11.The Odyssey of contemporary food in a globalized world
Farmers deliver cocoa beans to assembly centers in jute bags where they are left for few months. Storage conditions are not ideal and the jute bags are completely permeable to air, light, insects, and any other pathogen, certainly the precious beans are not protected enough.
Cocoa beans are next brought into bigger storage centers, close to the main harbors where they will wait to be shipped to the dreamed western shores. Again, cocoa beans are left to wait in these storage centers, where care and protection are often poor.
Finally, the time for the cocoa beans to leave has come, the visa is ready and the cocoa beans are boarded in fourth class in huge cargos.
After few weeks, the cocoa beans will finally arrive on the catwalks of the main chocolate shops of the western world, ready to start the transformation into our beloved and desired chocolates.
The hygienic conditions in the cargo ships are definitely not the best. It is not fair going into details because it would ruin the idea that we have of the immaculate prince-chocolate that we see shining in our shop windows.
The trip of a cargo ship lasts many weeks and the beloved cocoa beans, alive and raring, must defend themselves from pathogen attacks.
When the craved cocoa beans finally arrive at destination in the great European harbors, usually Amsterdam, they are forced to contain their impetus and to refrain from diving directly into a refining tank.
The cocoa beans are now left waiting in the storage centers in the harbors and in the processing companies after that.
Even though we live in a developed and technologically advanced world, these storage facilities do not protect the cocoa beans enough.
The journey is nearly over when the cocoa beans are ready to cross the 400 celsius barrier at the entrance of the processing industries. They are probably not in good conditions, but they are finally ready to become our beloved chocolate.
At this point, after such a long trip, the cocoa beans are definitely affected by the ageing process and they are probably covered with mould and with the numerous little insects which they shared cargos and storages with and bacterial have found the perfect conditions to develop and spread.
When cocoa beans arrive in the processing industries they are not healthy and don't look good at all.
(Pic of cocoa beans with mold)
12. The healing process of the cocoa beans.
Obviously, the chocolatier and chocolate manufacturers put in motion a very expensive and accurate sanitizing process because they really care about our health.
The first step consists in a strong infrared radiation, at around 400°, a “colorful shower” that helps the cocoa beans to get rid of the bacterial count.
The cocoa beans are now considered clean, all the bad germs have been washed away and they are ready for the final transformation in the beautiful prince-chocolates in the sanctuary- laboratories.
In the following step, the cocoa beans are roasted at a temperature between 150° and 200° C. Once the cocoa beans are free from the bacterial and foreign bodies, they can be separated from the shells and the refining process in presses or mills begins.
The gorgeous velvety chocolate starts now to look sensual and creamier, but there is another very important step that our scrupulous chocolatiers need to take care of before the chocolate can become a paste.
It is time for the Alkalinisation. It is also called “Dutching” as the inventor is the Dutch chemist Van Houten. The cocoa beans are bathed in water before being roasted in potassium carbonate.
This further cleanse will make the skin more friable facilitating the separation process, giving it its dark color and eliminating the natural acidity of the cocoa.