The processing of cocoa in the origin
Even though milk chocolate often contains only a small proportion of cocoa mass, cocoa is the most important ingredient, or the right to eat chocolate. Because without cocoa it would not be chocolate. Therefore, the first step of the production does not start in the factory of the chocolate manufacturers, but on the plantation in the origin of the cocoa.
The cocoa mass is made from the seeds (cocoa beans) of the cocoa pod. The cocoa tree is a tropical plant that grows like coffee in a belt around the equator. In my blog article Cocoa: The stuff that chocolate is made of you can learn more about it.
In origin, the first two steps of the process take place from cocoa bean to chocolate, namely fermentation and drying.
Fermentation of the cocoa bean
For fermentation, the ripe cocoa fruits are cut open and the beans with the pulp, depending on the production area and quality requirements, are dumped onto piles covered with banana leaves or poured into plastic boxes or wooden crates. In summary, one can describe the fermentation as follows: The fermentation generates heat (over 50 degrees), which fuels the most different biochemical processes.
Important for the further cocoa processing are both the killing of the seedling in the bean (this is the only way the bean will last) and the formation of different flavors (unfermented beans have hardly any flavor). In addition to the desired aromas, however, also acetic acid, which is important for killing the seedling, but you do not want to taste later in the chocolate. This acetic acid is later extracted from the chocolate by roasting and conching.
The right fermentation process is extremely important. Because cocoa beans that are not properly fermented produce a chocolate with deficiencies and can not recall the full potential of the cocoa. Depending on the cocoa variety and region, the fermentation can take three to seven days. After completion of the fermentation, the initially white cocoa beans take on a brown color.
Dry cocoa beans
Now the beans have to be dried properly before they can be further processed or exported. The best results are achieved by the natural sun-drying. The beans are either dried on the ground or even better on tables. As the cacao trees prefer moist areas as mentioned above, drying is a stressful affair for the farmer, as he always has to watch the weeds and protect the beans from rain. In addition, he must turn them so that they can dry evenly.
Incorrect drying will damage cocoa beans and cause unpleasant aromas. Depending on the variety and climatic conditions, drying takes three to eight days. At the end of drying, the moisture content should not exceed 6.5%. If it is higher, the beans begin to mold during transport.
In some regions, the beans are not sun-dried but over fire. If this is done very carefully and carefully, slight smoke flavors can provide an interesting flavor. This is the case in the example Chocolate JavaI like to call it "Scotch Whiskey Chocolate" with its light, smoky, peaty note.
The processing of the cocoa bean to the chocolate