Everybody loves a rich, deep and satisfying bar of chocolate, but not everybody knows exactly what it takes to make it.
The journey from cacao bean to chocolate bar is complex. It’s an art and a science to grow and then process cacao pods into the world’s finest chocolate.
In this article we will take you through, step by step, the process of how the finest cacao beans make it into exceptional chocolate.
The cacao tree
The cacao tree is a small evergreen tree in the family Malvaceae, native to the deep tropical regions of Central and South America.
On the trunk of the tree grow the cacao pods, which contain the beans.
Rainforest Flavor cacao is grown only in Fair Trade 100% certified organic farms.
The pods can range in color from orange to golden and yellow. Not all pods ripen at the same time. It takes a discerning eye to determine when the pod is exactly at the right moment to pick.
Our farmers are experts and must hand pick each pod.
Each stage of the process is crucial, but none more so than the sorting of the cacao beans.
To be fine aroma quality, the beans must be sorted with the overripe, underripe and spoiled beans discarded. The farmers doing the quality control of the sorting know exactly what beans will make for a great finished product.
Only 5% of the world’s chocolate is fine aroma and made according to these exacting standards.
Without fermentation there is no chocolate. Once the beans are sorted they are left to ferment together. The chemical processes during this stage are what give chocolate its distinctive flavor.
Unfermented cacao can be bitter and very tannic.
This is the stage where the chemical processes started during fermentation are allowed to finish. Sun drying not only evaporates the water in the bean which concentrates the flavor, it also reduces any bitterness. Allowing the beans to dry slowly in the sun is a crucial step in determining the quality of the cacao beans.
Once the beans are sun dried, it is time to roast them. This serves a practical purpose as well as a means to develop flavor.
The husks are more easily removed when the beans are roasted, the beans are sterilized from bacteria and mold and the vinegar smell is removed.
It is this step that concentrates the flavors in the bean and gives them their distinctive, rich chocolate flavor.
Cacao Nibs / Cocoa Nibs
Nibs are chocolate in its purest form.
After the husk is removed from the bean after roasting, what is left are the nibs. Cacao nibs are very rich in iron, magnesium, antioxidants and fiber. They are considered a superfood with many health benefits.
They can be eaten on their own, but in this case they will be further processed to make chocolate.
Cacao Butter / Cocoa Butter
Cacao nibs contain about 54% vegetable fat. When pressed, this fate is removed from the nibs and is called cacao butter.
Cacao butter is what gives chocolate its silky texture and allows it to melt in your mouth. It is solid at room temperature, which helps chocolate keep its solid shape and crispness.
It is ideal for use in cosmetic products as well as chocolate.
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After the cacao beans are fermented, dried and, finally, roasted, they are removed from the hull and ground. At this point, the mix is about 55% cacao butter which would then be separated.
This paste, also called chocolate liquor, is 100% pure, raw chocolate. Also called chocolate liquor as it liquefies once it is ground, at room temperature it becomes solid again.
This cacao paste is prized by chocolatiers and home chocolate makers alike for it’s amazing characteristics and pure chocolate taste.
This pure expression of chocolate has some interesting health benefits, such as an ability to lower blood pressure and as an anti-inflammatory.
There are many ways to prepare cacao paste. Add some sugar or other sweetener and enjoy the silky smooth texture. Break it into chips and add to your favorite trail mix, in brownies or even to make a uniquely rich fudge.
Cacao Powder / Cocoa Powder
Once the cacao butter has been removed from the nibs, they can be then ground down into a powder.
As a powder it can be used in anything from baking cakes, to making smoothies. Cacao powder is an excellent antioxidant, among the strongest of any foods. The flavonoid content gives a mighty boost to the immune system in addition to being delicious!
It’s the cacao powder that is added back to melted cacao butter to make an actual chocolate bar. All the flavors of the cacao powder will give the chocolate its complex aromas.
This is the final form from the humble pods all the way to the decadent chocolate bars.
The world’s finest chocolatiers make masterpieces thanks to the quality of our entire process.
Making the chocolate that everybody is familiar with is going to be different according to each chocolatier. But, essentially, the cacao butter and cacao powder are mixed back together and tempered. Tempering is a process that melts the chocolate and forms the crystals as it cools to make a fine textured chocolate that isn’t grainy.
When every step of this process is done with care, the quality in the final product is unmistakable.
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