Video Credit: Foodie Nation Youtube Channel – Local entrepreneur Mr. Jean Claude from Lambeau Tobago and his Chocolate Factory.
Chocolate, that delectable treat loved by people of all ages and cultures, holds a special place in our hearts and palates. In the food and beverage industry it’s a magical confection that has the power to instantly lift our moods and bring a smile to our faces.
Come along chocolate lovers and let’s embark on a journey through the fascinating process of chocolate-making in Tobago, from the humble cocoa bean to the mouthwatering chocolate bar we know and adore.
The Origins: Cocoa Beans
The story of chocolate in the Caribbean began when Spaniards brought the bean for exportation to European markets. Cacao has contributed to the socio-economic development of Trinidad and Tobago for over 200 years, and the history of the local cocoa industry has undoubtedly been illustrious. At one point Trinidad and Tobago was the world’s third highest producer of cocoa, after Venezuela and Ecuador, producing 20% of the world’s cocoa.
Harvesting and Fermentation
The first step in the chocolate-making process is harvesting the cacao pods, which are carefully cut from the trees. The cocoa beans are then left to ferment in shallow containers or wooden boxes. Lasting several days is essential for developing the beans’ flavours by breaking down the surrounding pulp and initiating the transformation of bitter compounds into more palatable ones.
Photo Credit: The Division of Tourism, Culture, Antiquities and Transportation/ Dancing the Cocoa, Charlotteville Tobago
Drying and Roasting
After fermentation, the beans are spread out under the sun to dry. Once dried, the beans are ready for roasting, which brings out the complex chocolate flavour we all know and love.
Photo Credit: The Division of Tourism, Culture, Antiquities and Transportation/ Dancing the Cocoa, Charlotteville Tobago.
Dancing the Cocoa’ is a method of polishing the beans as well as allowing air to flow through so that the beans can dry evenly.
Winnowing and Grinding
With the beans now roasted to perfection, the outer shell becomes brittle and easier to remove. This process, known as winnowing, involves cracking the beans open and separating the outer husk from the inner nib. These nibs, rich in cocoa solids and cocoa butter, are then ground into a paste called chocolate liquor or cocoa mass.
Conching and Refining
To achieve the smooth and velvety texture of modern chocolate, the chocolate liquor is mixed with cocoa butter, sugar, and sometimes milk solids. This mixture is then conched, a process that involves stirring and kneading the chocolate mass for several hours or even days. Conching helps refine the chocolate particles, ensuring a smooth texture and enhancing the overall flavour profile.
Tempering and Molding
Tempering is the process of carefully cooling and heating the chocolate to stabilise the cocoa butter crystals. This crucial step ensures that the finished chocolate has a glossy appearance and a satisfying snap when broken. Once tempered, the liquid chocolate is poured into moulds to create the various shapes and sizes we find in chocolate bars and other treats.
Packaging and Distribution
Bristol Cocktail- Created by THTI Bar Operations Students
The final step is to package the chocolate with eye-catching wrappers and labels that reflect the brand’s identity and allure to consumers. From artisan chocolatiers to large-scale manufacturers, these delectable delights are distributed worldwide, bringing joy to countless chocolate enthusiasts.
Don’t miss out on our upcoming International Chocolate Day Workshop on September 13th, where you can learn more about chocolate culinary techniques. As you savour the delicious taste of chocolate on this special day, take a moment to appreciate the remarkable journey it undergoes from the bean to the bar. Happy Chocolate Day!