Cacao and Conching


Cacao trees are found in the geographical belt bounded by the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, 20° north and south of the equator. This tropical region includes the producing countries of Bolivia, Brazil, Cameroon, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Grenada, Haiti, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Sao Thomé, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Togo, Trinidad, Venezuela, and Zaire.

The fruit of the cacao tree is a pod containing 20-40 cacao beans. It is shaped like an elongated acorn squash and comes in a variety of green, yellow, orange, red, and brown colors. The beans are white (prior to fermenting) and approximately 1" long and ½" wide.

The Criollo bean is considered the best with a light color and pleasant aroma. It represents only 10% of the world's production. The Forastero bean and a few hybrids, one of which is known as the Trinitario, make up the other 90%. Forastero beans are bitter and come in a wide range of quality and color.

It is with the buying and blending of the various types and qualities of beans that the guarded secrets of the great chocolate makers begin.

We have asked other chocolate producers about the proper use of the words cacao and cocoa. It seems that the words have become interchangeable. However, it is technically more accurate to use the term cacao when referring to the trees and raw production prior to manufacturing processes.

The two major parts of the cacao bean are the dark brown cocoa powder and the light yellow cocoa butter which can be pressed out of whole roasted beans with hydraulic equipment. Both must be present in a product for it to be called chocolate. What we call "white chocolate" is not technically chocolate. However, one of its main

ingredients is cocoa butter, the most expensive part of the bean. "White chocolate" does not contain cocoa powder. On the other hand, cheaper candies are often made with what is known as compound. Compound contains cocoa powder but no cocoa butter. A cheaper vegetable fat is substituted for the expensive cocoa butter. Compound cannot be called chocolate in the United States.


The word conch comes from the Spanish concha, which means shell. It is the name given to the containers in which a kneading process takes place to smooth out chocolate and enhance its flavor as one of the last steps in manufacturing. Originally shell-shaped, today's conches are usually round or horizontal in shape and made of stainless steel. Every company has its own proprietary way of conching chocolate.

During conching, the chocolate is heated to temperatures of 130° to 200° F. Large rollers create an folding, aeration process and cocoa butter and lecithin are added. The bitter taste of the cocoa slowly disappears and the delicious chocolate flavor becomes fully developed. Simultaneously or in a two-step process, the smoothing of the cocoa and sugar particles takes place with cocoa butter forming around each of the small particles. Conching is done for several hours or up to three days. Flyer chocolates are conched for up to three days, while most domestic chocolates are conched for eight to twelve hours.

This edition of the Flyer Chocolate Letter is published and copyrighted 1990- by Paris Chocolates, Inc., P.O. Box 1281, Washington, CT 06793, Tel: (800) CANDY BAR. Flyer Candy Bars, chosen the best in New York City by New York magazine, have received rave reviews in such media as The Boston Globe, Chef, Chocolatier, Food & Wine, The New York Times, and WOR Radio, New York.


 Copyright © 1987- Paris Chocolates, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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