When you imagine the chocolate-making process, you probably get dreamy thoughts of scenes from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, complete with the sweet smell of melted chocolate, chocolate pouring from machines into bar-shaped molds, and perhaps even a flowing chocolate river or two.
The reality is actually very different.
Yes, these are the later stages of making chocolate (the chocolate river being the exception), but there’s so much else that goes into chocolate production that we don’t even think about.
As we all (hopefully) know, chocolate doesn’t grow on trees.
But what does grow on trees is the cocoa that’s used to make it. Cocoa grows on tropical evergreen cocoa trees, which are found in Southeast Asia, West Africa, and Central and South America.
Cocoa has to be harvested manually. The pods are collected, and the seeds or beans are removed from these pods. After that, the cocoa beans must be fermented, dried, and sent on their way to chocolate factories, where the “actual” chocolate-making process can begin.
If you’re keen to learn more about how a cocoa bean can possibly become a square of chocolate, read on.
Flavor Lab is a YouTube channel that often produces experimental food-related content, including making Doritos, Mountain Dew, and beer from scratch.
The most popular video by far is the documentation of at-home chocolate production, start to finish.
The video is titled “Making Chocolate is a Lot More Disgusting Than You Think,” and when you watch the process, you’ll see why.
Ready to learn how to make your own chocolate from bean to bar? Let’s get started.
First off, you’ll need your own cocoa pods. You can buy these from exotic fruit stores, but only in some parts of the world.
To start, use a knife to split open the pods and expose the interior. This is definitely the first “gross” experience.
The beans are surrounded by a slightly creepy-looking flesh.
Appearances aside, apparently this tastes quite nice.
It’s worth trying once, but eating something that looks like a raw brain probably isn’t for everyone.
Anyway, back to the chocolate making – your next job is to scoop the insides out of the cocoa pods and begin the process of fermentation.
Fermentation is incredibly important, as it allows the flavors we know as chocolate to properly develop.
Just a warning – fermentation is pretty complex, and there are ideal environments for producing the best end result. But Flavor Lab kept it simple, placing the beans into a sealed glass container and letting them sit for about a week.
After about a week, the beans will start to change color.
Once seven days have passed, you’ll be left with a funky, slightly alcoholic-smelling jar of beans, which can only mean one thing: it’s time for the drying process.
Dehydrate the beans for up to 44 hours, either under the hot sun or in a dehydrator.
You can now roast the beans in an oven for about 25 minutes, then de-shell the beans and grind them using a pestle and mortar.
If you’re like us, you probably had no idea that so much even went into the beginning stages of making chocolate. It makes you wonder how this extensive process was ever thought up in the first place.
Wondering what happens next? See the entire process from start to finish in the fascinating video below.