Why do we say “cocoa” instead of “cacao”? The botanical name for the tree that chocolate comes from is Theobroma Cacao. The word “cacao” is used in the Hispanic languages to describe what English speakers think of as cocoa. Since cocoa trees came to Jamaica during its British colonial days, the term “cocoa” has remained. Wherever you see the word “cocoa” on our website (or hear it spoken in Jamaica for that matter) you can assume it has the same meaning as “cacao”.
Our cocoa trees are grown and maintained in an eco-friendly way. Restoration Village Farm is located in an area of Jamaica that receives a lot of rain. The farm workers brush (i.e. use their machetes to chop) the undergrowth and leave the brushed material on the ground to decompose and replenish nutrients in the soil.
Banana and plantain trees are planted near young cocoa trees to provide shade until they are mature enough to withstand direct sunlight. Although young cocoa trees need shade to prosper, heavy rainfall and damp shady conditions promote the growth of moss and fungus on the trunks of mature cocoa trees. This is a detriment to cocoa production, as the moss and fungus will inhibit the flowering and pollination necessary for the cocoa pods to grow on the trunks. As a result, shade trees are removed from the cocoa field and the cocoa trees are regularly pruned to allow sufficient sunlight and wind to kill and minimize fungal growth. A drainage system is established to prevent water from heavy rains pooling around the trees. Farm workers periodically augment the nutrients in the soil by the spreading of chicken manure.
We at Restoration Village Farm are cocoa producers who embarked on an informational journey to gain knowledge of the chocolate production process from the cocoa tree to the chocolate bar. We traveled to the UK and garnered first-hand knowledge from: our instructors, Beverley Dunkley and Julie Sharp, Technical Advisors at Barry Callebaut’s Chocolate Academy in Banbury, England; Ruth Hinks, Master Chocolatier and proprietor of Cocoa Black in Peebles, Scotland; Ali & Friederike Gower, proprietors of The Chocolate Tree in Haddington, Scotland; Olivier Nicod, Head Chocolatier, and Emma Cope, Couverturier, both from Hotel Chocolat in London, England.
The following steps detailing the transformation of cocoa into chocolate are for informational purposes only:
Step 1. Pick mature pods from the tree by carefully cutting off the pods. Do not remove the pods by wringing them or tearing them off the tree because this may damage the trunk or other young pods.
Step 2. Open pods with a machete or wooden mallet. A machete may cut beans causing damage. However, our Jamaican farm workers are expert machete wielders and thus have mastered the art of using a machete to open cocoa pods without damaging the beans.
Step 3. Examine the beans for quality and remove any beans that have mold, machete cuts, sprouts, discoloration…
Step 4. The cocoa beans are placed in wooden boxes covered with banana leaves or plastic to ferment and drain off the resulting liquid. Fermentation usually takes about 5 to 7 days. The wooden boxes are made of guango wood and are housed in a wooden shed as protection from the elements and critters.
Step 5. After fermentation, the cocoa beans are taken out of the boxes and spread out in a single layer on wooden tables in the drying facility. This facility is looks like a greenhouse that allows the sunlight through but keeps rain and critters out to avoid contamination. The beans are dried using natural heat from sunlight.
Step 6. Throughout the drying process the beans are stirred using wooden rakes to ensure the beans dry thoroughly. If any foreign material (stones, nails, etc.) is found mixed in with the beans it is removed. At this point, the dried beans are ready for export, if so desired.
Step 7. If the dried cocoa beans are to be made into chocolate, they are dry roasted to bring out the chocolate flavour and colour. Generally speaking the beans are evenly roasted for 50 to 60 minutes at a temperature of 120°c (248°f) to 140°c (284°f). The temperature, time and degree of moisture involved in roasting depend on the type of beans used and the sort of chocolate or product required from the process. Do not over roast or under roast. Beans absorb smells. Ensure roasting equipment and the surroundings do not have strong odors such as cleaning fluids or smoke.
Step 8. After roasting, the brittle shells are removed from the beans. The shells can be used in making beers, in cattle feed, and as mulch, but quite often are considered waste material. The beans are cracked into course nibs either by hand or with a mill. Then a winnowing machine is used to remove the shells from the beans. The winnowing machine stirs the cracked beans and blows air on them so the shells fly up in the air and are sucked away leaving just the nibs. The cocoa nibs are 55% cocoa butter and 45% pure cocoa.
Step 9. The nibs are then milled to create cocoa liquor (paste, cocoa mass, and cocoa particles suspended in cocoa butter). The temperature and degree of milling varies according to the type of nib used and the product required.
Step 10. The cocoa liquor (mass) may be pressed to extract the cocoa butter, leaving a solid mass called cocoa cake. The amount of butter extracted from the liquor may be controlled to produce cake with different proportions of fat. The cocoa butter can be used to make white chocolate or be added to milk or dark chocolate to change the consistency. It can also be used in other non-food items such as skin lotions, hair conditioners, soaps and tanning lotions. The cocoa cake may be ground into cocoa powder and used in baking, hot chocolate and other chocolate flavoured confections.
Step 11. Cocoa liquor (mass) is used to produce chocolate through the addition of sugar, flavourings and optionally milk and more cocoa butter. Some chocolate makers add emulsifying agents (lecithin) and cocoa butter substitutes. The proportions of the different ingredients depend on the type of chocolate being made. For example 72% dark chocolate is generally 72% cocoa liquor (mass) and 28% sugar. Milk chocolate has cocoa liquor, milk, sugar and flavorings. White chocolate is primarily cocoa butter and sugar.
Step 12. The mixture then undergoes a refining process by travelling through a series of rollers until a smooth paste is formed. Refining improves the texture of the chocolate. The particle size in a very smooth eating chocolate is refined to about 22 microns. At this size the tongue cannot detect any particles. If you are using chocolate as a spread in may be refined to about 30 microns.
Step 13. The next process, conching, further develops flavour and texture. Conching is a kneading or smoothing process. The speed, duration and temperature of the kneading affect the flavour. Conching removes unwanted negative acidic flavours.
Step 14. Flavours may be added towards the end of the conching cycle. Given that chocolate is 55% cocoa butter, then added flavours need to be in powdery form or mixable with fat. The flavours cannot be water-based. The added flavours may impact the next batch of chocolate being conched.
Step 15. The mixture is then tempered (alternate heating, cooling and reheating process to achieve an appropriate level of crystallization). Tempering minimizes the possibility of discolouration and fat bloom in the product by preventing certain crystalline formations of cocoa butter developing.
Step 16. The mixture is then put into moulds and cooled in a cooling chamber at 16°C (61°F) to 20°C (68°F).
Step 17. After the chocolate is set, it is removed from the moulds and then wrapped or packaged in unscented foil, plastic or paper. Chocolate should be stored in a slightly cool, dry, dark place.
How to make Jamaican “Chocolate Tea”
For an authentic Jamaican variation of processing cocoa, follow Steps 1 – 8 above. Then use a mortar and pestle to grind the cocoa beans/nibs into a paste. Some may add a little nutmeg or cinnamon spice to the paste before hand moulding it into chocolate balls that are dried and then stored for later use to make “chocolate tea”. When needed, the chocolate balls are grated into fine particles and boiled in water. At this point, one may add coconut milk (i.e. grated coconut soaked in hot water and then the “milk” is squeezed out) and sugar or sweetened condensed milk to the mix for a delicious “chocolate tea”. It looks similar to hot chocolate served in other parts of the world but tastes very different since spices are added and the cocoa butter is still in the drink.