A Chocoholic's Dream - Making Chocolate in Mindo, Ecuador
Everyone loves chocolate. The bitterness... the sweetness... Doesn't it just make your mouth water? Despite the sweet's popularity, not many people know how it's actually made, and very few of the purest of chocolates come directly from nature. In Mindo, Ecuador, we caught a glimpse of the process.
How chocolate is made is complicated and takes patience and time. It all starts with the cacao bean, and the bean itself is quite strange. It comes from the inside of a nutlike, cacao pod that grows on cacao trees. Once these pods turn into a bright yellow, orange color and become ripe, the chocolate-making process begins immediately. The cacao pods are first cut open, revealing the almond-sized beans which are covered in a sticky white pulp. The raw beans have a strange, sour taste to them, leaving me wondering how such peculiar-tasting beans become the sweet everyone loves?
The first step is fermentation. The beans are scooped out of the pod and are left to ferment under banana leaves. Depending on the weather and heat, it takes around two to nine days to fully ferment. When the fermenting process has been completed, the cacao beans are now referred to as cocoa beans and are then dried. They are spread out resting under the scorching sun and are constantly turned for consistent drying. It is then time to roast the beans, and once this is completed, the cocoa beans' papery shells are blown off by a fan. Now, all that's left are pieces of pure cocoa beans, which are known as nibs. These cocoa nibs are often shipped around the world, so other chocolate makers can use this raw material to make their own chocolate.
The nibs are then grounded, creating a paste known as cocoa liquor. This cocoa liquor contains the natural fat in cocoa, called cocoa butter, which creates a creamy texture in the best of chocolates. Unfortunately in many cases, manufacturers replace the natural cocoa butter with cheap vegetable oils - this is how you can tell if you're eating good chocolate.
The cocoa liquor is then "tempered" to the perfect temperature, where sugars and other flavorings are often added at this time, and the liquid is then poured into molds. Once the chocolate has hardened and cooled, they are then packaged and sent off across the Earth for everyone to enjoy. The making of chocolate is truly a fascinating process that many may not be familiar with.