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How Chocolate Is Made

Chocolate is made from the cocoa bean, found in pods (illustrated above) growing from the trunk and lower branches of the Cacao Tree, Latin name ‘Theobroma Cacao’ meaning “food of the gods”.


Chocolate as we know it today was largely made possible by three events:

  • In 1828, Dutch chemist Johannes Van Houten, invented a method of extracting the fat or “cocoa butter” from ground cocoa beans. The resulting ‘cocoa’ powder was much less bitter tasting and, when combined with sugar or honey, made a drink much more palatable to our taste.
  • This process known as the Van Houten process made it possible for Fry & Sons of Bristol, England to manufacture and sell the first solid chocolate bar in 1847.
  • In 1875 a Swiss manufacturer, Daniel Peters also used the Van Houten process to successfully combine chocolate with powdered milk to produce the first milk chocolate.


Producing chocolate is a time consuming and complicated process, but we have endeavoured to provide a simplified guide which we hope you will find easy to understand:

  • The first step is the harvesting of the cocoa pods containing the cocoa beans.
  • The Pods are crushed and the beans and surrounding pulp extracted and fermented naturally for about six days in either open heaps or boxes after which the beans are dried.
  • The finest chocolate is produced when the drying process is done naturally by the sun for 7 days or more.
  • Accelerated or artificial drying is quicker, but produces inferior quality chocolate, mainly used in mass produced products and cake coverings.
  • The next process is shared with coffee in that the beans are first graded, then roasted. Roasting times depend on the type and size of the beans, like coffee this can also affect the final flavour of the chocolate.
  • Light Crushing separates the kernel or ‘Nib’ from the shell or husk (like shelling a nut), the husk is then separated or ‘winnowed’ out and discarded.
  • At this stage most manufacturers put the Cocoa Nibs through an alkalisation process to help develop flavour and colour. However, some purists producing the finest chocolate prefer to rely on the quality of the beans and natural processing to produce the best colour and flavour.
  • The nibs, which are very high in fat or cocoa butter, are then finely milled and liquefy in the heat produced by the milling process to produce cocoa liquor. When cocoa liquor, otherwise known as cocoa mass, is allowed to cool and solidify.
  • At this point the manufacturing process splits according to the final product. If the end product is chocolate, some of the cocoa liquor is reserved, the rest is pressed to extract the cocoa butter leaving a solid residue called press cake. Press cake is usually kibbled or finely ground to produce the product known to consumers as Cocoa Powder.

The retained Cocoa Liquor and/or solid Cocoa Mass is blended with Chocolate Butter and other ingredients to produce the various types of chocolate as follows:


Cocoa Liquor or Cocoa Mass is blended back with cocoa butter in varying quantities to make different types of chocolate. The finest plain or dark chocolate should contain 70% Cocoa or more, whereas the best Milk Chocolate contains 30% or more Cocoa and the best White Chocolate contains 30% or more Cocoa Butter. In addition most chocolate contains a sweetener, usually sugar, this is because without some kind of sweetener, chocolate would be so bitter as to be virtually inedible. The other most commonly added ingredients are natural Vanilla for flavour (artificial Vanilla or ‘Vanillin’ is often added to mass produced chocolate because it’s cheaper), and Lethicin (usually made from Soya) as an emulsifier. The basic blends that we use provide a good illustration:

Our Plain Dark Chocolate contains:

  • 70%+ Cocoa solids (cocoa mass and cocoa butter), 29% sugar, vegetable Lethicin and Vanilla.

Our Milk Chocolate contains:

  • 40% Cocoa Solids (cocoa butter and cocoa mass), 37% sugar, 20% whole milk powder, Lactose, vegetable Lethicin and Vanilla.

Our White Chocolate contains:

  • 49% sugar, 33% cocoa butter, 18% whole dried milk and whey powder, vegetable Lethicin and Vanilla.

Different manufacturers use different variations of the above formulas.

