Chocolate rivers and caramel oozing out from the conveyor belt into pretty little tins, that’s what we expect to see at the chocolate factories. But it’s not as quite glamorous as Willy Wonka’s Factory! Yet, learning about the process from start to finish, and seeing it firsthand is quite fascinating- even if it’s not the way we imagined it to be. So let’s explore the process of chocolate manufacturing- the journey from bean to bar.
The first, most obvious thing I found out is that the chocolate recipe varies, but the foundation of the entire process is more or less the same. Fun fact: about 60-70 per cent of global cocoa production takes place in West Africa. This is because countries like Ivory Coast, Nigeria, and Ghana experience rainfall that drains well in the soil, and have a certain amount of humidity, making the climate conditions favourable for cocoa bean production. To get high-quality chocolate, it is important to source the best cocoa beans. Most big factories have their own production plant where the beans are dried, fermented, and roasted the process coffee roasting- after the flavours of the beans have been picked, they can range from fruity to acidic. After roasting, they are ground to make chocolate mass, to be shipped out to chocolate manufacturers worldwide.
Also read: Interesting Facts about Chocolate
All About the blend
Chocolate mass is pure cocoa in a block or powder form, which is then ‘conched’ to make the chocolate mix. Conching is chocolate mass mixed with sugar and milk for hours, to remove the acidity and combine all the flavours together to make it one. It’s all done in a large mixing machine which resembles a massive stainless steel pot. Even if it’s automated, the human interaction during the production process is vital, to get the right consistency. There’s a great difference in the quality of chocolate creations when there’s input from humans at some point during the process.
time to temper
Once the chocolate is conched and ready, it is then tempered. Some brands melt readymade chocolate buttons, instead of mass, to prepare their chocolate. However, the tempering process is common across all chocolate factories, big or small. Tempering involves heating, cooling down, and reheating the chocolate at various degrees, and the process can take anywhere from minutes to hours. Tempering gives a shiny surface and holds the cocoa butter in. It also helps the chocolate to get the perfect snap when you break it. Once the chocolate is tempered, it is then poured into moulds and cooled down.
Many chocolatiers replace cocoa butter with a chocolate compound batter (vegetable fat) to quicken the tempering process. This is an affordable, quick route that’s common among commercially- produced mass-market brands, but it affects the end result of the chocolate. Another reason for using chocolate compound batter is because it keeps the chocolate from melting in hot countries like India.
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The Good Stuffing
If you have ever wondered how the filling gets into your chocolate bar or divine chocolate square, the answer is enrobing. Enrobing is an essential part of chocolate making, with the only difference being that smaller chocolatiers manage the whole enrobing process manually, by pushing the sheet on which the filling is laid out, through the melted dripping chocolate, while in larger factories, expensive, automated enrobers coat the fillings- which crawl along the production line- with a thick layer of chocolate. The chocolate is then cooled down before being wrapped up.
The packaging stage is vital no matter what the size of the business is. Production date and allergy information are included on all boxes at factories and chocolate shops. Factories usually have a robotic machine to wrap a certain number of bars in each box, however, at gourmet chocolate boutiques, the chocolate is individually wrapped or placed manually into a box. Now you know why handmade chocolate is pricier than the bars on shelves!