The cocoa tree and its fruit
As the cocoa tree prefers not to be in direct sunlight, the trees on plantations are protected from the sun and strong winds by a number of different shade trees.
To make the harvest easier, the cocoa trees are pollarded at 2 to 4 metres. Cocoa beans are the seeds of the cocoa pod, which grows directly on the trunk or stronger branches of the cocoa tree. Nestled inside each fruit are between 25 and 30 long, egg-shaped cocoa beans. They are arranged in five rows and surrounded by a white, jelly-like, sweet and sour pulp with a consistency resembling that of a lychee.
The cocoa tree is in bloom throughout the year with one or two main flowering seasons. Despite its many, magnificent flowers, only very few are pollinated.
In trade, cocoa is roughly divided into two categories and three sorts: the consumer cocoa Forastero and luxury beans Criollo and Trinitario.
- The finest luxury cocoa
- Mild cocoa flavour with distinctive secondary aromas and hints of nuts, caramel, forest fruits and tobacco
- Origin: Central America
- A robust crossbreed of Criollo and Forastero
- Powerful and aromatic cocoa flavour with very low acidity
- Origin: Island of Trinidad
- The forefather of all cocoa types
- Lightly aromatic, powerful cocoa flavour
- Origin: South America
- Proportion of trade: >80%
Cocoa is typically grown by smallholders and harvested twice a year. The main harvesting season is between October and March, with more than two-thirds of the world’s cocoa harvested during those six months. Yields vary considerably depending on country, variety of cocoa and soil, as well as on how healthy and well-maintained the trees on a plantation are.
Harvest by hand: As during the time of the Aztecs, cocoa is still harvested by hand today in all cocoa-producing countries. The ripe pods of varying sizes that grow directly on the trunk or in branch forks are not picked, but carefully cut from the tree using razor-sharp blades on long wooden sticks. To remove the pulp and cocoa beans, the hard shell of the fruit is opened with a machete.
Cocoa beans need to ferment in order to develop their full flavour. The cocoa beans, which are still embedded in the pulp, are heaped in boxes and left to ferment for four to eight days. During this fermentation process, the pulp drains away, and the beans lose their ability to germinate. At the same time, the aromas and hints of flavour develop that will ultimately give the beans their distinctive cocoa flavour once dried and roasted.
Drying and Transport
The beans are sun-dried in the open air until ready for storage and transport, and then filled into jute sacks and sent on their long journey to the Glarnerland …
Quality Control at Läderach in Bilten, Glarus
Before being processed, the precious cocoa beans are thoroughly checked and examined.
From Cocoa bean to Cocoa mass
1. Washing: The jute sacks are cut open, and the cocoa beans pass through a multi-stage washing system. This removes all foreign matter (such as dust, sand, bits of shell, metal, wood, glass, string, etc.).
2. Shelling and Crushing: To make it easier to remove the cocoa bean shells once cracked, the beans are briefly heated in an infrared drum. They are then cracked open in an impact crusher before the pieces of shell are separated from the crushed beans, known as nibs.
3. Removal of Bacteria and Roasting: The cocoa nibs are treated with steam to remove bacteria and other microbes and then gently roasted to release the cocoa beans’ fine aromas.
4. Grinding and Storage: The roasted nibs are then ground into a coarse, thick cocoa mass in a beater blade mill. This breaks down the nibs’ cell structure, releasing the enclosed cocoa butter. Cocoa beans are made up of around 50% cocoa butter, their main component. The warmth and the breakdown of the cocoa nibs’ cell walls produce a liquid coca mass, which is stored homogeneously in large, heated tanks.
From Cocoa bean to FrischSchoggi
1. Mixing: The ingredients are mixed together into a homogenous mass in a batch mixer. The exact quantity ratio is a well-kept Läderach secret – and is what gives our products their excellent flavour.
2. Refining in two stages: The kneaded chocolate mass is converted into the finest chocolate powder in a two-step process of pre-refining and finely refining. The fine roller mill is equipped with five steel rollers, which are arranged on top of one another. The chocolate mass passes upwards through the ever-narrower space between the rollers, which rotate at gradually increasing speeds, and becomes finer and finer until it is just a few thousandths of a millimetre thick, turning it into flaky chocolate powder.
3. Conching: The fine chocolate powder is filled into the conche. This is the last step in the manufacture of Läderach chocolate. In the conche, the powder is thoroughly kneaded and mixed together with cocoa butter. This removes any unwanted bitter and tart notes from the chocolate and creates the real pleasure that is Läderach chocolate …
Basic composition of chocolate masses:
– White chocolate: sugar, milk powder, cocoa butter, vanilla
– Milk chocolate: sugar, milk powder, cocoa mass, cocoa butter, vanilla
– Dark chocolate: sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter, vanilla