How do you make chocolate?
Updated: Oct 25, 2018
Bean to Bar Chocolate
We sell Bean to Bar chocolate made locally just up the road in Garstang. Bean to Bar means, quite literally, that the finished chocolate is made from the cocoa bean rather than from couveture. It is actually quite unusual for this to be done, there being only a couple of places around Lancashire and not that many throughout the UK. Couveture is where the vast majority of the chocolate making process has already been done and this is where most UK chocolate makers start.
But to make chocolate first we need to arrive at the cocoa bean. The farmers, usually on small family plots, should get the greatest credit for your chocolate having grown the cocoa trees and and nurtured the beans for years before they are usable for chocolate production. Then the Bean to Bar makers can get to work
So what exactly is the process?
Using the FIG Tree chocolate we sell as our example I will try to give you a glimpse of the fascinating journey from bean to bar . I am not trying to write an instruction manual - I will leave that to the experts - merely a brief look at (what I find) the really interesting process between cocoa farmer and chocolate bar.
The FIG Tree started in Garstang, the World's first Fair Trade Town and ran a practical chocolate making workshop with the aim of teaching trade justice to educational groups. The beans were sourced through a special link with a small cocoa farming community in New Koforidua, Ghana, the first Fair Trade Town in Africa, the farmers belonging to a fair trade co-operative Kuapa Kokoo.
The chocolate has moved on a lot since then but is still made in Garstang and still from Kuapa Kokoo, Ghana.
"The average person in the UK eats 10kg of chocolate each year which is the highest per capita consumption in the world"
Cocoa trees grow well in humid tropical climates with regular rains and a short dry season. Therefore most of the world's cocoa is grown within 10 degrees either side of the equator
In Ghana most cocoa is produced on small farms 3-4 hectares and there are about 720,000 cocoa farmers throughout the country.
After planting a cocoa tree the farmer must wait 3 to 5 years for the first crop but then a well looked after tree can then go on producing a harvest for about 60 years.
A Cocoa tree produces thousands of tiny white flowers and about 20 or 30 develop into cocoa pods
They grow into large rugby ball shaped pods up to 35c.m, often sprouting off the trunk.
Harvesting the cocoa pods is very labour-intensive, the ripe pods are gathered every few weeks during the peak season with large knives attached to poles. It takes a whole year's crop from one tree to make 1 lb of cocoa.
Inside the pods are 30-40 beans and pulp which are removed and separated by hand. The beans are wrapped in banana leaves and left to ferment in the shade for a week.
Beans are then spread out onto long bamboo tables and dried thoroughly in the sun – this may take 10 days with farmers turning them over and getting rid of any poor beans.
These processes gives the beans their specific flavour and are crucial to the end taste.
“Thank you for caring enough to buy products which have given us the gift of a fair price and dignity over the years” Madam Ferida, cocoa farmer, New Koforidua. The FIG tree.
Packed into sacks the village recorder weighs and pays the farmers and they can be sent on, for manufacturing. Since Kuapa Kokoo is a fair trade co-operative they benefit, for example, from a guaranteed minimum price (really important if world prices are low just when the crop is harvested), an extra Fair Trade Premium (for example the social premium may mean the farmers would get an extra £7 on a £71/sack) and long term contracts.
"Save the earth, it's the only one with chocolate"
Having arrived at The FIG tree the Beans are roasted at just the right temperature, this process releasing a delicious chocolate aroma.
The beans are de-husked by hand, separating the cocoa shell from the cocoa nib.
The nibs are ground until they become a chocolate-coloured liquid. This is the “cocoa mass” or “cocoa liquor” and milk and sugar can be added.
The mixture is placed in a melanger, a mill, to roll and knead the mixture to a smooth consistency. The Liquor already contains cocoa butter but more is added. It remains in the melanger for many hours or even days.
Flavours are added, for example, fair trade spice drops made in Kerala, India by Holy Lama Naturals®.
The mixture is tempered by carefully heating and lowering the temperature to make the chocolate stable, glossy and to give it a nice snap when it breaks. After tempering the chocolate it is placed into moulds and left to set before being packaged.
And that's how it's done, chocolate really does grow on trees, and I hope that knowing what Bean to Bar means you will be able to enjoy it even more.
Coco tree flowers in the Palm House by Kew on Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 http;//www.flickr.com/photos/KEWONFLICKR/7141903229,
Cocoa fruit by Nicky Jurd CC by 2.0 http;//www.flickr.com/photos/nickyjurd/2481039854,
Cocoa Extraction by Laura Elizabeth Pohl CC BY-NC 2.0 http;//www.flickr.com/photos/breadfortheworld/5366694971
De-husking 2011.07_cocoabean fermented by di.wineanddine cc BY-NC-SA 2.0 http;//www.flickr.com/photos/diwineanddine/5970166673, CM
cocoa beans, cocoa trees, Cocoa pod, drying tableTom Bamber http;//www.flickr.com/photos/tedbamber