The word “chocolate” can refer to several types of food that contain cacao bean. This includes the chocolate bar, chocolate ice cream, chocolate syrup or even chocolate drink.
While people tend to think of chocolate as sweet, it was originally a bitter drink. About 2,500 years ago the Aztecs first used chocolate as a ritual offering to the gods. Hot pepper, not sugar, was added to the drink. Today, chocolate not only contains liberal amounts of sugar, but is often mixed with milk (adding its creamy texture) or flavor-enhancers such as mint, fruits, nuts and liquor. Gourmet chocolates also include nonconventional ingredients such as ginger or even pork rind!
The chocolate process begins by harvesting cacao bean from the cacao tree. These beans are then cut, revealing the pulp. The husks are usually thrown away.
The pulp and some of the seeds are then placed in wooden boxes, and allowed to ferment. This takes about 5 to 10 days. This brings out the flavor of the cacao. Afterwards, the beans are allowed to dry under the sun or in a large oven.
Once dry, the beans are sorted (removing any contaminants like dust or stray twigs) and transported to manufacturers. Many of them roast the beans further in order to lessen acidity levels and enhance the flavor. Then, the shells are removed, and the remaining chocolate meat are crushed into a chocolate liquor or liquid. Once the liquid hardens, the resulting chocolate blocks are once again sent to companies who process it—adding ingredients to vary flavor and texture—into the desired chocolate product.