Anyone who has ever tasted a fragrant drink, a piece of chocolate at least once in his life, will forever remain a supporter of this amazing product. In the confectionery art of the whole world there is, perhaps, not a single such ingredient that cannot be replaced with anything else. A variety of types, tastes, an incredible number of combinations make cocoa beans “number one” for all culinary specialists, as well as for people who prefer their refined notes of aftertaste. But not only this quality makes cocoa the most famous product. Its beneficial properties for the human body are simply innumerable.
A bit of history
South America became the birthplace of a cocoa tree with magic fruits. The first mention of a valuable tart drink is associated with the ancient people - the Aztecs. More than 4 thousand years ago, they roasted cocoa beans, ground them, added water and spices and got a drink called chocolatl (bitter water). Interestingly, they drank it chilled. Only the emperor had the right to consume this invigorating drink.
Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes discovered this product for Spain through his trip to Mexico. With the arrival of cocoa beans in Europe at the beginning of the 17th century, they began to prepare the drink with the addition of sugar and drink it hot. As before, only the highest nobility could afford a treat. However, because of its bitter taste, excessive fat content and astringency, “bitter water” did not acquire much popularity.
Food of the Gods (Theobroma cacao) - such a name was given to cocoa by the creator of the plant system Carl Linnaeus.
It was a long time before a drink made from cocoa beans began to conquer all segments of the population with its extraordinary taste. These people owe it to the Dutch merchant Conrad van Guten, who in 1828 extracted oil from beans in a press he designed. It took another 20 years before the so-called “chocolate for food” was created: sugar and butter were added to the crushed powder.
Every self-respecting large confectionery company has its own unique recipe for chocolate from cocoa beans. An interesting fact is that the recipe for such a world-famous culinary masterpiece as Sacher's cake (named after the Austrian confectioner Franz Sacher, who created a chocolate cake with a unique taste in 1882) is now stored in a Swiss bank safe.
Botanical characteristics and where they grow
South American countries are known for their humid tropical climate, which is a favorable habitat for the cocoa tree. In the shade of the rainforest, this evergreen tree with wide sprawling oval-shaped leaves feels best.
Cocoa (Theobroma cacao L.) belongs to the family of sterculiaceae, mallow.
In the wild, the tree reaches up to 12 meters in height. The man adapted to cut the tree so that it grows on plantations up to 5 meters, which is convenient when harvesting. This culture does not tolerate direct sunlight, therefore, “chocolate trees” are planted in plantings of avocados, mangoes, bananas. The tree trunk is up to 30 cm in diameter, straight, with a yellowish-brown bark. The leaves are thin, elliptical in shape, up to 40 cm long and up to 15 cm wide.
Harvesting and further processing
Cocoa tree bears fruit all year round. Blossom starts at 5 years old. A distinctive feature is that the flowers are located directly on the trunk and branches. The flowers are white-pink, smell unpleasant, which attracts flies, midges, which pollinate it.
The fruits are large, hard up to 30 cm long and up to 20 cm in diameter, similar to small melons. It weighs from 200 to 800 g, maturation occurs within 4-5 months. Color from yellow-orange to purplish-red. Inside the fruit is from 30 to 60 seeds. A good fruit gives up to 2 kg of cocoa beans per year.
The fruits ripen in turn, so they are picked selectively with a machete. This process is laborious, with further processing of the fetus, human hands are also required. Each fruit is cut into several parts, from there the flesh is obtained along with the beans. And if you think that this is the end of the harvest process, then ... no.
Further processing involves such a complex process as fermentation, and simply the process of fermentation, decay. As a result, microorganisms grow, chemical processes, heat generation up to 50 degrees. And thanks to this, after 10 days, finally, the chocolate taste and the incomparable aroma of cocoa are manifested. Then, brownish beans of a sweet-oil taste are sent to special dryers or dried in the sun (which is much less appreciated) so that the moisture content in them is reduced from 60% to 8%. After that, a valuable product for the confectionery industry is packaged in jute bags and sent for export to different countries of the world.
Exporters and consumers
Cocoa trees are mostly grown in Africa (60%), in Asia and South America (30%). Currently, the main countries exporting cocoa beans are:
- Cote d'Ivoire;
- Papua New Guinea.
And the countries of Europe (70%) consume cocoa: the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, and also the USA (20%).
Cocoa beans are rich in vitamins and minerals. Energy value of more than 530 kcal.
The chemical composition of cocoa beans includes:
- vitamin A;
- B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and folic acid, pyridoxine, cobalamin);
- Vitamin E
- vitamin H;
- vitamin PP.
