Cacao trees begin bearing fruit in the fifth year after planting.
With skillful pruning and cultivation, it takes four to six months
for fully ripe fruit to develop from the tiny, waxy, pink-and-white
five petalled blossoms that sprout in clusters on the tree trunk and
older branches. To protect the young plants from the equatorial sun,
they are grown in the shade of taller trees, such as banana trees.
Their average life is 25-40 years.
tree, in twelve months, can bear 50,000-100,000 cacao blossoms. Their life
is short, not exceeding 48 hours, and on average only one flower in 500 produces
a fruit. The fruit is vulnerable to attack by animals, birds and insects, as
well as by fungi, bacteria and even viruses. There is also the constant struggle
against parrots, monkeys, squirrels, rats, and other rodents – all very
fond of the sweet pulp of the cacao pods.
trees bear fruit (pods) all year around, harvesting is generally seasonal with
the main crop harvest lasting several months and a mid-season harvest lasting
several more months. Climatic differences cause wide variations in harvest
times. The tree is so fragile and its roots so shallow that workers cannot
risk injuring it by climbing to reach pods on the higher boughs. For this they
use long-handled steel knives (machetes), taking care not to damage the floral
clusters containing dormant buds, the promise of future harvests.
to 30 percent of a tree’s fruit will grow and develop into mature cacao
pods. These pods are of several types: Criollo, the most valuable.
Long ribbed and thin-skinned, it is initially green and becomes red at maturity. Forastero,
by far the most widely cultured species, has a rounded pod, almost smooth.
It turns from green to yellow at maturity. Trinitario is apparently
the result of crossbreeding the other two types.
training and experience to tell by appearance which cacao pod is ripe and ready
for cutting. Ripe pods appear at all times, since the growing season in the
tropics is continuous. However, in most localities there is a main harvest
and a mid-crop harvest, each lasting several months. The harvested pods are
gathered in a pile at the edge of the growing area and the pod-breaking operation
begins. One or two expert blows with a machete will usually open the woody
20 and 50 cream-colored seeds is the usual yield of a typical pod. The seeds,
called beans, are strung in five chains or rows around a single placenta within
the pod. Bean size varies with the species. The beans are embedded in a white
mucilaginous flesh whose harsh, yet sweet taste is highly appreciated by many
animals. In some regions, natives use it for preparing a refreshing drink,
as well as a sort of jam. The husk and inner membrane are discarded.
bean consists of a leathery seed coat, rich in tannin, which envelopes each
seed, and itself consists of two halves. It contains cocoa butter, proteins,
starch, alkaloids, essential oils and various substances, which will release
their aroma at the roasting stage of chocolate making. In fact, the pleasant
chocolate aroma is not at all apparent in the fresh seed.
cacao seeds are placed in piles and covered with banana leaves. This starts
the fermentation process, lasting three to nine days, and generating temperatures
up to 125° F. The cacao beans themselves do not ferment; the pulp sugars
outside the bean are converted into acids, primarily lactic and acetic. At
the same time, within the bean, the germ is killed, and hydrolyzing and oxidizing
reactions occur which give the cacao bean its characteristic flavor after roasting.
After fermenting, the beans are spread on racks to dry in the sun. For protection
from the rain, the racks can be slid under roofs, or roofs moved out over the
countries beans are dried mechanically in driers of various sizes and types,
depending on the size of the operation. Hot air is forced through the beans,
which are stirred regularly during the drying period. The process reduces the
moisture content of the fermented beans from 60 percent to 5 to 7 percent,
and the beans from an average pod weigh less than two ounces; and approximately
400 beans are required to make one pound of chocolate.
of transforming the cacao bean into mouth-watering chocolate is as much a blend
of art and science as coaxing a ripe, flavorful bean out of Mother Nature.
picked, dried, culled, and packed in 130-200 lbs. jute, sisal or burlap bags,
the cacao beans arrive from many countries on four continents at various U.S.
