In order to get more insight about how chocolate is made, I went to a chocolate making tour/workshop at ChocoSol Traders – a boutique, artisanal chocolate shop in Toronto.
Chocolate comes from cacao trees which produce pods that hang from the trees and contain cocao seeds. The seeds (also called beans) are separated from the pods, fermented and dried.
They are roasted, cracked and their outer shells are removed. What you are left with are cocoa nibs with are totally edible but also extremely bitter. They have the highest concentration of flavonoids at this point so if you really want to get your antioxidants, eat your heart out (you probably won’t be able to eat that many).
These cocoa nibs get processed even more to be made into cocoa or different types of chocolate. The cocoa nibs are ground up and made into a chocolate liquor (that’s just a chocolate term – there is no alcohol in it). This chocolate liquor can either then be used for making cocoa powder or chocolate. It’s the amount of cocoa that gives chocolate its percentage cocoa content that you see on the package.
How is cocoa made?
To make cocoa, the chocolate liquor is put through a hydraulic press that separates it into cocoa (which is then dried and ground into powder) and cocoa butter (which is saved and used for making chocolate).
How is chocolate made?
To make chocolate, additional ingredients are added to the chocolate liquor such as cocoa butter, sugar and milk. The mixture (which is still quite grainy) gets smoothed out even more by being run through steel rollers and is mixed, mashed, swirled and aerated (a process known as ‘conching’).
Once that’s done, the chocolate is tempered which involves controlling the temperature to control the crystal size that forms as it hardens. If chocolate isn’t tempered properly, it will have a dull appearance and won’t have that characteristic ‘snap’ when it’s broken. The melted chocolate is then poured into molds and cooled before being packaged.
Types of chocolate (white, milk, dark, etc.)
It’s the amount of chocolate liquor in the chocolate that determines whether it’s white chocolate, milk chocolate or dark chocolate. White chocolate doesn’t contain any cocoa, whereas milk chocolate must have at least 25% cocoa (or 10% in the U.S) and dark chocolate at least 35% cocoa. (Note: Each country has their own chocolate regulations in terms of how to categorize their chocolate). You might have also heard terms such as baking chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate and bitter-sweet chocolate. This article does a great job of explaining the different chocolate terms that are floating out there (Note: It’s based on the US regulations).
Health benefits and chocolate
If you want to get the maximum benefit from the flavonoids/anti-oxidants that are in chocolate, the real deal are cocoa nibs or powdered cocoa. These can both be readily found in health food stores. However, I don’t know many people who would eat straight up cocoa beans or cocoa powder. In fact, some people find dark chocolate that is higher than 70% cocoa to be very bitter and quite unpalatable.
The research indicates that having a small amount of chocolate each day can help with cardiovascular health so in a way, it can be good for you. So take a small piece of dark chocolate, and enjoy it without the guilt.
For some more information about how chocolate is made, check out the information below: