In love with the shape of chocolate…

Posted on Posted in en, Stories

Things we normally don’t think about: why do we have 10 fingers and toes and not 12 or 8, why can’t we  see the air we breathe and why does chocolate come in the form of bars, usually including 24 little pieces. Let us explain a bit – at least the chocolate part.

Chocolate in the course of time: Did it always come in bars?

Before the Europeans even found out about cocoa, the Olmecs were already cultivating it (around 1500 B.C.!) and some time after that, the Aztecs and Mayas also started valuing it. There, the cocoa wasn’t only a means of payment and a burial object, but also a ritualistic and strengthening beverage that was gained by grinding and pressing cocoa to lumps and then pouring hot water on it, e.g. during sacrificial ceremonies. Or – if there was no time for hot water – it was eaten as a whole as energy supply by warriors on marches.Only with the arrival of the Spanish conquerors in Latin America did cocoa get to Europe, where it very slowly made its way into society’s aristocratic and high class as a beverage, mixed with a lot of sugar. Up until the end of the 18th century, cocoa was laboriously grated into a fine mass by hand, which was then, mixed with sugar and spices and again pressed in shape by hand, brewed up as a beverage with water or milk. Later on, in the 19th century, mules and even steam engines were employed to make the laborious grinding process easier. At that time the “chocolate” was still very bitter, despite adding spices and sugar. Additionally, the cocoa mass still had an amount of fat of more than 50% – too much to make it easily resolvable in water or milk.

That’s why the Dutch chemist Coenraad Johannes van Houten invented a hydraulic press that was able to separate the cocoa butter from the cocoa mass and cut down the percentage of fat by about half, which at least solved the problem of the bad solubility. The cocoa mass gained this way was strongly comprised by the press and came out of the machine as a block. The extracted cocoa butter was a waste product back then.

First, this press was under patent protection, but after the passing of the patent it was also used by other cocoa processors because of its efficiency. One problem remained though: the bitterness of the cocoa mass. In the end it was the Swiss chocolate maker Daniel Peter who made another ground-breaking invention: He mixed a little bit of the “waste product” cocoa butter to the raw cocoa mass. On top, he added some of the recently invented milk powder and this way received a mass that could be formed even without the enormous pressure of the Van Hout’s press and was also considerably milder in taste – and therefore fit for large-scale consume.

This taste was further refined by a new process introduced in 1897: the conching, which is still the core step in every chocolate production process today. Here, the chocolate mass was and is heated and stirred mechanically for various hours. This way, bitter flavorings and odors can escape and the moisture is also reduced. This product was now filled in cubic forms (so-called casting molds) to cool off; cubic forms, because the consumers already knew this form from the cocoa products of the hydraulic press. This trick is simple; giving a new product a known form lowered the buyers’ inhibition level to test the product. The plan succeeded: The chocolate bars produced this way to be eaten directly (and not to be brewed up and drunk) were a product that gradually began to become popular with more and more people, due to its lack of bitterness and the new creaminess.

How are different shapes of chocolate created from the cocoa mass?

Four big types of design have come into being: chocolate bars, filled chocolate bars, chocolate pralines and chocolate figures. As long as these are produced by a machine, the process is pretty similar for all of them. The conched mass is poured into different molds and then, depending on the final product, shook, cooled, covered or spun..

Why do chocolate bars have sections?

The chocolate mass is poured into so-called casting molds for cooling down. Already at the beginning of their industrial introduction, those casting molds have been divided into sections  – that’s due to a very simple reason: They serve as portioning for the consumers. Breaking a whole bar of chocolate without carvings proved to be difficult – that’s why the chocolate producers fell back on a regular division of the bars. Bars divided into 4×6 rows proved to be the most popular, making 24 pieces in total. Today, the chocolate producers vary with the size of the molds and especially in the organic segment, you can find bigger sections now (mostly 2×6) – with a clear message: 100% taste, 0% regrets!

Why do the chocolate pieces of different producers have distinct patterns and why does fairafric chocolate have stars?

When the chocolate production was first invented, every bar, once unpacked, looked the same. This was a call for creativity, so that even the unpacked chocolate would look different from a competing product. So many producers started punching individual symbols in their casting molds, which originally consisted of metal and therefore were easy to emboss. Nowadays, when you unwrap a bar of chocolate, you can encounter not only very distinct symbols on the sections, but some producers even deviate from the classic section division. But why did fairafric opt for stars on their sections? This has a simple reason: Our production partner Niche uses the old molds of the German chocolate brand Schogetten (Trumpf Schokoladen) in their factory in Tema.  And there are two other reasons we would like to share with you:  fairafric has a star on each piece of chocolate because there’s also a star in the center of the Ghanaian flag. And because we are a star in the chocolate sky for many people. 😊