To see how cacao beans, or, as they are commonly called, "cocoa" beans, are transformed into cocoa essence, chocolate powder, plain chocolate, fancy chocolates, and numerous other good things, we must visit some modern factories which aim at turning out for mortal consumption products that merit the ancient name of "Food for the Gods."
By the courtesy of Messrs. Cadbury Brothers, Limited, we are about to make a tour of their "Factory in a Garden." Afterwards, there is the treat in store for us of a visit to the factory of Messrs. J. S. Fry and Sons, Limited, at Bristol.
Leaving Birmingham, the metropolis of the Midlands, a fifteen minutes run by train brings us to Bournville. Nearing the station, we suddenly feel we have been wafted into a stretch of open country that is very far removed from the noise and bustle of city life. As we step out on to the platform, wend our way down the steps and emerge into the village highway, that impression is intensified into a sense of wonder. Can it really be that we are feasting our eyes on picturesque buildings set in gardens ablaze with flowers and dotted about in a boundless park?
A few hundred yards from the station we come upon a lodge. Remembering the clearly worded directions that accompanied our invitation to Bournville, we pass through the creeper-decked porch. At the wicket window of the inquiry office we mention our names to a commissionaire, and quote from our letter of invitation the name of our appointed host and guide.
Covering Centres With Chocolate At Bournville
So quickly does our host respond to a telephone message that we have only just begun to take a first glance round the cosy waiting-room when he is at our side, greeting us in a way that seems to suggest we are doing Bournville an honour by our visit.
Our host pilots us across a strikingly beautiful rock garden, which gives access to the warehouse. In a lobby skirting a store, where vast piles of bulging sacks of cocoa are stacked, we are met by two other experts, representing the factory side of the Bournville enterprise, and together we all adjourn to a dressing-room, where we are to robe ourselves in preparation for our tour among the machines. In merry mood we select our fit and fancy from an assortment of spotless white overalls and caps; but the men who know the habits of the machines are very much in earnest when they tell us that the mills will dust us very brown with cocoa powder, and warn us to fasten up our protective kit securely from top to toe.
Appropriately equipped, we pass on into the store where the cocoa beans are brought for grading. During the first stage of our tour, we are told, we shall see how the beans are treated up to a certain point, no matter whether they are destined to be transformed into cocoa or chocolate.
The bulging sacks by which we are surrounded are old friends of ours, or near relations of old friends, whom we have met under memorably amusing and interesting conditions in far distant lands. They are bags of cocoa beans from such widely scattered parts of the tropical world as South America, the West Indies, Ceylon, the Gold Coast, and Nigeria.
All cocoa beans used at the Bournville factory undergo a thorough process of Cleaning. The cleaning is done by a wonderful machine, which most efficiently performs a number of duties in achieving its main purpose. We watch shower after shower of beans being fed to this machine from sacks into a large hopper. We see the beans jumping and wrestling to free themselves of such impurities as dust, loose threads of sacking, and loose bits of shell; during this sifting process the machine rejects foreign bodies and immature beans, together with any clusters of fully-developed beans that have become stuck together as a result of mildew caused by bad fermentation, or of careless drying, or of getting wet on the journey. After this first general cleaning the beans pass from our sight into the monster tunnel-like body of the machine. Here, by means of meshes, they are graded into three sizes-known as broken, flat, and plump - to facilitate more thorough cleaning, and the cleaning of each grade is continued by a separate set Of fans.
From the cleaning machine raw cocoa emerges in two streams, one consisting of broken beans and called "fine," the other of whole beans, both flat and plump specimens, called "coarse." The fine material is carried off to undergo a further and special process of cleaning; the coarse material - the technical adjective is misleading as it signifies superior quality - has been thoroughly cleaned in the machine we have seen, and is now ready for the next stage of preparation, which is to say Boasting.
Cocoa beans are roasted in their shell. There are several types of roasting machines, some heated by coke, others by gas. Roasting takes about an hour; towards the end of this time the operator in charge of the machine starts testing the beans to judge when they will be cooked to a "T." From a sample, which is automatically discharged, he picks up a handful of beans and tests them by smelling to see how far the aroma has been developed. When sufficiently roasted, the beans are transferred to trucks, or hoppers, the bottom of which is perforated, and these receptacles are wheeled into position over gratings served from below with cold air. This operation not only cools the beans, but prevents them being burnt in their own heat.
The roasted and cooled beans are carried by a sliding band to an elevator and thence transferred to a store.
Now comes the very important operation of Blending. In simple language, this merely means mixing; such or such a weight of beans from one part of the world is mixed with a similar or proportionate weight of beans from one or more of the other producing countries -thus, two portions of Trinidad with one of West African. The actual variety and proportion of beans depend on the particular brand of cocoa or chocolate for which the mixture is to be used; every manufacturer has his own recipes for his own specialities, and these recipes vary with such details as quality and selling price of brands to be manufactured. Naturally, manufacturers do not publish particulars of their blending recipes.
The blended beans, now thoroughly clean but still in their shell, next undergo the process of Crushing and Shelling, or, as it is often called, Kibbling. The machine which performs this operation is a tall and long monster, consisting of numerous compartments equipped with many sets of fans for winnowing the broken shell from the crushed beans, and fitted with a Clapham Junction of switches for turning the crushed material into various special channels for discharge. The actual crushing, however, is all done in a small bell-shaped apparatus, which is divided into grooves fitted with teeth; the grooves are adjustable in width, and act on the nutcracker principle. But the best crushing apparatus yet designed will not break beans of various sizes and shapes into pieces of similar size. Most of the beans get nicely broken into pieces known as "coarse," but some of them are smashed to powder, whilst the flat specimens may pass unbroken through the nut-cracker grooves. The powder is rejected through a screen, and is conducted to a separate machine for winnowing. The unbroken beans are thrown out for a further passage through the crushing apparatus. The vast concourse of coarse pieces, comprising the bulk of the raw material which has emerged from the crushing apparatus and representing the best results of the operation, is discharged into the capacious body of the crushing machine, and comes into contact with a system of meshes working in conjunction with a system of fans. The meshes of varying sizes grade the material to encourage perfect winnowing, and at the same time the fans separate the pieces of shell from the pieces of bean kernel, or "nibs." The machine finally discharges its contents in four separate streams, consisting of: (1) Nibs - perfectly clean, smallish pieces of bean, entirely free from shell and ready to be made into cocoa or chocolate. (2) Dust - tiny fragments of bean, which may have some shell amongst them and consequently will need further winnowing. (3) Shell - useful as an ingredient of cattle food. (4) Undecided - pieces of nib to which bits of shell are still adhering, making it necessary for them to be recrushed and rewinnowed.
You will have noticed, I feel sure, that of all the raw material we have seen passing through the main machinery - cleaning, roasting, crushing, and winnowing machines - the proportion known as "nibs" is the only portion now absolutely ready for making cocoa or chocolate. Certainly nibs predominate, but by this time you can imagine how ruinous the waste would be to a manufacturer if the remainder of the material could not be utilized.
Chemical research and mechanical genius have done great things in the elimination of waste. For instance, you will remember I have told you there is a special machine for winnowing such portion of the beans as is smashed to powder in the crushing machine.