How is Chocolate Made?

The very mention of the word chocolate is enough to make our mouths water, yet as much as we all love eating it, have you ever asked yourself how is chocolate produced? It isn’t made by a mysterious chocolate factory, nor does it start life wrapped and ready to eat! In fact, manufacturing chocolate is a complex process and answering the question of how is chocolate made involves a number of different stages to bring that finished product to a shop near you.

How It’s Made
28 June 2022

Everybody loves chocolate. We eat it, we drink it, we spread it on toast, we have it in cakes and in our breakfast cereal, and we know exactly where it is when we go to the supermarket, but do you know how chocolate is made?

Here we’ll give you the lowdown on milk, dark and white chocolate, as well as a short history of what may very well be the loveliest thing in the world!

Chocolate - A Short Story

A sign advertising Frys Milk Chocolate, c 1920 (Photo: Science & Society Picture Library via Getty Images)

Before we answer the question ‘how is chocolate produced’, here’s how it came to be one of the world’s most popular foods.

In one form or another, chocolate has been part of our world for at least 4,000 years. In modern day Central and South America, the ancient Olmec and Aztec people drank chocolate and used it in celebrations, while the Maya drank it to finalise transactions. It’s not that different to today’s tradition of raising a glass of Champagne.

Chocolate came to Europe around the sixteenth century, and as the French, British and Italians made their way across the Atlantic, they came back with lots of it. However the bitter Central American way of drinking it wasn’t suited to European palates, so they devised other ways of manufacturing chocolate including adding sugar and spices such as cinnamon and vanilla.

British chocolatier JS Fry was the first to ponder the question ‘how is chocolate made into bars,’ before he created the world’s first chocolate bar in 1847. From that point on, we have eaten quite a lot of it. In fact, the global chocolate market is now worth over £160 billion a year and shows no sign of slowing down!

But how is chocolate made? How is dark chocolate made and how is white chocolate made?

Chocolate - From Bean to Bar

Cocoa pods on tree in a plantation ( Photo: Malcolm P Chapman via Getty Images)

Although the origins of chocolate lie in the Americas, today around 70% of the world’s cocoa comes from the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon because the conditions are perfect for growing cacao trees (Theobroma cacao). Theobroma means ‘food of the gods’ and never has a Latin name been more accurate.

The tree has oval-shaped pods on its trunk, which are around 30 centimetres long. Each pod contains between 30 – 50 seeds (or beans), each about the size of an olive.

These pods are harvested when they turn a yellowy-orange colour and the beans are removed. The beans are left to ferment for between two and nine days, after which they are dried in the sun for up to two weeks. Once dry, they are graded, packed into sacks and exported straight to the companies manufacturing chocolate.

How Is Chocolate Made?

Hand with a stack of chocolate bars (Photo: Peter Dazeley via Getty Images)

When the beans reach the production plant, they are cleaned and then roasted to develop the flavour. The outer shells are separated from the nibs (the crushed beans) in a machine called a winnower and then finely ground into what is known as cocoa mass. The cocoa mass is solid at room temperature, but when highly pressurised it makes cocoa powder and cocoa butter. These dry mixtures are turned into liquids using a machine called a conch and the liquid chocolate is poured into moulds to make bars of chocolate.

How Is Dark Chocolate Made?

For dark chocolate, nothing further needs to take place beyond the above process. Dark chocolate itself only requires cocoa mass, cocoa butter and sugar.

How Is Milk Chocolate Made?

Milk chocolate follows the same process as dark chocolate but with the addition of milk powder.

How Is White Chocolate Made?

White chocolate is made in a slightly different way. It’s only made with cocoa butter, sugar and milk powder because it’s the cocoa mass that gives chocolate the dark colour and slightly bitter taste.

So now you know the answer to the question ‘how is chocolate made’, do you fancy a bar of chocolate? Of course you do!


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