Chocolate is a sweet treat made from cocoa beans, the fruit of the cacao plant. With its roots firmly found in Mexico, chocolate has been enjoyed for centuries. In America, chocolate manufacturing began in 1765. Beans were shipped into Massachusetts from the West Indies in the late 1700s, and waterpower was used to grind and prepare beans.
HOW CHOCOLATE IS MADE
THE CACAO TREE
The cacao tree is a tropical American tree commonly found in wet, lowland areas. Today, cacao trees are found in the Caribbean, Asia, Africa, and the South Pacific Islands. Cacao trees are sensitive and cannot be exposed to much sunlight or wind. Therefore, the cacao flourishes in the shade of much taller surrounding trees. Cocao trees rise some 40-feet high and contain 1-foot long leaves. Small, pink flowers dot the leaves and trunk of the tree. Hand-sized pods or fruit hang from various areas of the tree and trunk. Each pod contains 25-50 seeds, which are known as cocoa beans. Mature trees bear 50-70 fruits each year.
Cocoa beans are harvested twice a year. During the harvesting process, the fruit is cut from the tree and split open with a large ax. The beans and pulp are then removed from the pod and placed in holes in the ground or shallow boxes, where they will begin a process of fermenting.
Common grade pulp ferments for a period of 5-7 days, during which time workers frequently turn and mix the beans and pulp. Flavor development begins during the fermentation process. As the beans take on moisture, they expand, turn a brownish-red color, and take on a sharp fragrance. Once fermenting has finished, beans are sun or kiln-dried and bagged. The bags of beans are now shipped to a cleaning factory.
The bagged beans are now subjected to several methods of cleaning to remove contaminants. Twigs, rocks, dust, and other debris are separated from the beans. Once cleaned, beans are weighed and blended with different types of beans. Specific mixtures of beans are used when making items such as candy bars, cocoa mix, and cocoa butter.
Clean beans are roasted to enhance flavor, reduce acidity, and lower their moisture content. Roasting also detaches the shell from the bean and deepens the color. Roasting can last from 30-minutes to 2-hours, depending on the variety of bean.
WINNOWING AND CRUSHING
During the winnowing process, beans are removed from their thin shells with cracking machines and then separated by means of a high-speed fan. The “nibs” of the bean, which are made of 53-percent cocoa butter are then conveyed to mills, where they will be crushed. Using large grinding stones or steel discs, friction and heat liquefies the cocoa butter and forms chocolate liquor. Liquor is poured into molds, where it sits until it has hardened.
Hardened cakes of chocolate are sold to cocoa manufacturers and factories, where the dark chocolate is then turned into a variety of products including cocoa mixes, eating chocolate, liquors, baking cocoa, and more. In the United States, chocolate is most often shipped in liquid form and then processed locally.
CHOCOLATE does not cause or aggravate acne.
ONE ounce of milk chocolate contains the same amount of caffeine found in a cup of decaffeinated coffee.
CHOCOLATE contains nutrients that help to keep the body healthy. Chocolate is high in protein, calcium, and iron.