I LOVE Chocolate!
I went on a chocolate tour. So what exactly is a chocolate tour, I mean how do you tour a piece of candy? If something as all around wonderful as chocolate can be reduced to the term “candy”. It started with some general information about the cacao or cocoa tree. There are three kinds, the strong kind with more butter and less cocoa, the skinny, delicate kind with more cocoa and the hybrid of the two. Trees grow to about 20m tall but are kept around 7m on plantations to make harvesting easier. Trees don’t provide a reliable crop until they are 5-6 years old, and then only for about 25 years though the tree can live much longer. Pods grow directly from the trunk or from principle branches. The flowers are very small and this makes it hard to use any pesticides or the like because only one type of very small fly pollinates the flowers and they are vulnerable to those pesticides too.
From this point on you taste every step of the way; fruit, dry bean, roasted bean, ground with sugar, hot chocolate, chocolate liquor, solid and melted, and finally, tempered and molded chocolate, milk or dark.
Ripe pods are broken open and the fruit covered beans are removed.
They then ferment for between 4 and 7 days, the more beans fermenting at one time the more heat they generate and the faster they ferment. The beans then spend at least another week drying in the sun before being roasted
They are then broken up so that the thin shell around the bean can be removed, often by fans or other blowers as the shells are lighter than the bean chunks.
It is not chocolate until sugar is added, without sugar it is just cocoa or cacao and tends to be very bitter.
They then make hot chocolate in the Mayan style, but with sugar. They had a variety of things we could add. Vanilla and orange extract, ground anise, chili, hibiscus, cumin, pepper, and more.
Chocolate liquor is the most processed form and didn’t come about until the industrial age where a Swiss man named Nestle developed the process of extracting the butter. This is then melted and molded to form chocolate bars. I really like the melted version.
I finished by buying a chocolate bar that isn’t actually chocolate. It is 100% cocoa and contains no sugar, therefore is not actually chocolate.
Throughout all of this you get to learn about the history of chocolate as well as the production. Not to mention the all important tasting.