Chocolate supplies can be sourced from many different manufacturers, who each have a unique take on the product they create. Their different products, however, often share many similar processes during manufacturing.
So, what exactly are these steps, and what else is involved in contributing to the high quality end product?
Cracking the Pod
The first step in processing raw cocoa is to crack the pod containing the prized cocoa beans. The best way to preserve the quality of the beans is to rap the pod on a tree or a rock, as a sharp edge can damage the precious beans inside the pod.
Fermenting the Beans
Most people would be surprised to realise that cocoa beans are fermented, which is a method of rotting food in a way that is beneficial rather than harmful for human consumption. The beans are fermented in ‘sweatboxes,’ and workers skim off the resulting foamy, acidic discharge. This is the when the rich aroma of chocolate first starts to form.
Dehydrating the Beans
The next step in creating the final product for chocolate supplies is to reduce the moisture content of the beans from around 60% to precisely 7%. This is split into two parts: the first part involves exposing the beans to direct sunlight on large surfaces; the second step involves the expertise of a master roaster, who roasts the beans at 120 to 140 degrees Celsius for around 20 to 30 minutes. The roaster’s training and intuition is key to bringing out the distinct flavour of chocolate, a part of manufacturing that is a combination of both science and art.
Shelling and Crushing the Beans
This stage uses a large crushing machine to separate the shells from the seeds of the bins. The resulting nibs are then ground under both high pressure and high temperatures using massive steel cylinders called nib grinders. These grinders produce cocoa liquor, otherwise known as cocoa butter and natural cocoa fat. These prized components are then ready to be mixed with other ingredients, like milk and sugar, depending on the type of finished product the manufacturers seek to craft.
Refining the Chocolate
In this stage, the chocolate is kneaded for anywhere between a few hours to a few days – depending on how smooth and luxurious the manufacturers want the final product to taste. This process is known as ‘conching,’ and the length of time the paste is conched will play a great role in the grittiness, bitterness and resulting aroma of the chocolate. Why is it called conching? Because the original machines used for the process were shaped like conch shells!
There is so much more to meets the eye in the process of creating the final product that forms the chocolate supplies of so many retailers around the world. Confectionery suppliers encourage resellers to learn as much as they can about just where their chocolate supplies come from, especially for the more luxury brands.
Angelina Moufftard works for HF Chocolates, suppliers of high quality chocolate supplies to the retail trade and others who wish to purchase wholesale quantities of chocolate and confectionery. Renowned since 1957, we’ve sourced the best suppliers from France, Spain, Germany, Holland, Belgium, the USA and UK. Our great tasting and beautifully packaged products also represent excellent value for money.