Turning Beans Into Chocolate

The craft of making chocolate begins with the humble cocoa bean. But how does a simple little bean become wonderful chocolate in all its amazing forms? Let’s see...

Harvesting the beans

Cocoa beans come from the tropical cacao tree (Theobroma Cacao – “food of the gods”). Its fruit appears in bright red, green, purple or yellow pods, which change colour as they ripen. The pods are cut from the trees between May and December, when the beans are popped straight out and covered in banana leaves to help them ferment. After around three to nine days, they go dark brown and start to give off a nice cocoa-y aroma.

Roasting and winnowing

Once the beans are ready, they're roasted, which helps bring out their colour, flavours and aromas. They are then passed through a machine which cracks them open and separates the husks from the precious centres, or nibs.

Grinding and mixing

Now the nibs are free, they are ground, squishing them into a pulpy mass (the solid) and butter. These are then mixed with sugar and milk powder. More grinding then makes the cocoa bits even finer.

So the chocolate goes all lovely and melty in your mouth, a high percentage of cocoa butter is used.

Conching and tempering

Funny word, conching. It’s basically a refining process that gets rid of any unwanted flavours or smells by heating, constantly stirring and adding in flavours. By the end of this process, the chocolate has developed its full flavour and is all smooth and gloopy.

At this point, we cool the chocolate from 45ºc to about 28ºc, then raise it again to 30ºc. Why? This critical stage crystallises the butter, giving the chocolate a perfectly firm structure and glossy finish.

Then all we have to do is turn it into chocolates and all you have to do is enjoy them!