What You Need To Know About Cacao
1. Cacao Cultivation
The manufacture of chocolate starts with the cultivation of the cacao tree. The Theobroma cacao grows near the equator (within 20 degrees both north and south). The plant thrives in a blend of hot temperature, shade, and rain. Each tree has oval fruits/pods about 5 to 12 inches long. Every pod comes with 30 to 50 seeds, known as cacao/cocoa beans.
Well, you must be wondering what is the difference between cacao and cocoa? The pod, the plant, and the seed/bean are referred to as cacao. On the other hand, cocoa is the name for beans after fermentation, drying, and roasting.
When the pods are ripe, they turn orange/yellow. They hang from the trunks as well as the largest branches on small stems. When the pods are ripe, they are harvested twice a year but can be harvested continually. Once they are chopped off, the pods open up to remove the seeds. Each seed is the size of an olive and they grow in 5 columns usually surrounded by white pulp/pith. The pulp is referred to as baba, in Latin America and was previously used to make fermented cacao wine. Readers in the UK I would highly recommend that you see Flux Pump UK.
The beans are cleaned by hand and the pulp is left on top to create the best flavor. Next, they are exposed to light where they turn to purple. Now they are ready for fermentation which can be achieved in 1 or 2 ways. First, there is the heap method, popularly used in Africa. Here, the beans are put in piles on the ground. Next, there is the Latin American fermentation method, where they use cascading boxes. During both fermentation methods, the beans are covered with banana leaves for 2-9 days. Here, the beans will start changing color and flavor, especially chocolate.
4. Preparing Cocoa Mass (Cocoa Liquor)
Once the beans go into the processor, they are blended with other estates, origins to obtain the desired characteristics. They can also be kept separate from single-origin chocolate. Next, the beans are cleaned and roasted at low temperatures to create the best flavor. The shells are then separated from the nibs (the meat area) through winnowing. The nibs will be ground into cocoa mass finely (cocoa liquor) usually solid at room temperature. Next, they are placed under very high temperatures resulting in 2 products, cocoa butter, and cocoa powder.
5. Producing Chocolate
The cocoa mass can also be combined with cocoa butter and sweetener to come up with chocolate. First, it’s important to mix, grind and knead the raw ingredients to make a paste. These ingredients mostly depend on the various types of chocolate being produced. If it’s dark chocolate, only cocoa mass, sugar, and cocoa butter will be used. When milk powder is added it makes milk chocolate.
White chocolate is made out of sugar, cocoa butter, and milk powder without cocoa mass/liquor. Since no cocoa mass is present, most people don’t consider white chocolate as true chocolate.
It refers to a process of rolling, heating, kneading, and aeration. A conche refers to a large agitator used for stirring and smoothening up the mixture in the right amount of heat. It’s very important when producing pure, consistent, and delicious gourmet chocolate. That’s where the final flavor and aroma are defined. Lecithin and cocoa butter can be added at this point for fluidity. The chocolate will then be refined until it becomes smooth. If you conch it for longer, it will become smoother.