Like most other foods, the quality and taste of the chocolate you eat is going to depend heavily on the ingredients used and production methods followed. From bean selection to molding process, every step plays a part in determining the quality, cocoa intensity, and flavour of your favourite types of chocolate.
Bean Selection and Processing
The selection of the cocoa bean, grown mainly in South America and West Africa, is the first step to quality chocolate production. Once these beans are chosen and harvested they are removed from their pods, fermented, dried, and roasted. The shells are then removed to reveal cocoa nibs which are crushed and liquefied to make chocolate liquor.
The chocolate liquor contains cocoa solids and coca butter, and when pressed the cocoa butter is removed and the two components are separated. If the chocolate liquor is not to be pressed it can be molded and hardened to make unsweetened chocolate.
Producing Different Types of Chocolate
To make the tasty edible chocolate most people are familiar with, chocolate liquor or cocoa solids are combined with cocoa butter and a number of other ingredients, such as vanilla or other flavourings, depending on the type of chocolate being made.
Sugar and sometimes vanilla may be added for dark chocolate, and milk products can be further added for milk chocolate. Alternatively, white chocolate omits the chocolate liquor and cocoa solids and is made up of only the cocoa butter, sugar, and milk products. Any number of different flavours, additives, and emulsifiers may be used to customize the chocolate to the manufacturers needs.
Refining and Preparing for Consumption
Once the manufacturers have the desired combination of ingredients, the chocolate is put through a conching process to give it that sought after smooth and creamy texture chocolate lovers crave. The more refined the chocolate, the smoother its texture will be.
The final step to perfect chocolate is the heating and cooling process known as tempering. Varying hot and cool temperatures are used to manipulate the formation of the cocoa butter crystals. This process determines the firmness and pliability of the chocolate and if done properly the chocolate should have a smooth and glossy sheen.
Finished Chocolate Products
The end result of the preparation process will provide a moldable chocolate dough which can be formed into chips, blocks, chunks, or bars. It will then be ready for packaging and shipment around the world for consumers to buy as gifts or savour for themselves.