Bean to Bar Process
There are many steps involved in the making of chocolate, with each playing a vital role in the quality of taste and texture of the final product. The journey begins during harvesting and fermentation, which happens on the spot within 24 hours of pods having been opened and can take up 8 days depending on the variety. Fermentation produces the flavour precursors by reducing sugars, glucose and fructose, and amino acids.
Next, the beans are washed and then dried, which can last for weeks, until they have been rendered immune to further microbial deterioration or decay. They are cleaned once again and packed in sacks for storage and shipping, which must adhere to strict conditions to avoid any damage or decomposition.
It is now up to the chocolate maker or chocolatier to continue the process that brings out the flavour and create fine chocolate.
By gently roasting the beans, they are further dried and browned and their full flavour is released. Once again roasting requires skill and precision in order to ensure the ultimate quality of the final product.
Up to this stage, the beans will still have a shell, which needs to be removed by sifting and winnowing. The more of the shell that is removed, the better the quality of the chocolate will be.
The beans are then crushed and milled to reduce them to even finer particles before the refining process converts the milled particles into liquid cocoa mass.
After grinding the mass down further, it is ready for conching - a process of rolling and spreading the mixture to and fro against a hard surface which releases the cocoa butter, makes the consistency smoother and more liquid and improves the flavour by removing undesirable and unwanted flavours such as acids and astringents and aldehydes. Depending on the desired quality of the end product this process can take several days.
The final step is known as tempering - the art of transforming liquid, or semi-liquid, chocolate into a glossy, crunchy chocolate with a hard snap. A very delicate process, which involves gently cooling and heating the chocolate and requires skill and experience. Once the chocolate has been properly tempered, it is ready for moulding, pouring and enrobing.