Chocolate comes from the seed of the tropical Theobroma cacao tree. Cacao, which has been cultivated for at least three millennia, is grown in Mexico, Central America and Northern South America. The earliest known documentation of using cacao seeds is from around 1100 BC. The cacao tree seeds have a very intense, bitter taste that must be fermented to develop the flavor.
Once the seeds have been fermented, the beans are dried, cleaned and roasted. After roasting, the shell is removed to produce cacao nibs. The cacao nibs are then ground into cocoa mass, which is pure chocolate in rough form. The cocoa mass is usually liquefied then molded with or without other ingredients. At this point of the process it is called chocolate liquor. The chocolate liquor may then be processed into two components: cocoa solids and cocoa butter.
- Unsweetened baking chocolate – cocoa solids and cocoa butter in varying proportions.
- Sweet chocolate – cocoa solids, cocoa butter or other fat and sugar.
- Milk chocolate – sweet chocolate with milk powder or condensed milk.
- White chocolate – cocoa butter, sugar and milk but no cocoa solids.