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


  1. Wow, Cheryl. Thanks for all the info. Maybe I can plant a few of these trees outside on the apartment complex lawns. Then after I win the lottery I can open my own chocolate factory. Melissa and the Chocolate Factory...
    I'll hire Johnny Depp for extra sugar! lol!

  2. LOL! Question is...how will I find Oompa-Loompas?
    "Ive got a golden ticket" Yea, sing that all day. Heehee.

  3. When one tree = 2 lbs of chocolate; no wonder it's expensive and only royalty could afford it "back in the day."

    Mel, I snorted when I read your J Depp comment. Have a widowed friend with his 4' poster in her bedroom-too much reminder of what she's missing for my book!

  4. Cheryl, stopped at Hy-Vee grocery, Shadow Lake tonight. They have FIVE sections of chocolate products labeled "bagged candy" NINE shelves high near section 16. CHECK IT OUT! and that doesn't include the halloween chocolates around the corner or Brach's "pegged" candy in same row. PARADISE or TEMPTATION ALLEY!
    And Lucky Lou got 2 bags free (licorice & gummy bears) because they had them misentered at the register. $10 worth of candy; sweet tooth not good for this diabetic.

  5. Yummy. I adore licorice. Real licorice, not that red fake junk. No, the soft black kind. My passion are those small assorted cubes, some have a gel center and some have pink on them - and some are like gumdrops. Do you know what I mean? Don't see them many places.

  6. Lou, I know Depp by 6 degrees of separation. Have a leaf off a fake tree he gave to a friend of mine.
    Hey, 4' of Depp would be great! HA!

  7. cheryl, are you talking about Brach's Jelly Nougats? They are my FAV along with bulls eyes (caramel around a white cream center.) Don't get me started on sweets; I'm from the "penny candy" era when most were 2 for a penny and a few even 3 for a cent.
    BTW, HyVee has 8-10 Brach's variety $1.49 a lb.

  8. lol. did you know that chocolate was banned in switzerland for many years. read this