In a Nutshell It is almost impossible to find a chocolate bar or bonbon, that is actually not Kosher. This is equally true for the fillings.
Ingredients It is not necessary for Mashgichim to inspect cocoa bean plantations, although some kosher agencies do provide such a service, for a fee.
Tracers Many foods including some used in chocolate have minute amounts of tracers added to enable their identification in any product they have been added to. (Explosives also use such microscopic tracers.) There is much discussion if such tracers require kosher certification and if the foods they mark are kosher even where we know the tracers are of non-kosher origin. Firstly, just because the tracers must be "food grade", does not mean they are food. Secondly, just because a product is derived from a non-Kosher source does not automatically mean that it is not Kosher. The great Gaon, world recognised Torah expert, Posek and spiritual mentor, Reb Chaim Ozer Grodzenski, ruled that gelatine derived from non-Kosher animals is Kosher. Even those who today rule that gelatine must be derived from Kosher sources, make the point that they do not disagree with Reb Chaim Ozer’s ruling; they propose that these days the collagen may be extracted from substances that are deemed perhaps to be food, whereas Rabbi Grodzenski permitted gelatine for a number of reasons one of which is that it is derived from non-food sources.
What Do You Get For 1000 Seeds? Cocoa trees begin to bear fruit when they are 3-4 years old each tree yielding 20-30 pods per year and each pod bearing 20 to 40 seeds. Pods are hard and melon shaped, between 15-20cm long, weighing about 450g each. It takes an entire year's crop from one tree to make 450gms of chocolate, that’s about 1000 seeds.
What’s In A Name The botanical name for cocoa is "Theobroma Cacoa", Theobroma meaning 'G-d food'. The cacao bean is the seed inside the fruit. There are many varieties, such as Forestaro, Trinitario, and Criollo, just to name a few and each variety has many sub-species, each yielding its own unique flavours. Cacao pods are harvested both by hand cutting, an ancient traditional skill and by machines that shake the pods off the tree. Pods on the same tree are often totally different shapes and hues. The colour variation and indiscriminate ripening makes it difficult to know when to harvest. That is one reason most cacao plantations are still farmed by highly specialized groups of workers who pass knowledge down from one generation to the next.
Chocolate Is Fermented The seeds and pulp of the cacao fruit are scooped out and exposed to natural yeasts and bacteria floating in the air. This produces some amazing chemistry, as important to chocolate as fermentation is to wine production. The yeasts and bacteria multiply and thrive on the pulp’s sugars (fermentation), creating alcohol and acids, which chemically change the taste of the seed, thereafter known as cocoa beans. This process, which may extend for up to one week, develops the chocolate flavour. Unfermented beans do not taste like the chocolate we know and love.
The raw cocoa beans are cleaned and roasted in gigantic rotating drums to delicately refine the delicious cocoa flavours. They are then ground into a paste known as cocoa liquor, the prime ingredient of chocolate.
Cocoa Butter More than 50% of the cocoa bean is fat. The cocoa liquor is squeezed to exude this fat, which looks remarkably like rich dairy butter, hence, cocoa butter. The solid residue of this extrusion process is pulverized into cocoa powder.
Conching Sugar (the greatest component by volume and therefore listed first on the ingredients list of packaged chocolate) chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, milk powder, flavours and an emulsifier, commonly lecithin, are the common ingredients of chocolate. Compound chocolate has additional vegetable fats added. These are all kneaded into a paste and blended in a conch, so named for the shell shape of early machines. The conch is a large, heated rotary blender, which may process the chocolate continuously for over 12 hours in order to fully homogenize the ingredients. Conching is to chocolate what maturation is to wine, subtle flavours are developed and connoisseurs pride themselves and are recognised for their expertise at this particular process.
When A Righteous Person Is Mentioned Mishley 10:7, Zecher Tzaddik LivRacha, when a righteous person is spoken of it is a blessing and pleasure. It means that we should utilise every opportunity to praise and be inspired by noble people; I therefore digress to note the following story about Reb Chaim Ozer Grodzenski. On a bitterly cold winter day, whilst the elderly Rosh Hayeshivah was on his way home, accompanied by his students, Rav Chaim Ozer turned to an unknown adolescent, obviously lost and asked him, "How can I help you?" With a terrible stutter the young man answered that he was looking for a particular street. Although Rav Chaim Ozer was practically home already, he turned around and, followed by his students, made a 25 minute journey to accompany the young man to his destination.
