Tuesday, September 25, 2007
CHOCOLATE 101: How Chocolate is Made
Looking at a cacao tree it's hard to imagine that the world's favorite treat starts out here. It's a really funny-looking tree. It has colorful, rugby ball-shaped pods which sprout from the trunk and hang on the branches. The pods are so big it looks as if they defy gravity, jutting straight out of the trunk and suspended from the tree's thin branches.
But inside those pods is where chocolate magic begins. Each pod houses about 40 cacao beans, also called cocoa beans. Inside the pod the beans are covered in sticky, white, sweet and tart tasting pulp which looks odd but actually is critical to the ultimate development of the bean's flavor.
Growing cacao requires skilled labor and dedication. The tree needs shade to thrive so it must be planted next to taller trees whose leaves will protect it from direct sun and high wind. Pests and disease can be a huge problem and account for a loss of nearly one-third of the world's crop every year.
A tree must be five or six years old before it will bear fruit. Even then, it is not exactly a production machine. Each tree bears about 30 usable pods a year, which translates to roughly 1000 beans a year. It takes 500 beans to make 1 pound of bittersweet chocolate — so in the best of circumstances, each tree produces beans for only 2 pounds of chocolate.
Read about harvest, fermentation, drying and the market by clicking here.
Info from allchocolate.com