Love chocolate? Did you know that at the heart of your choccy treats is cacao, a bean that grows on trees?
To find out all about chocolate's vital ingredient, NG KiDS headed to the incredible country of Ecuador in South America, where cacao originally came from. Once there, we ventured into the Amazon rainforest to a small indigenous community called Santa Rita. It's here that Ecuador's famous 'Arriba Nacional' grows, said to be the world's finest cacao!
Check out our video to see NG KiDS grinding the beans and putting our chocolate making skills to the test...!
1) First, get yourself over to the Equator – because cacao only grows near there, where the trees get all the warmth, shade and humidity they require.
2) Wait six months for the cacao pods to ripen, then gather your family together to harvest them! Because cacao pods in your chacra (an area a bit like a large orchard) will have different colours, the best way to find out whether they’re ripe is to tap the pods. If it has a deep, hollow sound, it means the beans inside are ready!
3) Place the beans and the yummy pulp into large wooden boxes, cover them and leave them to ferment for a week, changing boxes every couple of days to allow air inside to help the process. The pulp will turn to liquid and drain away.
4) Next, lay the beans out on wooden boards and dry them for a week in the sun. Then, after the beans are dry, clean and check each one for quality by hand, binning any that may be mouldy.
5) Now roast the beans at 100°C for 40-90 minutes (the exact time and temperature depends on the beans). When they start to pop, they’re ready. Roasting releases new flavours, but don’t burn them!
6) Grind the insides of the beans (called nibs) into a mushy paste, called cocoa mass or liquor.
7) Blend with a bit of sugar and any flavours you’d like and keep grinding it (called conching) for several hours until it’s runny.
8) Finally, pour the mixture into a mould and leave to set in the fridge for 15 minutes. Yum!
Want to learn more about your tasty choccy treats? Then check out Nat Geo Kids’ Ecuadorian adventure to the heart of chocolate making!