Many Types Of Classrooms Later, the Rosh Hayeshivah told his students, “There are many things to learn in life and there are many types of classrooms. Today we have taught ourselves the importance of human dignity. We suffered some inconvenience to spare this young man, who we do not even know, further embarrassment by his impediment because he certainly would have needed to ask additional assistance to find his destination.”
Avraham Looked After His Guests Permit me please to make the following observation; there is another lesson to learn from this episode, that Reb Chaim Ozer taught this lesson to himself as well, he did not just delegate one of his students to accompany and direct the boy. There are echoes in this of our forefather Avraham being engaged, whilst still just in the early stages of recovering from his operation, with the preparations to entertain his pagan visitors.
Vegetable Fats Vegetable fats, often added to the lower quality chocolates, must have kosher certification because these fats are often produced in the same facilities that process tallow or lard. That would be the same as cooking a Kosher chicken soup in a non-Kosher pot. Otherwise the ordinary ingredients of chocolate should not require a kosher certification.
Kashering The Conch Even the tiniest drop of water will spoil chocolate. It causes the chocolate to solidify and become unworkable. Manufacturers vigorously avoid introducing water into their facilities; so how are these plants to be koshered when this usually is done with hot water?
Using BeDiEveds - Situations That Are After The Fact Now, the Shulchan Aruch permits using liquids other than water, sha’ar mashkim, for koshering, which suits the Sefaradim, they can kosher conches with hot dark chocolate. (See Orach Chaim 462 MB 26, Mishna Berura in discussing egg matzah, mentions that fats are considered a liquid)However, minhag Ashkenasz follows the Remah, Orach Chaim 452:5, who is opposed to using sha’ar mashkim. Koshering with sha’ar mashkim is acceptable only after the fact. (Of course, some agencies would be happy to use a blow torch to solve this problem, a classic case of out of the frying pan into the fire.)Many authorities use the plant for kosher production only after the plant has run a scheduled, non-supervised, dark chocolate production, arguing that this situation is already after the fact. Of course, when they begin kosher production they kosher it once again under their watchful eyes with hot dark chocolate. Other authorities will first arrange under their supervision a “kosher for Sefaradim” batch of chocolate and then have an “after the fact scenario” acceptable for their Ashkenaszi brothers. Perhaps this was the Divine wisdom that orchestrated the separation of Sepharadic and Ashkenazic Jewry. Very few agencies insist on and even fewer factories permit hot water koshering. After koshering, some plants dedicate separate conches for dairy and pareve productions. However, most companies cannot afford to do this. Besides, there are companies that produce cholov Yisroel chocolate for which they certainly do not dedicate a device of such expense.
What’s The Beracha For Chocolate? The Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 202:7, explains that the beracha for fruit does not change if it merely undergoes cosmetic change since the fruit is essentially the same. The Remah adds that with significant changes its Beracha changes to SheHaKol. So coarsely crushed fruit retain their beracha but pulverised fruit e.g. date paste or fruit leather lose their fruit identity. Accordingly, the proper beracha for chocolate is shehakol. However, some halachic opinions speculate that since cacao beans (and the same can be said of sugar derived either from cane or beets) have no other purpose but that of making chocolate the bracha for chocolate should be borei pri ha’etz. However, the consensus of halachic opinion is that the bracha is shehakol. Chocolate Covered … We all know the beracha for a cracker is Mezonos and the beracha for herring is SheHaKol. We also know that when eating the two combined we make only one beracha, Mezonos for the cracker. The herring has become part of the cracker, the dominant character of the combination. Similarly when determining which beracha to make for chocolate-covered nuts and fruits, we must ascertain the dominant character, which depends upon the relative amounts of the ingredients and the food culture one lives in . For example the Mishna Berura,Orach Chaim 204 Be'er Hetev 19, views the fruit as the dominant ingredient, the chocolate is merely “icing on the cake”. Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt"l - Orach Chaim 3, 31 maintains that two Berachos are required because both are of equal importance whilst others consider it dependent upon ones personal preference and perhaps subject to ones whim.