Oranges, apples, and pears all grow on trees. But did you know that chocolate grows on trees too? It’s true! Even though you’ll never find a tree ripe with Hershey’s Kisses, chocolate is made from the cocoa beans that grow on cacao (kah-KOW) trees. So how does chocolate make its way from a tree to your kitchen? It takes a lot of work! Read on to find out how.
Cacao Trees Cacao trees grow in tropical places where it is hot and wet, including parts of Africa and South America. The flowers on cacao trees turn into large pods. Inside the pods are white cocoa beans. When the pods are ripe, farmers harvest the pods by hand. They cut the pods open and take out the cocoa beans, heaping them in piles and covering them for several days.
Cocoa Beans Next the farmers spread the cocoa beans out to dry in the sun for up to a week. As the beans dry, they turn from a whitish color to brown. These dried beans are packed in sacks and sent to chocolate factories all over the world. From there the beans are made into your favorite kinds of chocolate.
Making Chocolate Once the cocoa beans get to the factory, they are roasted in very large ovens. If you were standing outside a chocolate factory, you’d smell the wonderful chocolaty aroma of roasting cocoa beans! Next the shells of the roasted beans are removed. A special machine mashes the dark brown insides of the seeds, called nibs, into a cocoa paste. By itself, cocoa has a very bitter taste, but chocolate makers add sugar, milk, and vanilla to create a sweet and creamy liquid. This liquid is mixed together in a machine to make the chocolate smooth. The longer the chocolate is mixed, the smoother it becomes. Finally the mixture is poured into special molds where it sets into solid chocolate. Delicious!
Cocoa Butter If you’ve ever had really itchy and dry skin, you may have rubbed in some lotion made with cocoa butter to make it feel better. Cocoa butter is a type of oil extracted from cocoa beans during the process of making chocolate. It has a sweet, chocolaty scent and is used in making white chocolate and milk chocolate. Because the oil also makes dry skin moist and soft, cocoa butter is also used in many soaps and lotions. Even though they smell good, they’re not for eating!
Chocolate Trees The Bible mentions many different kinds of trees: fig trees, pine trees, olive trees, cedars, poplars, and palms. Trees in the Bible remind us of life and goodness. A person who loves God and who does what is right is “like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither” (Psalm 1:3). When we obey God’s commands, we are like strong and sturdy trees. If I had to choose what kind of tree I’d like to be, I’d choose a chocolate tree! What about you?
Chocolaty Treats Who doesn’t enjoy yummy chocolate treats? Try these recipes at home!
Cocoa Blizzard Things you need: 1 packet of hot cocoa mix 2 cups milk Pot (or microwave-safe bowl) Wooden spoon Ice cube tray Blender
What to do: Ask an adult to help you heat up the milk on the kitchen stove, or pour the milk in a sturdy bowl and heat it up in the microwave. Pour the hot cocoa mix into the hot milk and stir. Allow the hot cocoa to cool a little and carefully pour the mixture into the ice cube tray. Place the tray into the freezer overnight. The next day, ask an adult to help you pour the frozen cocoa into a blender. You may want to put the bottom of the tray in hot water to loosen up the cubes. Blend the cubes together to make a cocoa blizzard! Pour the frozen cocoa into a glass. Enjoy!
Tip: If you want to make enough for family or friends, make a double batch of this recipe.
Chocolate Tree Pops Things you need: Store-bought or homemade sugar cookie dough Popsicle sticks (one per tree) 1½ cups melted chocolate chips or chocolate frosting M&M’s or sprinkles (optional)
What to do:
Shape the dough into cookies. Before baking them in the oven, insert one end of a Popsicle stick into each cookie. The Popsicle stick will serve as the trunk of each tree. After baking, allow the cookie trees to cool completely. Then spread melted chocolate or chocolate frosting on each tree with a plastic knife or spoon. Add M&M’s or sprinkles to each tree. Enjoy!