As you might know, there are a few different types of cocoa powder. On the one hand, there is pure cocoa powder without added sugar. It is usually available in two versions: low fat and high fat. Low fat cocoa powder has well-rounded, mild taste and is slightly more soluble in liquids. High fat cocoa powder, on the other hand, is less soluble, but also somewhat more intense in terms of flavour. Especially the latter is therefore preferred for baking. Both types are usually relatively dark.
And then there is cocoa powder, which in Germany is known as “Kaba” or simply chocolate powder. It is a mixture of cocoa powder with usually large amounts of sugar and other ingredients such as flavors or emulsifiers. It is suited for all kinds of chocolate drinks and is relatively bright in colour.
But how is it that our cocoa powder from fairafric is just as bright – even though it is a pure product without sugar or other additives?
To find out, we first have to take a look at the production.
How is cocoa powder produced in the first place?
To produce cocoa powder, we need cocoa beans, of course. After harvesting, these are fermented, roasted and crushed. This is how the so-called cocoa nibs are produced. In the next step, these are ground, which causes the cocoa butter to separate form a homogeneous cocoa mass. Anyone who has ever made nut butter themselves can imagine the process very well. The longer you grind, the more fat comes out and the creamier the mass becomes. To obtain a powder, the cocoa mass is pressed, and the fatty components flow out in the form of liquid cocoa butter. What remains is a so-called press cake, consisting of the pure cocoa powder.
At least, this is how our cocoa powder is produced in Ghana. However, most large chocolate companies and cocoa manufacturers add another step, the alkalization.
Alkalization – what is it actually?
This specific method in cocoa processing was invented in the 19th century by Dutchman Coenraad van Houten and is therefore also known as “Dutching” or “Dutch Process”. It is a chemical process in which the cocoa mass is treated with alkaline solutions of, for example, potassium or sodium carbonate before pressing. These neutralize the acidity of the cocoa and thus soften the naturally somewhat bitter taste of the cocoa powder. In addition, the process improves solubility and – there you have it – results in a darker coloration of the cocoa powder.
The alkalization of cocoa led to divided opinions even in the days of its inventor. Some found the process very beneficial, while others insisted that cocoa was only truly genuine without additives. The British chocolate company Cadbury, for example, advertised more than 100 years ago that thy did not add any alkaline substances or other substances to its cocoa and thus “would not deceive the eye”.
Today, alkalized cocoa can be found in most common chocolate bars and other chocolate sweets – including those made by Cadbury. Another well-known example is Oreo cookies, which get their characteristic almost black color from particularly strongly alkalized cocoa powder and without any additional colorants.
Why don’t we alkalize our cocoa?
Better solubility, richer colour and milder taste – that sounds good at first. Our Managing Director Michael from Ghana says: “In Ghana, all cocoa processors can alkalize, Niche Cocoa, Chocomac, Cargill, Barry-Callybaut…It’s as popular here as it is in Europe.”
Nevertheless, we have chosen not to alkalize our cocoa, thus keeping our product natural and free of chemicals. Otherwise you would also have to deodorize the cocoa butter and sell it as such, which is often not that easy, as Michael explains.
Another reason is the health aspect. Cocoa naturally contains a very high level of antioxidants. These help the body protect itself against free radicals. In addition, minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, iron and zinc are also present in greater quantities in pure cocoa powder. Due to the process of alkalization, the amount of these substances decreases enormously and thus also the health-supporting effect.
So now we know that the bright colour of our cocoa powder is not due to any additives, but rather the lack of them. In addition, we prefer a slightly healthier cocoa over, for example, better solubility. What should be mentioned, however, is that just because our cocoa powder is not alkalized, it is by no means bitter. Because even though a milder taste may result from this process, there are many more components that play into this. From the type of cocoa, to the degree of roasting, to the fat content – all of these factors affect the taste. Our Forastero type cocoa for example is already by nature one of the mildest cocoa varieties in the world. And if you are not sure which cocoa powder is best for you, we advise you:
Just try it!