Today I am writing you from the chocolate factory. The sound of the conching machines may distract me but not half as much as the delicious smell that enters my nose, in between the fresh air breeze of the tropical forest, after all this is the Caribe and I am sitting near an open window looking at a mango tree…
I will write more in detail on the production process later on, but I already want to give a preview on how this amazing tree-to-bar chocolate is being made.
From planting the tree, harvesting the cocoa pods, fermenting, drying, selecting, roasting, winnowing, grinding, refining, conching and tempering the chocolate eventually ends up in the mold, the wrap and the box….
From growing the cocoa pods to wrapping the bar it takes about 8 months. Once the cocoa pods get harvested, they are brought to the estate for 7 (!) days of fermenting and after that several days of drying. Dry cocoa beans are brought to the factory and the big bags are being sorted out by hand; little leaves and a few bad beans are left out to create a pure cocoa taste of only the best.
Selected beans are roasted. This is a very important part of the process and only 3 people here at Grenada Chocolate are capable to do so. It takes a lot of experience to know the exact timing. Between 15 and 23 minutes the beans get roasted in a machine that makes sure the beans are heated equally.
The roasted beans are put in a so called winnowing machine. This machine cracks the beans and the shells come off. By vibration the pieces of cocoa bean (the cocoa nibs) end up in a large basket and meanwhile the shells got vacuumed out.
These cocoa nibs are than grinded in a machine called The melangeur. The 2 heavy rolls of this vintage machine grind the cocoa nibs into an oily base until a liquid is made. Meanwhile the sugar is added, quantity depending on the cocoa percentage of the chocolate bar.
The next stage is the Refiner/Conche machine. The liquid chocolate will stay in this machine for 24h and during this process certain acids are coming out, which greatly improves the taste of the chocolate. (More detailed description will follow shortly because this is a very interesting machine indeed!)
Another important machine is the temperer, the last machine in the process that poors the chocolate in their molds. This machine ensures the right crystalline structure in the solid chocolate, which determines for example that the chocolate melts in your mouth, not in your hand…
A very short overview, of course the people operating the machines are very important as well, so look out for next posts where I will get further into detail!
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