Part 1: Cocoa? Where does this popular powder actually come from?
Over the last few months we have been providing you with regular updates about the progress on the construction site of our new solar-powered chocolate factory in rural Suhum, Ghana. As the construction is finally completed and we can hopefully start with the production of our chocolate bars, we would like to take the opportunity to launch a new mini-series.
Over the next few weeks we would like to show you exclusive insights into the relevant processes of chocolate production.
Currently, more than 70% of the cocoa traded worldwide comes from West Africa. Yet the cocoa fruit is actually not a native fruit of the West African flora. But how did it end up there and became one of the most important export goods? The cocoa tree has its origins in Central America, more precisely in today’s South Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras. There it was already harvested by the Mayas and Aztecs and used as a powder in drinks. In 1528 the Spanish captain Hernando Cortez presented the bean to the Spanish royal family as a souvenir from his travels. As a result, the cocoa bean became increasingly popular in Europe from the 16th century onwards, which is why alternative growing areas were sought. Thus, in 1824, the Portuguese brought the cocoa fruit to Africa, where cultivation — initially in Gabon — produced excellent results.
From the 19th century onwards, cocoa was also cultivated in Ghana. Ghana lies in the so-called cocoa belt — an area that spans four continents and offers ideal conditions for cocoa cultivation. The plant requires high humidity and plenty of rain at temperatures as constant as possible between 25 and 30 Celsius. In addition, the cocoa tree is a shade tree and needs larger trees around it to provide shade. The West African country, together with the Ivory Coast, now produces more than two thirds of the cocoa beans grown worldwide. Of the approximately 800,000 Ghanaian’s registered as farmers or tenants, 460,000 are cocoa farmers. Ghana earns about 70 percent of its export earnings from cocoa farming.
Part 2: Cocoa liquid and cocoa butter
The production of the chocolate starts with cocoa liquid and cocoa butter blocks, which we get from our partner Chocomac. Chocomac takes over the pre-processing of the cocoa beans for us. The cocoa liquid and cocoa butter blocks go into two separate melters and are processed. Then the liquid and butter are put into the mixer. There, up to 800kg of ingredients can be mixed in the right proportion. The blender stands on a very large scale – so the ingredients, e.g. sugar, can be added in the right quantities according to weight.