Cocoa bean

Facts about cocoa bean

We found 17 facts about cocoa bean

Chocolate base

Cocoa is a commonly used term for the seeds of the cocoa tree. Widely known and liked by lovers of chocolate and all chocolate sweets, as well as supporters of a cocoa-based milk drink. Few people realize that, in addition to its taste, it also has a very positive effect on many aspects related to the functioning of the human body - it improves memory, normalizes blood pressure, and is also a source of valuable minerals and vitamins. The Aztecs and Mayans already knew about it, and the Spaniards also appreciated it, thanks to whom cocoa was introduced to Europe.

Cocoa bean
Cocoa, cocoa beans, are the seeds of the fruit of the cocoa tree (Theobroma cacao).

The cocoa tree is a species of plant from the mallow family (Malvaceae), originating from humid tropical forests of South and Central America.

It is widely cultivated, and the largest areas of cocoa cultivation are currently located in Africa.

The cocoa tree is an evergreen tree with a compact crown 10-15 meters high or a shrub growing up to 5 meters high.

Its bark is thin and cinnamon-brown. The cocoa tree has a strongly developed root system. The leaves, arranged alternately, 20-30 cm long, are leathery and grow throughout the year. Cocoa flowers are pink or red, mounted on short stalks growing in bunches directly from the trunk and branches - this phenomenon is called cauliflory.

The fruit of the cocoa tree is an oval berry resembling an American football ball.

The fruit measures 250 x 100 mm, is striated or smooth, and resembles an overgrown cucumber. It is covered with a thick shell, under which there are from 20 to 60 flat or spherical seeds (cocoa beans) covered with white mucus. The seeds are placed in reddish, pleasantly smelling pulp with a sweet taste.

The cocoa tree needs a humid, hot climate with small daily and annual temperature fluctuations - such conditions are provided by the equatorial climate.

The cocoa tree grows best under the cover of tall trees, as it does not tolerate strong winds or bright sun.

The trees grow at a distance of 2-6 m.

The tree begins to bear fruit between 3 and 5 years after planting and reaches its highest yields at the age of 8-15.

The tree bears fruit for about 20 years. Fruits appear 4-6 months after flowering. Unripe fruits come in a variety of colors but are most often green, red, or purple, and as they ripen, their color changes to yellow or orange, especially in the furrows.

The fruit is harvested by hand using a curved knife placed on a long handle - one person can collect about 650 fruits a day.

There are two harvest seasons: the primary, which runs from September to March and covers 80 percent of the harvest, and the secondary, which runs from April to September, covering 20 percent.

After harvesting, the cocoa berries are cut in half, and the seeds and pulp are removed.

The moist seeds, surrounded by pulp, are placed in piles, placed in baskets or boxes, and covered with leaves, under which the pulp undergoes fermentation.

After about 5-7 days, the fruit pulp drains and the seeds acquire a characteristic aroma and color. After drying the seeds, their water content drops to 6 percent. Dry beans are an export product of cocoa-growing countries. Further processing of the seeds takes place mainly in developed countries.

The first stage of seed processing is roasting them and removing the husk. The remaining part, mainly the nibs, is ground into cocoa mass, also called cocoa nibs. A by-product of seed processing is cocoa shells, which are added to animal feed and used as fertilizer or bedding.

Products obtained from cocoa beans are mainly used in the food industry for the production of chocolate, drinks, cakes, and ice cream.

Cocoa butter containing about 55 percent fat and cocoa powder containing about 25 percent fat are obtained from cocoa mass. Cocoa butter, also called cocoa butter or edible cocoa oil, is a solid vegetable fat obtained from cocoa seeds by hot pressing.

The residue of this process is the so-called cocoa powder used to produce cocoa powder.

Cocoa powder is obtained by grinding and sifting cocoa powder, which is the residue after extruding cocoa butter from cocoa mass.

