Chocolate is made from the beans of cocoa trees. Cocoa trees grow only in tropical climates with a lot of rains but the processing of cocoa beans happens all over the world. Cocoa plantations gather and dry cocoa beans and then send them to processing plants, where they are turned into chocolate and other edible products. Processing plants are located in Europe, North America and all over the world.
The results of cocoa processing can be divided into three main categories. They are cocoa products, chocolates and confectioneries.
Cocoa products do not contain any added sweeteners. This category includes nibs, liquors, powders and butters.
Chocolate products go through much more processing compared to cocoa products. Chocolate products do have added sweeteners in them. They are also more refined than cocoa products. Because there are many ways to process and refine cocoa beans, the prices and the final products vary a lot. Chocolate products include sweet, milk, dark and white chocolates.
Confectionery coatings are usually cheaper than chocolate products. They are made of a combination of processed cocoa beans, sugars and vegetable fats.
In most countries, there are laws regulating the standards that cocoa and chocolate products need to meet. These standards clearly describe the differences between cocoa and chocolate products but they don’t eliminate the great variety of products available on the market, be it chocolate products or cocoa products. The definitions and standards vary from country to country.
For example, chocolate product known as milk chocolate in the United Kingdom is different from milk chocolate in Switzerland and North America.
Both the regulations and the chocolate and cocoa industry have gone through a lot of changes over the years. There was a time when the industry mostly consisted of small operators. Today most of the beans are processed by large corporations. These corporations have the ability to create products of consistent quality at reasonable costs, making chocolate accessible to people around the world.