Cocoa beans ©iStock

Cocoa beans ©iStock

Cacao trees grow in Africa, Madagascar, Central and South America, and parts of Asia where the weather is hot. 

Cocoa beans grow inside large pods that are picked and left to dry in the sun. The dry beans are shipped to places where chocolate is made. 

At a factory, the cocoa beans are cleaned and roasted and the shells are removed.

Chocolate is stirred in large vats in a chocolate factory. ©iStock

Chocolate is stirred in large vats in a chocolate factory. ©iStock

The roasted beans are cracked and the outer shells blown away, leaving broken bits of the beans, called nibs. 

The nibs are crushed and ground into a thick paste called chocolate liquor. 

Some of this is put into a press that removes cocoa butter, which will be used in making chocolates, and ground into a powder and packaged as cocoa.

Some is mixed with cocoa butter, sugar and condensed milk to make a paste. The paste passes through rollers to make it smooth, then it is stirred for at least six hours.

The liquid chocolate is weighed and poured into moulds. Flavoured centres or nuts and fruit are added at this stage. The liquid chocolate is poured into moulds to set.

Chocolates can be made into blocks, eggs, or any shape, depending on the moulds. The moulds are allowed to cool, the chocolates removed and then wrapped in foil or decorated.


Cacoa beans were mixed with spices to make a bitter, spicy drink by the Inca, Aztecs and Maya who lived in ancient times in Mexico and Central America. They called the drink chocolatl and used it as part of celebrations. They believed that the beans had magical powers.

Chocolatl became a popular drink in Europe, especially after it had some sugar added to it. Chocolate houses were soon opened in European cities in the 1600s. But it was expensive and only the rich could afford to drink it.

For hundreds of years, people drank chocolate, but they didn't eat it until the first bars were made. In 1828, a Dutchman, Casparus Van Houten invented powdered cacao and soon after an Englishman, Joseph Fry added melted cacao butter to the Dutch cacao to produce a paste. This could be made into the first bars of solid chocolate.

In 1879, Rodolphe Lindt discovered that adding milk or cream improved the taste, and invented a machine which made smoother milk chocolate that tasted better. 


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