Chocolate market worldwide is estimated to be valued at more than 44 billion US dollars, and it is projected to even reach up to more than 60 billion US dollars by year 2027. That’s a very profitable business. And there is no more popular time that chocolates are flying off the shelves than Valentine’s.
Chocolate is actually made from a fruit, the cocoa bean. About 40 cocoa beans are contained within a cocoa pod. Cocoa can live for up to 200 years, but only produces viable cocoa beans for 25 years. The scientific name for the cocoa tree is Theobroma cacao which means ‘Food of the Gods’ in Latin. The Swedish botanist Linnaeus gave the cocoa tree this name in the eighteenth century and you can tell how revered the tree has always been.
It was said that the Olmecs of Mexico were the first civilization to use the cocoa beans which grew wild in Central America as far back as 1500BC. That’s over 3,500 years ago! History recorded that the Mayans and the Aztecs were chocolate lovers and valued the cacao beans. Cocoa beans were brought back to Spain in the sixteenth century and chocolate has become sought-after among the royalty and aristocrats since. Now, it’s not just among royalty, but everybody loves chocolates.
Today, about 70 percent of the world’s cocoa beans come from four West African countries: Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon. The Ivory Coast and Ghana are by far the two largest producers of cocoa, accounting for more than 50 percent of the world´s cocoa.
Recently we were in a place where they farm cocoa beans, and we visited a small lab where they make chocolate from scratch. So my wife and I made our own chocolate bars and bon bon, with the assistance of the pastry chef.
Here’s the dried roasted cocoa bean that is broken down to small pieces called cocoa nibs.
The nibs were further grounded and were placed in a conching machine (photo below) and churned for about 12 hours that turned them into thick chocolate paste. Sugar is also added during this process.
The next process is heating, and cooling, and reheating, to give the chocolate paste the right consistency.
Photo below is me spreading and mixing the chocolate paste, a process called “tempering,” which gives the chocolate a smooth and glossy finish. Of course I was under the supervision of the pastry chef.
After determining that our chocolate has the right consistency and texture, we poured them into molds and added other ingredients to our own delight.
Once the molded chocolate bars and bon bons cooled down and hardened into the final form, we wrapped them with foil and paper to give it the professional appearance of a real commercial chocolate product.
Below are the chocolates we made that we brought home, and are ready for our consumption and enjoyment.
For this Valentine’s, I’m eating my very own chocolates that I help create.
Happy Valentine’s Day everyone.