Wow, where has the year gone!

November is upon us, with Christmas just around the corner!

Decide to keep your shopping short & sweet this year - literally.Give the gift of food - specifically chocolate!

But did you know there are many different ways chocolate can be produced? The humble cacao bean can go through many different processes before reaching the melt in your mouth deliciousness we know and love. So here are some things you should know about how your chocolate is made.

To create the base ingredient of chocolate - The beans with their surrounding pulp are removed from the pods and placed in piles or bins to ferment, which can take up to seven days. Then the process diverges depending on what method the chocolatiers are using to make their chocolate.

In most commercial chocolates, the manufacturing process involves a step called tempering. After grinding the cacao, and mixing in the other ingredients, the liquid chocolate is heated in controlled steps to ensure a smooth and silky finish with a satisfying snap.

Green & Blacks chocolate using this tempering to create their smooth organic chocolate.

The Swiss Method

Swiss chocolate is made using the Swiss method, but the Swiss are not the only ones who use this process.

The Swiss manufacturing process is a six-stage affair:
1.    It begins with the roasting of cocoa beans to separate cocoa from cocoa butter.
2.    Next comes the mixing process where all the raw ingredients are bound together, melted, cooled and then pulverised into a powder.
3.    These are then rolled in big machines to refine the tiny particles. The smaller the powder grains, the better the taste.
4.    The powder is then whizzed around in big metal drums for a minimum of 24 hours. The friction in the drums raises the temperature of the powder and melts all the ingredients together - a process known as conching, which was invented by another Swiss, Rodolphe Lindt.
5.    Dark chocolate is conched for around 48 hours, and milk chocolate for 24 hours - the longer the conching time, the better the quality of chocolate.
6.    The gloopy mixture is then pumped into moulds, cooled and packaged.

Alter Eco uses the Swiss method in their chocolate. Rawries and Pico Chocolate both conch their chocolate for up to 72 hours!

The Bennetto Natural Food Co. uses the Swiss process, and partners with a chocolatier in Switzerland to make some of their bars.

The Dutch Process

What is the difference between alkalized Dutch-processed and non-alkalized cocoa?

Where there is a difference is in the use, or lack thereof, of an alkalizing agent. With non-alkalized cocoa, the nibs are ground into a powder without any alkali ingredients. The result is a light brown powder with a bittersweet, slightly fruity taste.

Dutch-processing refers to the use of an alkalizing agent, such as potassium, magnesium carbonate, sodium bicarbonate, oxide, or ammonium, which is usually added along with water. What an alkali does is raise the pH of the cocoa. Dutch-processing creates a darker, richer flavour and the resulting powder is more easily dissolved in liquids – making it ideal for drinking chocolate.

This cocoa is then used in the chocolate making process, to make chocolate that is more dissolvable, and favoured by bakers who wish to control the rising agents in their cakes and such.

Organic Times uses Dutch-processed cocoa in their chocolate products.

Raw Chocolates
A new contender on the chocolate market are ones based on raw cacao. The cacao beans are still fermented - but are often ground at much lower temperatures, to ensure nutrients are preserved all the way through to the finished bar.

Raw chocolates usually have a higher cacao content, making for a darker and richer flavour.

Loving Earth lightens their mylk chocolate with cacao butter and coconut nectar. 
Loving Earth and Pana Chocolate both use raw ingredients, and these are both vegan as well!
The Vego bars use cacao mixed with hazelnut paste to create their creamy vegan chocolate.

So whatever kind of chocolate tickles your fancy, you will now be able to share some interesting facts while sharing some chocolaty treats!

You could start with Alter Eco Bars - 25% off all varieties this month!