Posted in Kafevend Blog
Countdown to chocolate
Those of you who were with us earlier in the week will know that thus far we have been pondering the weird and the wonderful in the world of record breaking bids- tea and coffee based ones, of course. We pondered doing the same for cocoa, but we realised we'd be missing the opportunity to perform a vital public service. As you have probably noticed, a certain festive season is fast approaching, and the traditional countdown has begun today with the first Sunday in Advent. No doubt you've been forging lists of gifts to appease those near and dear to you- and it's probably fair to guess that there are a few chocoholics on that list. We're here to recommend adding a personal touch to their present this year: why not make them some chocolate? Join us then over the next few weeks as we find out how chocolate is made, and then show you how to make some of your own!
Making chocolate begins with harvesting the cacao pods. This is a pretty labour intensive process, if it's being done with good quality chocolate in mind, of course. During harvesting season, all of the trees will need to be checked over each day for suitable pods- they don't have the good grace to all ripen at once! It's important to pick them at the right time, once they have fully ripened. If they are gathered too late, the beans may start to germinate and will also be prone to disease, meaning they would have to be thrown away. Too early, and the beans will not contain as much of the assorted fats that make up what we know as cocoa butter, and there will not be enough sugar in the pulp; This latter is particularly important for the next stage- fermenting.
Once picked, the pods are split open and the beans and pulp removed. The resulting mess is left in piles, specifically designed bins or even wrapped in large leaves such as those from a banana tree for anything up to a week to allow it to ferment. Relying on the sugary pulp, fermenting the beans is an important step. The chemical reactions that take place during the process subtly alter the flavour and aroma of the beans, serving as the groundwork to the taste of chocolate we know and love- they are developed further on down the line, but that's something for another day!
After fermentation, the beans are cleaned of any remaining pulp and must be dried in order to prevent them from degrading from things like mould. Traditionally, this is done by spreading them out across a plaza to dry in the sun. Machines can be used for this step, but if the weather is nice, why not get it done for free? As with the fermenting, this step can take up to a week and sees the moisture content inside the beans drop by more than 50%. The prepared beans are then finally packed into sacks, ready to be shipped off and made into chocolate- join us again next week to see how this is done!