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B e a n t o B a r
The Process - An Overview
THE COCOA POD (FRUIT OF THE COCOA TREE)
Making chocolate begins with the cocoa pod. Cocoa pods are the fruit of the cocoa tree which grows exclusively around a narrow band from above and below the equator. The beans are housed in a thick fibrous pod which grows off the tree as shown below. The seeds themselves, contained in the pods are the cherished items processed into chocolate. Covering the seeds when they are initially removed from the pods is a white, sweet and tangy edible pulp. Each pod contains 30-50 seeds.
As the pod grows it also ripens until it is ready to be picked off the cocoa tree.
After the pods are picked from the tree they are split open and the cocoa beans are removed. The cocoa beans are initially covered with a sweet film (indicated above) which is removed during the fermentation process. The fermentation box as seen in this picture from Grenada is used to dry out the white sweet film which covers the seeds. The beans are moved from one successive box to another allowing the fermented juices to run off. This process can take between 5 to 8 days. Fermentation is a key process as it sets the stage for flavour development of the chocolate further down the line.
In order to fully dry the beans, they are then placed on large trays as shown below and dried in the sun. Aeration may take up to 8 days.
Following the drying process, the beans are then packaged in perforated sacks so that they are able to breath and not accumulate moisture.
The beans are then sorted to ensures the removal of unwanted foreign debris. Once sorting has finished the cocoa beans are placed in a cocoa roaster and gently cooked between 120-150 degrees celsius for 30-45 minutes. Traditional cocoa roasters rotate the beans in a spherical chamber and roast the cocoa beans through convection to achieve an even roast.
After the beans have been discharged from the roaster, they are cooled and ready for de-shelling or winnowing. The seeds are cracked gently so the cocoa nibs or seeds are separated from the shells.
CRUSHED & GROUND
In our process, we use an antique mélanger to grind the nibs, sugar and cocoa butter into a fine paste. The objective here is to reduce the particle size of the mixture and thoroughly mix the ingredients for preparation into our roller refiner.
Once the nibs, sugar and cocoa butter have been crushed into a liquid paste by the mélanger, the raw chocolate is milled through a roller refiner until a particle size of approximately 25 microns is achieved. In general the human tongue cannot sense particles under 50 microns. This process is required in order to produce the velvety feel that world class chocolate is known for.
Following the refiner process the chocolate is placed in a vessel known as a conche for approximately 24 hours. Here, the chocolate is vigorously agitated. The shear mixing which occurs in the vessel elevates the temperatures within the chamber driving off the acidic properties in the chocolate which give a bitter initial taste. After this process is completed the chocolate will exhibit many wonderful flavours once hidden at the beginning of conching. This is particularly true of single origin chocolate made from criollo, national and the trinitario species.
The conched chocolate then proceeds to a process called tempering. In this process the chocolate is sent through a machine containing a series of heat exchanges which crystallizes the chocolate at the molecular level. Without this process the chocolate would succumb to either sugar bloom or fat bloom. The tempered chocolate is then poured into molds or used to make bonbons.
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