ports. Quality control begins at the pier, with samples taken randomly from
each lot for analysis at our Lititz, Pa. laboratories. The principal test in
the judging of cocoa beans is the cut test. After careful evaluation of the
cocoa bean halves conclusions are made as to the degree of fermentation and
flavor development of the raw cocoa. Additional analysis will include testing
the beans for size (100 gram bean count), moisture, and foreign matter. If
all of the test results are within the specifications, delivery is accepted
and the beans are shipped to our chocolate liquor plant. Upon arrival at our
plant, samples are taken and retested for comparison with the pre-shipment
test results. Since Peter’s purchases many flavor grade beans, a small
test batch of chocolate is made and tasted before final approval is granted
for the lot of beans to be used in manufacturing.
the final approval does the manufacturing process begin. The beans are dumped
onto a grate and go through a series of screening steps to remove foreign matter
such as stones, twigs, pod fragments, sack threads, dust, etc. They are scanned
by an electro-magnet to remove any metallic particles. Each type of bean, because
of varying size, is roasted individually to ensure uniformity.
is done slowly in continuous roasters for approximately 30 minutes at temperatures
ranging from 100° F to 150° F, depending upon the bean. During the
process, the heat swells the bean, bursting the shell.
The roasted cacao bean then goes into a winnowing machine, where it
is cracked into small pieces and the fragments of shell removed. The
husked and winnowed beans are now called “nibs.” It is
at this point in the process that the nibs of many varieties are blended.
It is a test of the chocolate maker’s skill to achieve the subtle
(and secret) mixtures that ensure the quality and flavor consistency
that are the hallmarks of each Peter’s product.
The roasted nibs undergo a grinding process and then pass through mills,
which transform them into a fine paste. The heat generated by the friction
of the milling process melts the cocoa butter in the paste, constituting
50-60 percent of the bean, and produces a thick, liquid mixture called
The process for manufacturing our milk chocolates begins with fresh,
whole milk being converted to a proprietary sweetened, condensed milk.
We convert this sweetened, condensed milk -- along with other ingredients
-- into a proprietary “crumb”. The process results
in a product that possesses unique caramelized milk notes. The
critical processing equipment utilized today is the identical equipment
that has been used to produce Peter’s™ Chocolate for decades.
Crumb, cocoa butter and other ingredients are mixed together to create
a milk chocolate mass. At this point the chocolate is already quite
tasty, but has a somewhat gritty feel in the mouth. To break down the
particles the mass is conveyed to a refiner where it passes through
vertically stacked rotating steel rollers under heavy pressure and
emerges as a fine, flaky film.
The resulting product, however, is still not smooth enough, the flavors
of the various ingredients have still not emerged and the pure, rounded
chocolate aroma still not fully developed. The mass is conveyed for
further processing. This stage is called “conching.” The
churning action not only mixes the chocolate but also ventilates it
to ensure perfect flavor components. This is also the stage when flavors,
such as vanilla, are added to give the product its final flavor.
At every step of this complex manufacturing process there is continuous
sampling of the product. In-Process Quality Assurance Laboratories
are located in the midst of the manufacturing operation at each facility
for on-the-spot testing to ensure the quality and consistency of Peter’s™ chocolate, batch after batch, shipment after shipment, year after year.
After conching, the chocolate is stored in large tanks, then pumped
to individual tempering units connected to each moulding and depositing
machine. Peter’s™ products are produced by depositing, lush, creamy
tempered Peter’s chocolate into large moulds. The chocolate moulds
or pieces then enter cooling tunnels for a period that depends upon
their size. Moulds are shaken to remove air bubbles and disperse the
chocolate evenly as they enter the tunnel. When the Peter’s™ chocolate
is sufficiently solid, it is demoulded.
Thus, through complex and seemingly
magical processes of nature, science and technology and guided by over
a century of experience and consummate flavor artistry, simple ingredients
are transformed at Peter’s™ into many varieties and shapes of