flavour additive. The beans then change colour from cream to purplish which indicates their readiness for fermentation. There are two known ways of fermenting the beans;
a. The heap method where they are piled on the ground, a method popular in African countries.
b. The cascading boxes method which is more popular in Latin America.
In either of the two fermenting methods, the beans are usually covered with banana leaves and left for 2-9 days. During this period, the beans take on the colour and flavours we all associate with chocolate.
Drying and shipping:
It is crucial to dry fermented beans properly and during this step, they are placed on boards made of wood or mats made of bamboo and left for a week to two weeks to dry under hot sun. They are continually raked to ensure all the beans dry properly before being graded, packed, bundled and scrutinized to ensure required standards and quality is met. Eventually, they are shipped off to awaiting markets or chocolate manufacturers or processors.
Cocoa Mass Preparation (“Cocoa Liquor”):
Chocolate processors make the choice of whether to blend the beans with others from different origins for desired characteristics or process it as single-origin chocolate. They clean the beans and roast at low temperatures to create desired flavours. Winnowing which is a process that separates the nibs otherwise known as the “meat” of the bean occurs during this stage.