The Process Behind Chocolate

     You go to a store and get your favorite candy, chocolate. Maybe you were making chocolate chip cookies or maybe you just ate it as a chocolate bar. Americans consume about 2.8 billion pounds of chocolate per year. Chocolate is millions of people’s favorite candy in the United States. But how is this sugary sweet candy made?

     The process of making pure chocolate consists of eight steps. The base chocolate is made from cacao beans. The first step of making chocolate is harvesting the cacao beans. They are then fermented, which is when you let the pulp sit in wooden containers for five to seven days to get a good flavor. After fermentation, the cacao beans are dried, cleaned, and roasted. Roasted cacao beans are cracked open, or winnowed, as it’s called in the chocolate world. This process is very easy because after being roasted they have a soft, papery shell. This leaves behind pieces of pure cocoa bean, known as nibs. The fifth step is grinding and conching, the cocoa nibs are ground with stone rollers until they become a paste known as cocoa mass or cocoa liquor. Traditionally, the cocoa mass is transferred to a separate machine called a conch, where it is further refined. This is very important because it give the chocolate its flavor.  Then is tempering, or a controlled process of raising, lowering and raising the temperature of the chocolate to form exactly the right kind of crystals. The final step is molding, which is just pouring the chocolate into a mold.

     You most likely have eaten a Hershey’s bar of chocolate. Hershey is the largest seller of chocolate in the world, with annual net sales of over 7.5 billion U.S. dollars worldwide. But how do they make their huge amount of money? Hershey makes their chocolate with very low quality, and lots of sugar, putting very low or even the minimum amount of cocoa. This is how their company makes lots of profit on their chocolate. Hershey also makes non-chocolate or candy-based products like chewing gum, ice cream, and milk drinks. Hershey’s is also licensed to produce products such as the Kit Kat bar and Rolo candies.

     To make milk drinks, you mix cocoa powder into the drink. Chocolate as you know is a solid, so to mix chocolate into liquid, chocolate brands such as Hershey or Nestle make the solid into a refined powder. Cocoa powder is the dry solid remains of fermented, dried, and roasted cacao beans. This powder is made with this process. The beans are cracked into nibs, which are then ground into a paste made of cocoa solids into a flavorless cocoa butter. Once processors extract the butter they’re left with the crumbly solids, which are then ground into a fine powder or cocoa powder.

     You probably have seen or eaten white, milk, or dark chocolate. Many people don’t know that to be called chocolate, the mixture must contain at least 10% cocoa. White chocolate is made from purely pure cocoa butter and sugar. Often there’s added vanilla. Technically, white chocolate is not a chocolate because it does not contain at least 10% cocoa butter. That’s why you might have heard people say, “white chocolate is not real chocolate”. Milk chocolate is made by adding pure cocoa butter and cocoa solids or in other words milk and the chocolate liquor together. Dark chocolate is often differentiated into two categories, bittersweet and semisweet. Dark chocolate is technically pure chocolate if extra ingredients weren’t added to the recipe. Chocolate that is at least 35% chocolate liquor may be called either semisweet or bittersweet. Very dark chocolate can be as high as 80%, but that much cacao mass can make the chocolate very bitter and brittle, which many find unpleasant to eat. All these chocolates have one thing in common, which is that they all probably have a ton of sugar added to them to make them taste extra sweet and yummy, making you want more and more.