From Cacao To Chocolate – Chocolate Alchemy!
Someone once said that once you consume chocolate, chocolate will consume you. And nowhere is this more evident than in the UK where we Brits go through some 10.2kg of chocolate each per year. But how much do we really know about our favourite food and how do we get from cacao to chocolate? Time to take a closer look!
From cacao to chocolate – where does chocolate come from?
Cacao is extracted from cacao beans, which are found in the cacao pods (or fruit) of the cacao tree - a tropical tree that’s native to Central and South America and has three main species:
- Criollo – the delicate criollo tree produces just a small harvest of the sought-after criollo beans, which boast a thin peel, pale colour and sophisticated flavour.
- Forastero – a more robust tree that’s easier to cultivate and produces a larger yield of cacao beans, yet has a thicker peel and coarser flavour
- Trinitario - a cross of the two combining the refined flavour of the Criollo and the high yield of the Forastero.
From cacao to chocolate - cacao cultivation
Cacao pods take around six months to reach maturity, at which point they are harvested by local farmers who slice them deftly open using a machete to reach the precious cacao beans inside. Next the farmer removes the fruit pulp and cacao beans and discards the outer husk. The fruit pulp and beans are then placed in piles on the jungle floor and covered with banana leaves to ferment. During the fermentation process the fruit pulp starts to ‘sweat’ (it liquefies) and drains away leaving only the coveted cacao beans. Sweating also triggers germination and allows the cacao bean to develop its distinctive chocolate flavour. Following fermentation the cacao beans are spread out on large mats and left to dry naturally in the sun over a period of several days or weeks.
From cacao to chocolate – where the magic really begins
Once dried, cacao beans are hardier and far more resistant to mould, which means that they are now ready for delivery around the world and their eventual metamorphosis into a tempting range of chocolate products such as raw cacao nibs, raw cacao butter (an edible vegetable fat), raw cacao powder and raw chocolate bars and sweets.
To make the chocolate that we’re so fond of, the beans are first roasted and then crushed into small pieces known as cacao nibs. It’s important to note that in the case of raw chocolate, an infinitely superior variety of chocolate, the raw cacao beans are never heated above 45 degrees Celsius (compared to up to 130 degrees Celsius for standard chocolate). The cacao nibs are then ground into a delicious creamy paste called chocolate liquor, and it is this, in addition to raw cacao butter, that is used to create chocolate and finally transform it from cacao to chocolate.
From cacao to chocolate – raw chocolate
You’ll notice that we’ve made a clear distinction between raw chocolate and standard chocolate. We believe that raw chocolate is a far healthier option than ordinary commercial chocolate because:
- The raw cacao in raw chocolate has never been heated to high temperatures, meaning that more of its beneficial nutrients (such as vitamins, minerals, fibre and essential fatty acids) are retained
- Raw chocolate bars and products contain no fattening dairy products
- Raw chocolate bars and products contain no refined sugars and are sweetened using wholesome superfood sweeteners such as organic lucuma powder instead
- Raw chocolate bars are gluten-free
- Raw chocolate boasts a purer, more intense flavour than ordinary chocolate. Put simply it tastes better!
From cacao to chocolate – time to indulge…