Chocolate is a favorite food to millions of people on earth. However, have you ever asked yourself what the origin of chocolate is? Or how chocolate is made? “Raw” chocolate actually grows on a tree known as the cacao tree. Cacao is scientifically known as Theobroma cacao. The native of the cacao tree is Central and South America. It is believed that the growing of the cacao tree began 100 million years ago in the lower slopes of Andes Mountains.
Does Chocolate Come From the Cacao Tree?
Even though the origin of the cacao tree is in the South and Central America, today about 70% of the cacao grown in the world is grown in Africa. The cacao does very well in areas along the equator with a hot and rainy climate. It takes 3-4 years for the cacao tree to mature. Thereafter, one tree is capable of producing approximately 2,000 pods every year. The pods grow on the branches and trunks of the cacao tree. Each pod has between 30 and 40 seeds inside it. Cacao seeds are sometimes referred to as the cacao beans. The cacao bean is the main ingredient in the process of making chocolate.
A raw cacao bean is bitter by nature. In fact, people in the past used to sweeten it with honey before they could eat it. However, the bean is very nutritional. It possesses lots of Vitamin C, magnesium, and some caffeine. Besides being edible, Central Americans belonging to the Aztech Empire used the cacao beans as an item of trade. They also used the beans as a currency for trading at some point in history. Hence, cacao beans were more than just food to the older generation.
How is Chocolate Made?
The first step in the process of making chocolate is harvesting the pods. Harvesting takes place biannually and involves cutting the pods from the cacao trees using knives. Secondly, the harvesters remove the beans from the pods with their hands. The third step is fermentation of the beans. At this stage, the beans are placed in wooden bins, covered with banana leaves, and allowed to ferment. Fermenting the cacao beans replaces the bitter flavor with a sweet one, changes color from pale to dark, and turns the sugars into acids. After fermentation, the cacao seeds are sun-dried, cleaned and then roasted. Then they are transported to the factories. At the factory the dried beans are ground, pressed, heated, and stirred to create chocolate.
Different Types of Chocolate
Chocolate is made up of three components: cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and cocoa mass. The cocoa mass is responsible for the color and flavor of chocolate. More cocoa mass in the chocolate results in a darker chocolate and vice versa. The dark chocolate does not have milk in it and is dark in color. The plain chocolate has equal amounts of both cocoa mass and cocoa butter. White chocolate, on the other hand, is made using the cocoa butter and milk ingredients only. It is usually sweeter and creamier than the other types of chocolates.