The beginning lies in the African heat
The road of our chocolate begins in Africa by the Gulf of Guinea, four degrees north of the Equator, where the ancient Ashanti Empire had its rule. The Portuguese and the British used to call this place the Golden Coast – now the Republic of Ghana is located there.
Since a long time ago, only the aromatic “Forastero” variety cocoa beans have been used in producing Laima chocolate. The cocoa tree, cultivated in the tropical plantations, starts bearing fruits in its eighth year of life.
The large fruits are split in halves with a machete after being picked; then they are opened and left to “sweat” in the sun, covered by cocoa leaves. Afterwards, 30 to 50 cacao beans are extracted from each of the fruits and laid to dry in a thin layer. From time to time, they are stirred in order to dry better. After the last period of heating under the Ghanaian sun, the beans arrive at the port of the capital city Accra, where they start the more than ten thousand kilometre long journey across the sea to Latvia.
In the course of a year, Laima purchases about 1.6 million kilograms of cocoa beans. It takes about 450 cocoa beans to obtain a kilogram of chocolate.
Production in Latvia
The long and difficult process by which the cocoa beans are turned into chocolate is entirely carried out at the Laima facilities. The cocoa beans are processed with the same method that was invented by the founder of the company, Theodor Riegert, in 1870. Though the process is being constantly modernised and improved, the old skill has been preserved.
Decontamination of the Beans
The decontamination of the beans is carried out by a special screening machine that separates tiny stones, parts of plants and other impurities. The decontaminated cocoa beans are sterilised (shortly processed with high-temperature steam); as a result the undesirable microorganisms are destroyed.
Roasting of the Beans
After the beans have been decontaminated and sterilised, they are roasted at about 145 C, which develops their taste characteristics. After this treatment, the seed coats of the cocoa beans become fragile and easily separable. The beans obtain a new aroma that is characteristic of chocolate and become easily dividable.
Separation of the Seed-coats and Chipping
After roasting, the cocoa beans go to the chipping-sorting machine, where their seed coats are carefully removed and the beans are chipped.
The chipped cocoa beans are ground in three different mills, where they are gradually ground more and more finely, creating a consistent cocoa mass.
The ground cocoa mass goes into the pressing device. In this process, cocoa powder is made and pressed into large “cocoa pies”; it is also here that the valuable cocoa butter is made. Both the powder and the butter are used in producing different Laima sweets.
Making of Chocolate
To make chocolate, other ingredients are added to the cocoa mass. The recipes are kept secret and improved on a regular basis to bring the most delicious sweets to connoisseurs.
After mixing the basic ingredients, the mass is directed through several rolls that roll the ingredients until they are turned into a dry powder. Cocoa butter is added to the powder to create a homogeneous chocolate mass that is ready to be thoroughly stirred.
To obtain the fine chocolate mass, it is thoroughly stirred, thus enforcing the unique taste and aroma of chocolate. At the end of mixing more cocoa butter is added, which makes the chocolate mass flowing and homogeneous.
To ensure the chocolate butter crystals take accurate shape, the chocolate mass is heated and then chilled until it reaches a particular temperature. This is necessary for the chocolate bar to shine and have good taste characteristics after cooling.
Shaping of the Bar
After the chocolate mass poured in forms has cooled, is taken it out of the forms and packaged, the chocolate that reaches you is ready. The weeklong chocolate creation process from a cocoa bean to aromatic Laima chocolate has completed.