Hi Guys! We just got back from Trick or Treating! I went as a scientist and Squeaks is a lion! Give us your best roar, Squeaks! (Squeaks roars) We got a ton of candy this year! Squeaks likes gummy worms, but like chocolate! (Squeaks squeaks) Where does chocolate come from? Great question, Squeaks! Believe it or not, chocolate grows on trees! The main ingredient in a chocolate bar starts out looking just like this. [Squeaks squeaks] I know! They look nothing like a chocolate bar, or even the cocoa powder we put in hot chocolate. Those are actually beans. And not just any beans!
The beans that give us chocolate grow on the cacao tree, and it takes a lot of hard work to turn them into the type of chocolate that we can eat. You might think any tree that helps us to make chocolate is pretty special, and you’d be right! Cacao trees are picky about where they grow, because they need lots of heat and water. So most cacao trees grow in the part of the world that’s right in the middle, where there are a lot of warm, wet rainforests. Now, even though the cacao tree needs lots of heat, it doesn’t do well in bright sun. So the tree doesn’t get too tall. Instead, it grows closer to the ground, where it can stay mostly in the shade that’s made by taller trees. Like a lot of trees, the cacao tree makes flowers. Its flowers are white, and they grow right along the main part of the tree — straight out of the bark! Part of these flowers eventually grow into big pods. It can take six whole months for the pods to be ready.
That’s half of a year! Once a cacao pod is ripe and ready, a person cuts it from the tree using a sharp knife. And when they open up the pod, it looks like this! Can you see the beans? Inside of each pod are about 50 cacao beans, along with a bunch of white stuff called pulp. People scoop out the beans and pulp from inside the pods, then put what they scooped out into big wooden boxes and leave everything alone for about a week. During that week, the white pulp turns into liquid, leaving behind the cacao beans, which are then put out into the sun to get nice and dry. Now, these beans may be brown like the chocolate you see in stores, but they don’t taste like that chocolate!
A cacao bean tastes pretty bitter, and it takes some work in a chocolate factory to turn these beans into the delicious treats that we get to eat. At the factory, the first thing they do is roast the beans in big ovens. After a cacao bean is roasted, it turns dark, and looks like this. Next, they take off the hard outside of the cacao beans, leaving the soft insides. Then, they smash and grind the insides until it’s a thin paste. And we can do lots of different things with this paste! To make a chocolate bar, the chocolate factory mixes the paste with things like sugar and milk.
Then they stir the mixture for a long time and pour it into a mold, which is kind of like a bowl that’s specially shaped to look like a chocolate bar. They leave the chocolate to cool for a while and become solid instead of all liquidy.
Then, they take it out of the mold, wrap it, and send it to stores for us to buy! Whew! From a cacao tree to your store, there’s a lot of work that goes into one piece of chocolate. But I think it’s worth it! And now, it’s finally time to enjoy our Halloween treats! Do you want to share your Halloween costume? Or maybe tell us about your favorite kind of candy! We’d love to hear form you! Grab a grown up and leave a comment down below or send us an email to email@example.com. Have a happy and safe Halloween!