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History of cocoaHealth benefits
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Growing cocoa

Making chocolate
Processing cocoa

Cocoa comes from the seeds of the theobroma cacao tree which are housed in large pods which can grow up to 25cm long.  Each pod contains roughly 30-50 seeds or beans which are surrounded by a protective and nourishing white substance called mucilage.  The shell of the pod can be several centimetres thick.

Cocoa pods ripen in several colours including yellow, red, brown and various shades in between.

Before they can be made into chocolate, cocoa beans need to go through several important steps to enhance and capture their flavour.

The beans are first removed from the cocoa pod, then fermented, dried, roasted, and finally cracked and winnowed to remove the bean shell. This produces cocoa nibs which are ground or milled into cocoa mass or liquor.

Cocoa liquor is the principal feedstock that is used to produce chocolate.  Other feedstocks such as cocoa butter and cocoa powder are produced by hydraulic pressing of the cocoa liquor.

The key processing steps in producing the most desirably flavoured cocoa beans are fermentation, drying and roasting. Following these post-harvest processing steps, the beans are converted into chocolate where the key step in producing a consistent and balanced flavour is called conching or refining.

 

Pod splitting

In most cocoa growing regions around the world, cocoa pods are typically split by hand using a machete.

Daintree Estates has developed a new state-of-the-art pod splitting machine which dramatically speeds up the otherwise laborious manual process, and also avoids potential injuries from the use of sharp machetes.  Once split, the the beans are collected and the pod shell discarded.  Wet cocoa beans make up roughly 10% of the pod weight. 

 

Fermenting

Fermentation is the first critical process to develop the cocoa beans’ flavour.  The beans, still covered with pulp, are placed in large, shallow wooden boxes or are left in piles and covered with banana leaves.

Once fermentation begins, the sugar in the pulp is converted into acids that change the chemical composition of the beans.  Fermentation generates temperatures as high as 55°C, activating enzymes that create the flavour precursors which are the beginning of chocolate as we know it.

The fermentation process takes anywhere from two to eight days.

Unfermented or lightly fermented beans have less chocolate flavour but are higher in health-promoting antioxidants.

 

Drying

Following fermentation, the still 'wet' beans are either sundried or artificially dried in regions where constant rainfall occurs.  Slow and controlled removal of moisture using sun drying seems to produce a more acceptable bean with lower acidity.  Dried beans usually have final moisture levels between 5-7%

 

Roasting

Roasting conditions vary considerably and are a key step in flavour development and removal of residual micro-organisms, particularly pathogens such as Salmonella and E-coli. This is important to ensure that all cocoa and chocolate products are compliant with Food Safety Regulations and safe for human consumption.

Whole cocoa beans can be roasted, and then the nibs recovered through winnowing are ready for processing into cocoa liquor. Alternatively, nibs can be produced from unroasted beans and the nibs roasted before processing into cocoa liquor.

By varying temperature and time combinations, different flavours can be produced. However, it is essential that such processing conditions are enough to deliver the all important pathogen 'kill step' mentioned above.

 

Cracking and winnowing

Once dried and roasted, cocoa beans are cracked into smaller pieces called nibs, and the husks blown away and discarded.  Cocoa nibs are then ready for refining or can be eaten as they are as a healthy and nutritious whole food.

Daintree Estates uses a state-of-the-art cracking and winnowing machine to ensure consistency.

 

 


 

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