Where does Chocolate Come From?
Chocolate comes from the cocoa bean, which comes from the fruit of the cocoa tree. As the Spanish discovered, this tree is very difficult to grow. In fact, it will not bear fruit except within the band of 20 degrees north and 20 degrees south of the equator and only at an altitude which does not fall below 16 degrees Celsius and has constant moisture.
Modern day cocoa trees are approximately 3 metres tall, which allows for easy hand harvesting. They are evergreen and come to maturity within three or four years and at which stage flowers and fruits begin to appear. The fruit of the tree is a cocoa pod, which grows directly from the trunk and the thicker branches. The small number of flowers which mature into pods take six months to grow. Cocoa pods are very hard and are cut from the tree by knife. Inside the cocoa pod, there are 30 or 40 cocoa beans, cushioned in a soft, white pulp. The pulp-covered beans are scooped out and covered with large leaves on the ground, where they are left to ferment for several days, having been mixed every couple of days. This fermentation stage is critical to the development of the aroma and flavour of the bean.
After fermentation, the beans are dried in the sun. Once dry, they are cleaned and the shell is removed to produce cocoa nibs. These cocoa nibs are roasted to develop their flavour even more. The beans are then crushed to produce cocoa mass (sometimes called cocoa liquor) and cocoa butter.
The different types of chocolate
Cocoa mass gives chocolate flavour and colour, thus there is more cocoa mass in dark chocolate and none in white chocolate. Cocoa butter creates texture and reduces bitterness.
The proportion of cocoa solids in chocolate is a combination of both cocoa mass and cocoa butter and it is their proportion which contributes to both flavour and texture.
Dark chocolate by definition has no milk, is sweetened with sugar and has a higher level of cocoa solids, pre-dominantly cocoa mass. This contributes to its dark colour and bittersweet flavour. Butlers dark chocolate has a balance of cocoa mass and cocoa butter to create intensity without being overly bitter. Butlers dark chocolate (also known as plain chocolate) contains a minimum of 58% cocoa solids.
White chocolate, on the other hand, has milk and sugar with a lower cocoa content, derived from cocoa butter only. The fact that it has no cocoa mass means that it is white in colour and it is creamier and sweeter. Butlers white chocolate contains a minimum of 26% cocoa solids.
The addition of milk gives milk chocolate a balance between sweetness and intensity. Butlers milk chocolate contains a minimum of 32% cocoa solids and 20% milk solids.
Cocoa butter has a very complex structure which can cause chocolate to be dull or grey in appearance if improperly handled. Therefore, when working with chocolate it must be at the right temperature to achieve the right structure. This is a process called tempering.
Firstly, the beginning the chocolate is heated to above 40 degrees Celsius to melt it fully and then the temperature is lowered gently to about 30 degrees by adding more chocolate to it. This gives the chocolate the correct structure and requires the knowledge of the Butlers chocolatier to recognise when the chocolate is tempered.