Cacao cultivation and harvesting: Chocolate begins with the cacao tree (found within 20° north and south of the Equator) and each tree bears oval fruits, also called pods, which contains around 30–50 seeds (cocoa beans). Cacao pods turn a vibrantyellow/orange color when ripe and are typically harvested twice annually. The white pulp which contains the cocoa beans is scooped out of the pods.
Fermenting: In order to develop the flavour and color that we know chocolate to have, the pulp is given time to ferment for 5 - 7 days in large wooden containers. During this step, the beans are turned so that fermentation will be equally distributed.
Drying: Next, the fermented beans are dried by being placed on wooden boards or bamboo mats for around 7 to 14 days under the hot sun. To achieve consistent drying, they are repeatedly raked and turned over. Beans are evaluated, packaged, checked for quality and shipped to chocolate manufacturers.
Creating Cocoa mass: Cocoa beans are cleaned and roasted slowly to develop a richer flavor. Through a process called winnowing, shells are separated from the nibs. The cocoa nibs are ground into a paste called cocoa paste using stone rollers. Normally, the cocoa mass is further refined in a machine called a conch; however, modern chocolatiers merge the grinding and conching into a single process using a melanger (a metal cylinder with two rotating wheels that grind the chocolate into miniscule particles). A melanger is a sizeable metal cylinder with two rotating granite wheels that grind and refine the chocolate into miniscule particles.
During this stage, flavours such as sugar, milk powder (for milk chocolate), etc are added to the chocolate. It can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days and this step has a crucial impact on the flavour notes in the finished chocolate.
Tempering and moulding: The next step is “tempering” — the controlled process of manipulating the temperature in order to achieve the most stable form of the cocoa butter. Proper tempering gives chocolate its “snap,” satiny surface, and smoothness as it forms exactly the right kind of crystals. The final step to making a chocolate bar is to shape the chocolate by using moulds. The liquid chocolate is set in plastic bar-shaped moulds and any air bubbles are removed.
Skilled chocolate makers often directly choose their cocoa beans and monitor the whole cultivation and harvesting to ensure highest quality product. Some use additional cocoa butter so their chocolate has a glossier texture. Whether you're online shopping for chocolates to order chocolates online or buying it in a store, make sure that manufacturers don't use cheap vegetable fats instead of cocoa butter to enjoy best tasting chocolate with heart chocolate.