This past week, at school, we studied chocolate and we learned a lot. We tasted every different kind of chocolate, made chocolate treats, visited chocolatiers, chocolate restaurants, and went to Hershey, PA. We learned about choconomics and how chocolate is made and where it comes from. Like, you probably know the brand of chocolate you are buying, but do you really know the intensive labor that goes into making this delicious treat?
It all starts with the cacao tree. This wonderful tree is responsible for what makes you smile when you bite into chocolate. The tree that starts YOUR chocolate bar. This plant grows flowers on its trunk that will maybe one day become a cacao pod.
You see those flowers on that tree, well they can come and go every day. Each flower only lasts about a day, and out of those flowers only ONE in ONE THOUSAND gets pollinated! They are pollinated by flies that live on the forest floor. One pod takes about 4-8 months to grow, and they are harvested twice a year. One tree can hold up to 50 pods, and the trees are quite small. In most fruits and veggies you can tell by the color, whether or not it is ripe, but with cacao pods you can’t. The pods range in color and size, so it would be difficult anyway. Each pod is about the size of a football. Inside the pod is the magic, the cacao seeds.
When the pods are ripe they are cut down by hand and then slashed open with a machete.
The cacao seeds have a white flesh around them that almost acts like a pillow.
The white flesh is taken off, and then the seeds are left out in the sun for a while to dry. Before the seeds are dried they are purplish-white, but after they are dried they are a dark brown; the color of chocolate as we know it today. The seeds are fermented, the outer layer of the seed is taken off, roasted so it’s a bean and then sent off to people who turn the beans into the cocoa butter and powder. Cocoa is the byproduct of the cacao tree.
To have chocolate, it needs to make it into a cocoa powder or butter first. The beans are ground into what we know as cocoa butter which is used for chocolate (mainly white chocolate). The remnants of that is what we know as cocoa powder! The cocoa powder or butter is mixed with cream, and then that is formed into chocolate. Have you snapped chocolate before and heard a large snap, or no snap at all? That is based on the cream content of the chocolate. White chocolate has barely any snap, but dark chocolate has a large snap because there is not a lot of cream, just a lot of cocoa. Milk chocolate is right in the middle!
Ever wonder why white chocolate is called chocolate? Well here is the answer: The basis for white chocolate is cocoa butter, so because that comes from the chocolate pod it is considered chocolate. Although most scientists don’t really agree with that theory.
Also, ever wonder why cacao doesn’t melt but chocolate does? It’s the cream in the chocolate that makes it melt. But there’s no cream in cacao.
This week has been so tasty and fun, and we will probably not eat another piece of chocolate…until tomorrow (:
Happy Valentine’s Day.
Lyla and Emily
The Kitchen Twins