Chocolate: from bean to bar

The cocoa tree – also known as the cacao tree – grows in countries with a subtropical climate, such as Ghana. The tree starts producing cocoa pods when it is five years old. Each tree produces around 40 pods. These pods are fully mature after six months.

The pods are harvested by hand twice a year. After ripening for a few days, the pods are opened and the cocoa beans are taken out. Each pod contains 40-50 cocoa beans.

The cocoa beans are laid under banana leaves to ferment. This cleans the beans (as the remaining pulp disintegrates) and the beans change colour from beige to brown. The fermentation takes about five to eight days.

The cocoa beans are then spread out over tables covered with bamboo mats to dry in the sun for about six days. To ensure even drying, they are turned regularly by hand.

The cocoa farmers take their harvests to a central collection point where the beans are inspected and weighed. After that, the farmers receive their payment for their cocoa beans.

The load of cocoa beans is sent by lorry to warehouses at the port.

The cocoa beans are stored in warehouses at the port. The quality of the cocoa beans is checked once again.

The merchant sells batches of cocoa beans to international clients.

From the port, loads of cocoa beans are exported all over the world.

At the factories, cocoa beans from different loads are often mixed together to create certain blends. For instance, cocoa beans from Ghana have a strong flavour.

The beans are cleaned and then treated with hot air. As a result, the husks come away more easily.

The roasted cocoa beans are then winnowed and sieved to remove the husks and any roots resulting from germination. Only the edible part of the cocoa bean then remains: the nib.

During the second roasting of the cocoa nibs, an aroma is released that helps determine the quality of the final product.

The beans are ground to form a homogeneous, syrupy paste called cocoa mass or cocoa liquor, which forms the basis of chocolate. A hydraulic press is often used to separate the cocoa butter from the cocoa mass.

Larger quantities of chocolate can be produced by mixing milk powder, sugar, and cocoa butter with the cocoa mass. There are many different mixing recipes, making it possible to produce many different types of chocolate.

The mixed chocolate is then used in the manufacture of chocolate bars, for instance, complete with attractive packaging, of course.