PUNTOITALY No31 - July 2022

Seed processing Once the pods have been harvested, the seeds are extracted. These seeds are fermented for three or four days lying on the ground on jute cloths and covered with banana leaves. During this phase, the organoleptic properties of the fruit are naturally modified. The flavour becomes more aromatic and less bitter, and at the same time the colour becomes more uniform. After the fermentation process is completed, the seeds are dried in the sun. They are then stripped of any impurities and selected based on their size. During this phase, the seed has a reddish-brown colour and the pulp on the inside should melt in your mouth and leave a greasy residue on your fingers. This results in the so-called green cocoa, which can be found on the market in bags of sixty, eighty or one-hundred kilograms. Cocoa is classified as a stimulant thanks to the presence of theobromine and caffeine, two substances that make it an aphrodisiac. Or so it was believed at the time of the Maya and Aztec populations. The production cycle After the beans are cleaned, shelled and calibrated, they are roasted with different methods and equipment. They can be processed directly on an open flame, for forty or fifty minutes, or with hot air at a temperature of 250°C for about twenty or twenty-five minutes. Once they have been roasted, the seeds are placed in drum mixers and cooled with a stream of air. They are then coarsely crushed to form cocoa nibs and sifted to remove any impurities. At this point, they are ready for the next processing steps. To produce chocolate, sugar is added in various percentages. It is then further refined and finally blended with different processing times (where the cocoa mass is constantly mixed at a high temperature in order to obtain a homogenous mixture). The production of cocoa powder takes place after the extraction of cocoa butter. Four levels of extraction of cocoa butter distinguish the different types, obtaining cocoa powders with different fat contents: at zero percent cocoa butter (low-fat cocoa), from 10-12 percent, from 22-24 percent and up to 26 percent. “Dutch cocoa” (invented by the Dutch) is a cocoa powder that undergoes a treatment with potassium bicarbonate at the same time the beans are roasted. This process makes it more soluble and more aromatic, as well as giving its typical reddish-brown colour. Photo by Kiyoshi on Unsplash 67