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Chocolate is typically sweetened food produced from the seed of tropical Theobroma cacao tree. Although cacao has been cultivated by many cultures for at least three millennia in Maxico and Central America, its earliest documented use is by the Olmecs of south central Mexico around 1100 BC. In fact, the majority of Mesoamerican people made chocolate beverages, including the Mayans and Aztecs. The seed of cacao tree have an intense bitter taste and must be fermented to develop the flavour.
The cacao bean begins life inside a fruit, called a pod, on a tree in the tropics, primarily in remote areas of West Africa, Southeast Asia and Central and South America.
These delicate, flower-covered trees need much tending and, when farmed using sustainable methods, grow in harmony in tropical forests beneath other cash crops such as bananas, rubber or hardwood trees. Grown on small family farms, the beans leave cocoa farms by hand, in carts, on donkeys or rugged trucks to be sold to a local Once in the factory, they are ground, pressed, heated and stirred to create luxurious chocolate.
Chocolate comes from the cacao tree, which is formally known as Theobroma Cacao. Perhaps it’s the temperament of this mother tree that gives chocolate some of its intense and exotic taste. Cacao trees flourish only in the hot, rainy tropics, in a swath 20 degrees north and south of the Equator. Cacao trees are delicate plants that live in the understory of tropical forests and require other, taller trees to shelter them from wind and sun.
These petite trees top out at 60 feet tall in the wild (although most grow only 20 to 40 feet high), shielded from wind and sun by hardwoods and other trees that stretch as high as 200 feet. See more about where cacao trees grow and how they are grown. Pods. Courtesy of World Cocoa Foundation. The cacao tree has large glossy leaves that are roughly the size of an outstretched human hand. Young trees have flashy red leaves, while mature trees are green. This showy tree draws other plants to it. Moss and lichens cling to the bark, as do small orchids.
Theobroma Cacao’s own pink or white blossoms adorn the branches. Some of these pretty flowers turn into colorful fruits called pods, filled with sweet juice and bitter seeds. These seeds—the cocoa beans—form the heart of chocolate. The Factory Chocolate laboratory. Courtesy of Mars. While details differ, most manufacturers follow the same general process to turn cacao seeds into scrumptious chocolate. No matter what the step, professionals at the factory take and test samples to ensure the chocolate meets or exceeds safety and quality standards.
Computers control temperatures, air moisture content, length of processing steps and more to ensure each batch is consistent and high quality. Employees thoroughly clean the equipment and manufacturing environment daily, following stringent sanitation programs. All chocolate manufacturers must meet standards set by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration that govern manufacturing formulas. These standards set minimum percentages of ingredients for various kinds of chocolate and govern which flavorings may be used. Roasting and Pressing Cocoa beans arrive at the chocolate factory in burlap sacks.
Their processing has already begun, since the farmer fermented and dried them. Before they can enter the manufacturing facility, they must be inspected and approved as part of a stringent quality control process, just like all raw materials. Workers also catalogue each shipment of cocoa beans, recording their variety and region of origin. Only in that way can the chocolate-maker control the flavor of each mix of beans. In the science and art of chocolate-making, beans must be blended precisely to achieve the desired flavor of each product—and the consistent flavor that the consumer expects.
Once pedigreed and approved, the beans are cleaned in a machine that takes off dried cacao pulp, pieces of pod and any other bits of matter that may have joined the journey to the factory. Cocoa beans roasting. Next, workers load the beans into large cylinders for roasting. The beans spend anywhere from half an hour to two hours in heat of 250 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. The length and temperature of the roasting step varies with the kind of bean and the kind of taste the manufacturer wishes to create. As the beans rotate and dry inside the cylinder, their brown color deepens, and their chocolate aroma intensifies.
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