The Cocao Bean Transformed

Thanks to Rodolphe Lindt

By Madelyn Miller, the Travellady


If you’ve ever seen a cocao bean, you know it is hard to believe all the delicious things, like truffles and other chocolate fantasies, that come from this brown lump. Yet it is the most important ingredient in the boxes of chocolate you get at Valentines’ Day, the fancy  egg and the Santa Claus you enjoy at Easter and Christmas.

The world’s most renowned sweet began with a little bean known as “cocao.” The cocao bean, often confused with the “coco” bean because of an early spelling error from English traders, comes from the fruit of a cocao tree, which is indigenous to warm, moist climates such as the climate in Mexico, Venezuela and Ecuador.

Cocao beans, believed to be first discovered in South America by the Olmec Indians around 1500 B.C., are found in the center of the cocao fruit. The yellow, green or violet pods are pulled from the trunk of the cocao tree and the beans are scooped out. Once the beans are fermented and dried, they are cleaned, roasted and hulled. The shells of the bean are removed and the remaining contents, or “nibs,” are blended like coffee beans to produce different colors and flavors.

Nibs are then ground until the cocao butter is released. Heat from the grinding process causes this mixture of cocao butter and finely ground nibs to melt and form a free-flowing substance known as chocolate liquor. From there, different varieties of chocolate are produced.

Raw unprocessed chocolate is grainy and not suitable for eating. Take my word for it. If someone offers you unprocessed chocolate, politely decline.

Rodolphe Lindt discovered conching, a process of rolling and kneading the raw chocolate substance to give it the smooth, rich quality it is known for today. What a genius. Now that I know who is responsible for turning the gritty bean into smooth creamy chocolate, I will bless his name every time I have chocolate.

The name “conching” comes from the shell-like shape of Lindt’s rollers. In the conching troughs, 100 to 1000 kilograms of chocolate paste can be heated up to 80°C, while constantly being stirred. The chocolate paste develops a velvety smoothness with the addition of a cocao butter and lecithin formula. When the chocolate paste is aerated, the bitter taste gradually disappears and the flavor fully develops. The longer chocolate is conched, the more luxurious it will feel on the tongue.

Depending on what is added to—or removed from—the chocolate liquor, different flavors and varieties of chocolate are produced. Each has a different make-up, and the differences are not solely in the taste:

Unsweetened or baking chocolate is simply cooled, hardened chocolate liquor. It is used primarily as an ingredient in recipes or as a garnish.

Semi-sweet chocolate is also used primarily in recipes. It has extra cocao butter and sugar added. Sweet cooking chocolate is the same, with more sugar for taste.

Milk chocolate is chocolate liquor with extra cocao butter, sugar, milk and vanilla added. This is primarily an eating chocolate and it the most popular form.

Coco is chocolate liquor with much of the cocao butter removed, creating a fine powder. It can pick up moisture and odors from other products, so it must be kep tightly covered in a cool, dry place.

There are several kinds of coco:
White chocolate is a misleading term. In the United States, in order to be legally called “chocolate” a product must contain cocao solids. White chocolate does not contain these solids. Real white chocolate is primarily cocao butter, sugar, milk and vanilla. Some products on the market call themselves white chocolate, but are made with vegetable oils instead of cocao butter. Chocolate lovers should check the label. White chocolate is the most fragile form of chocolate, so cooks should pay close attention while heating or melting it.

Decorator's chocolate or confectioner's chocolate is a chocolate flavored candy used for things such as covering strawberries. It was created to melt easily and harden quickly, but it isn't technically chocolate. Using decorator's chocolate provides ease and speed for recipes.

The aroma, the texture and the taste are all dependant on the specific recipes and the quality of its preparation. Thanks to the patented Lindt conching process, chocolate has become and remains a popular delicacy enjoyed around the world.


Madelyn Miller is a writer and web entrepreneur who contributes to , , , and


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