The essence of our chocolate is derived from cocoa pods, which are grown on cocoa trees. There are three types of cocoa that are grown and processed: Criollo, Forastero and lastly Trinitario. This depends on whereabouts the trees are grown. These are usually grown in humid, tropical areas of the world such as South East Asia, the Caribbean and parts of Africa too. A cocoa pod is the length of a regular ruler and is a deep golden colour. Within the pod are cocoa beans which are wrapped in a pale pulp.
Harvesting the cocoa pods is labour intensive and requires a lot of effort on the part of the worker to complete the process. When they are ripe and ready, pods are cut down and collected from the trees using long machete like blades. They are then split open to reveal the beans inside and it is the beans which are the important part. They are removed from the pod and taken on to the location where fermentation takes place.
The fermentation process differs depending on the country, but most commonly used is the piling technique, whereby the beans are left in the pulp and laid on leaves to ferment in the hot sun for a few days at a time. In other places, such as the Caribbean, they use boxes with holes for drainage to ferment the beans.
Once this process has been completed, the beans need to be properly dried out, as the moisture from the pulp is still retained at this point. Once dried, the beans are placed in large sacks and sent to processing plants in parts of the world where chocolate manufacturers take on the next phase of development.
In these plants, the beans are cleaned and separated from their shells. They are then roasted at extreme heat, and it is this process which creates a darker look and the chocolate smell. They are then ground in what is essentially a modern-day mill and this crushes the beans into a liquid that is what we may deem as a gooey chocolate-type liquid.
The last phase is to press the cocoa material and this is to release cocoa butter and this is then used to create the final product.
The cocoa that comes from the beans is a completely different product from the end creamy bar of chocolate and is actually very bitter to taste, and this is why the process of fermenting and processing the beans has to be adhered to.