An interesting fact is that in a cup of cocoa brewed with milk it contains the daily dose:
- vitamin B12 - 45%;
- vitamin A - 15%;
- folic acid - 6%;
- calcium - 300 mg;
- carbohydrates - 30 mg;
- fat - 9 mg;
- protein - 10 mg;
- magnesium - 50 mg.
Cocoa bean oil contains in sufficient quantity such acids as:
- oleic (omega-9);
Useful properties and contraindications
We leave a little taste of this wonderful product and turn to its positive effect on the human body. So:
- Improvement of the cardiovascular system is associated with the presence of theobromine in the product, which has a therapeutic effect on the entire system, participates in the blood circulation, strengthens blood vessels, stimulates the heart, helps in the supply of oxygen myocardium, stimulates mental activity.
- A powerful antioxidant due to polyphenol, which has immunomodulating properties, strengthens the protective functions of the body, helps to protect human hair, skin, nails from the effects of an aggressive environment.
- Prevention of ophthalmic diseases. Beta-carotene, contained in a high concentration in cocoa bean culture, has a beneficial effect on the functioning of the optic nerve, protects the cornea, prevents such a serious eye disease as hemeralopia, and is also involved in the complex treatment of ophthalmic diseases.
- Natural antidepressant. The beneficial substances contained in cocoa beans help to cope with feelings of anxiety, apathy, relieve stress, improve emotional state, normalize sleep. Caffeine activates mental activity, relieves chronic fatigue. Regular consumption of cocoa products has a positive effect on the entire nervous system as a whole.
- Normalization of weight. The presence of a large number of nutrients suppresses hunger and converts them into energy. It’s not for nothing that nutritionists have developed “chocolate diets”, where the main food product is a natural ingredient - cocoa.
- Improving the functioning of the thyroid gland and endocrine system.
- The rejuvenation and preservation of youth occurs due to the high content in the product of B vitamins or, as they are often called, beauty vitamins, which are natural antioxidants. Substances such as thiamine, collagen, which regulate all metabolic processes in the body, are also found in this valuable product. It is used as a part of lipstick, in face masks and in the famous “chocolate wraps” for losing weight, improving metabolism and eliminating toxins.
- It is used in pharmaceuticals as a wound healing agent and as part of certain drugs.
Despite this impressive list, there are contraindications. Restrictions concern people:
- patients with diabetes;
- with liver and kidney disease;
- suffering from increased acidity of the stomach;
- prone to allergic reactions;
- children under 3 years old and pregnant women.
Natural products, as a rule, are especially good in their original form. The easiest way to eat cocoa beans and get a lot of nutrients and a delicious aftertaste is to use it in its pure form.
Try to dip a couple of cocoa seeds, for example, in honey, and just chew. You can also grind beans in a coffee grinder and dip various fruits into this powder or sprinkle desserts, smoothies, ice cream on them. An invigorating effect and a surge of joy are provided to you.
An inexhaustible source of inspiration, this amazing product is for culinary experts all over the world. Favorite drinks are also known:
- hot chocolate;
- cocoa drink;
Cocoa butter and crushed cocoa powder ─ an excellent addition to various puddings, milk porridges, desserts.
Chocolatl Drink (Native American Recipe)
- peeled cocoa beans - 200 g;
- liquid honey - 200 g;
- cinnamon - 20 g;
- water - 400 ml.
Mix honey with spices (do not add vanilla). You can use a variety of spices to your liking, such as chili peppers, ginger. Grind cocoa beans in a coffee grinder. Pour the powder into a heated pan with a thick bottom and rub it on the bottom with a wooden mortar, and cocoa butter will stand out. It is important not to heat the pan strongly, approximately - up to 50 degrees. Then pour the mixture of honey, continuing to grind and mix the ingredients. After a while, we pour in half a portion of water heated to 60 degrees and whisk everything with a whisk (blender). Add the rest of the water, vanilla and cool. Chocolatl is ready.
The most famous pastry chefs invent their own unique recipes from cocoa beans, while continuing to delight consumers with a variety of tastes. No cafe can do without a dessert prepared from this product.
Cocoa is an amazing product with a long history, making a person more resilient and happy, with each breath filling the hormone of joy. Judging by the unquenchable interest in him, to all culinary delights, humanity will be using this extraordinary gift of nature for a long time, perhaps for many decades and even centuries.
Try natural cocoa beans, feel this delicious aroma, aftertaste, a burst of energy to become an adherent of healthy “food of the gods” forever. Cocoa is an affordable chocolate happiness that makes any home cozy and warm.