Since Divine launched in 1998, they have always encouraged people to value and cherish chocolate more – by knowing more about the people who depend on it. Through their relationships with cocoa growers in Ghana and São Tomé, they can trace the cocoa in any bar of chocolate back to the co-operative village from which it originated.
Understanding the specific journey of a cocoa bean means knowing about the great care and effort that farmers put into growing their cocoa and how important this is to ensure the chocolate they make tastes great!
Step 1 - Growing Cocoa
Most Ghanaian cocoa is grown on small family farms and are intercropped with other plants and trees like plantains, maize and spices. These extra crops provide shade for the beans and food/income source for the family while the cocoa trees grow. Upkeep and care of the cocoa trees is very laborious. Continuous weeding around the trees maximizes nutrients the tree is getting and reduces the risk of disease.
Step 2 - Harvesting
Time of harvest is the best time to do some quality control. If pods are overripe, they are vulnerable to disease or the beans may germinate. If the pods are underripe, the beans will lack the ‘aromatics’ that produce the classic cocoa flavor. Harvesting is also very labor intensive. Farmers have to be careful not to damage the tree when cutting down the pods. Once cut, the pods are then split open with large, sharp-bladed knives. Lastly, the slimy pulp containing the beans is scraped out and ready for the next step.
Step 3 - Fermenting & Drying
Next the beans undergo a two-stage process: fermentation and drying. These processes kickstart the transition from a bitter cocoa bean to the sweet, well-loved, chocolate taste. Fermentation is vital to develop the bean’s ‘aromatics’. The beans are piled together and wrapped in dark green plantain leaves. These ‘parcels’ are left in the heat for 5-8 days. During this time, the fleshy pulp around the beans helps to ferment them and develop the cocoa flavor. Lastly, the beans are dried. The beans are spread out on large tables in the sun and turned regularly so they dry evenly and don’t stick together. This process takes about 7-12 days. Once the beans are done drying, they’re packaged into jute bags and stored in ventilated warehouses. The village code is painted onto each bag so it can be traced back to that village.
Step 4 - Processing the Beans
Once they arrive at the factory, the beans are sorted and cleaned. Then, they are roasted between 248-300ºF. Afterwards the beans are crushed to release the “nib” from the shells and transported through an air tunnel. This process — known as winnowing — blows remaining shell fragments entirely off cocoa nibs. The nibs are then ground down to create a thick brown liquid called cocoa mass. Cocoa mass is made up of rich cocoa butter (55-60%) with fine cocoa particles suspended inside of it. Next, the cocoa mass is heavily pressed until the cocoa butter is separated out, leaving only cocoa powder. This is the same type of cocoa powder that is used in chocolate drinks, confectionary, and cooking.
Step 5 - Making Chocolate!
To make the chocolate, cocoa butter and cocoa mass are combined in varying proportions along with sugar and milk if milk chocolate. The mixture then undergoes a process called ‘conching’ where it’s stirred continuously for several days. Conching is what gives the finished chocolate a silky, smooth texture. Next the mixture is slowly cooled while mixing. This process is called tempering. The resulting mixture, or ‘couverture,’ is the base of most chocolate products. Other ingredients like nuts and flavoring can be added to the couverture directly. When the chocolate is finished, it’s packaged and transported to large handling warehouses. From the warehouses it’s distributed to stores to be purchased and enjoyed!