Inferior and/or mass produced chocolate generally contains much less cocoa solids, (as low as 7% in some cases), with most or all of the chocolate butter replaced by vegetable oil or other fat. In fact, the low or virtually non-existent cocoa content of these “Brand Name” and other chocolate products means that strictly speaking, they should not really be classed as chocolate at all, as they are really chocolate flavoured sweets.


The blended Chocolate then goes through a refining process involving heavy rollers, this grinds down and blends the particles to smooth and improve the texture.

Mostly, but not always, this is followed by the penultimate process called ìconchingî, a conch is a type of container in which the refined and blended chocolate mass is continually kneaded and further smoothed, the fractional heat produced by this process keeps the chocolate liquid. The length of time given to the conching process determines the final smoothness and quality of chocolate. The finest chocolate is conched for a minimum of a week. After the process is completed the chocolate is stored in heated tanks at about 46∞c (115∞f), ready for the final process called Tempering.


Because cocoa butter exhibits a  or unstable (polymorphous) crystal structure, the chocolate must go through a very precise cycle of heating and cooling to encourage the stable crystal formation needed to produce the desirable properties for good tasty chocolate. This final process is called Tempering.

This is the method we use, first, we melt the chocolate at about 46∞c (115∞f), the chocolate is then cooled to between 29∞c (84∞f) and 31∞c (88∞f) and warmed up again to between 30∞c (86∞f) and 32∞c (90∞f), it can then be held ‘in temper’ at this temperature for use as required.

The chocolate is now ready for use as coverture, for coating chocolates, chocolate biscuits and other coated products, or poured into moulds and cooled for sale as the finished product such as solid chocolate barsBut every time it is allowed to harden and is re-melted it will have to be re-tempered again.

Well tempered chocolate has a good shiny gloss, a snappy or brittle bite and a smooth tender melt on the tongue, coating the palate with long lasting flavour and generally tasting wonderful.

Note: One of the reasons that mass producers replace chocolate butter with vegetable oil (or other fat) is that they don’t then have to worry about tempering the resulting concoction. An added bonus (as far as they are concerned) is that vegetable oil is much cheaper than chocolate butter, but it’s addition results in a vastly inferior product that is most definitely not real chocolate.


The average cocoa solids content of these mass produced products is generally less than 20% by volume. The principle ingredients of commercial mass produced chocolate are not cocoa solids, but sugar, powdered milk and sundry artificial and other additives, in addition chocolate butter is substituted with saturated fats and vegetable fats, (usually hydrogenated vegetable oil or HVO). These are the dietary villains responsible for chocolate’s undeserved reputation as being fattening, tooth-decaying and generally unhealthy.

But all’s not doom and gloom, we are becoming more discerning in our tastes, with demand for high quality, high cocoa content dark chocolate products increasing year on year. Real chocolate, containing at least 70% cocoa solids for plain chocolate and much less sugar than the typical mass produced “brand name” product, is much healthier by far – see Chocolate – Health Benefits. for more on this.


It’s a well established fact that most people love chocolate, last year (2001) chocolate lovers in the UK alone, spent over £4 billion ($7.5 billion) on well over half a million metric tons of chocolate products (including biscuits etc)!

U.S. Consumers spent more than $10 billion (£4Ω billion) and ate 2.8 billion pounds (1.3 billion kilo’s) of chocolate alone (not including coated biscuits etc), representing about half of the world’s entire chocolate production (2001).

The average U.S. citizen eats over 12 lbs (5.45kg) of chocolate products annually, but British and the Swiss top the league, with the Swiss consuming a staggering 22lbs (11kg) per person per year. Unfortunately the bulk of the money spent by the average Briton and American is wasted on mass produced low chocolate, high fat, high sugar products.

On the other hand, the Swiss spend their money far more wisely on very high quality chocolate, as anyone who has tasted Swiss chocolate will testify, but you don’t have to go to Switzerland to get good Chocolate!

Aphrodite chocolates are made from only the finest quality, high cocoa chocolate:

  • 70%+ cocoa solids for plain Dark Chocolate

  • 40%+ cocoa solids for Milk Chocolate

  • 33%+ chocolate butter for White Chocolate

and finest natural ingredients with little or no added sugar.

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