Monday, 5 September 2011

The Cocoa Processing Chain : Spilling the Beans on Cocoa


The cocoa beans is the seed of the cocoa tree (Theobroma cacao). The cocoa tree produces cocoa pods. The cocoa pods are harvested when fully ripe and their colour has turned to fully yellow or orange. Harvested cocoa pods are brought to a convenient place and usually a kept for about a week prior to splitting. After splitting the fresh and wet cocoa beans are extracted.

The wet cocoa beans are taken to the processing centre or factory for fermentation for 5 days in a shallow box at a dept of between 25cm to 38cm. During the fermentation process, a complex chemical changes take place and the chocolate flavour is developed. The beans are turned once on a third day of fermentation. On the sixth day, the fermented beans are taken out for drying in the sun or a hot air dryer to a moisture content of between 6 and 7.0%. Using a hot air dryer, a 3-day drying schedule at a temperature of 50° to 55°C is recommended. It is during this stage that the brown colour develops and further flavour development occurs.

The dried cocoa beans are either graded and packed in new jute sacks to a nett weight of 62.5 kg for export or roasted and ground to produce cocoa liquor which is cocoa mass in semi-liquid, non-alcoholic form. This is then pressed to obtain cocoa butter and cocoa cake. The cocoa cake is then ground to form cocoa powder. Each stage in the processing of cocoa alters its chemistry. During the production of cocoa powder, roasting of the beans occurs, prior to roasting the beans can taste bitter and acidic. The roasting process alters the beans to make them less acidic and improves the flavour. The cocoa powder is also used as a principal ingredient in a rich variety of foods and beverages making cocoa truly one of nature's most versatile products.

These natural products from cocoa beans are then mixed with different proportions of milk and sugar to form chocolate. During chocolate production, a conching process is undertaken in which chocolate paste is pounded to form a smooth paste. This process also reduces the bitterness of chocolate and improves its flavour and texture.


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