Cocoa powder contains at most 20 percent fat, as well as about 20 percent protein and 40 percent carbohydrates. It also contains two stimulant alkaloids: theobromine and caffeine.

It is dark brown and has a bitter taste. It is a basic ingredient of cocoa drinks and is also used as an addition to cakes.

Drinking chocolate is obtained from crushed cocoa mass (cocoa crumbs) and sugar. Cocoa mass with the addition of cocoa butter, sugar, and milk powder constitutes chocolate.

Cocoa butter is used in the pharmacy.

It was first used by the French pharmacist Antoine Baume in 1750.

In pharmacy recipes, it is used to produce solid (rectal suppositories, vaginal pessaries, intraurethral and vaginal rods) and semi-solid (ointments, creams, milk) forms of medicines.

Cocoa butter is one of the most stable fats. It contains natural antioxidants that prevent rancidity, allowing it to be stored without the addition of preservatives for up to five years.

They should be protected from light and stored uncrushed and at a low temperature. The melting point of cocoa butter is 30-35 degrees Celsius.

Cocoa butter is also used in the food and cosmetics industries.

In the food industry, it is used in the production of sweets, and above all, it is one of the basic ingredients of chocolate.

Cocoa butter itself has only a delicate chocolate flavor and smell - it is the only cocoa-derived ingredient in white chocolates that does not contain cocoa.

Thanks to the melting point of cocoa butter, which is slightly higher than body temperature, chocolate can melt in your mouth.

In the cosmetics industry, cocoa butter is used in various types of cosmetics (creams, soaps), as it has very good moisturizing and oiling properties.

The oldest traces of the use of cocoa seeds as food were found in Ecuador, in the upper reaches of the Amazon tributaries, at an archaeological site dating back to 5450-5300 years BP (before the present, which is assumed to be 1950).

In Central America, archaeological finds indicate the use of cocoa since 3900 years BP, and in the southwestern part of the modern United States since 1000 years BP.

The cocoa tree comes from the Amazon rainforest. From these areas, it was introduced to Central America by the Olmecs (Mexico). It was used by pre-Hispanic cultures along the Yucatan Peninsula in religious ceremonies.

The cocoa bean was a common currency throughout Mesoamerica before the Spanish conquest.

Cocoa was an important raw material in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica.

A Spanish soldier who participated in the conquest of Mexico by Hernan Cortes said that Moctezuma II, the ruler of the Aztecs, did not drink any other drink with his meals than chocolate, which was served to him in a golden cup. It was seasoned with vanilla or other spices and whipped to a foam that melted in the mouth. He reportedly consumed 60 portions of this drink a day.

Cocoa was brought to Europe by the Spanish and became a popular drink in the mid-17th century.

The Spanish also introduced the cocoa tree to the West Indies and the Philippines. Cocoa was brought to modern Ghana by a Ghanaian, Tetteh Quarshie.

The demand for cocoa beans increased significantly after the discovery of the technological process of making chocolate, which took place in 1876 in Switzerland.

The three main varieties of cocoa are: "Forastero", "Criollo" and "Trinitario".

"Forastero" is the most widely used and covers 80-90 percent of world cocoa production.

"Criollo" beans are rarer and considered a delicacy. It is produced by a few countries because the beans are less resistant to diseases that attack cocoa - one of the largest producers of this variety is Venezuela.

'Trinity' (from Trinidad) is a cross between 'Criollo' and 'Forastero' and is considered to be of much higher quality than 'Forastero' and achieves higher yields.

The cocoa industry has been accused of profiting from slavery and child trafficking.

The first allegation that child slavery was used to produce cocoa appeared in 1998. In 2017, approximately 2.1 million children in Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire were involved in cocoa harvesting, carrying heavy loads, logging forests, and being exposed to pesticides.

In 2018, a 3-year pilot program was announced by Nestle with 26.000 farmers located mainly in Côte d'Ivoire, which resulted in a 51 percent reduction in the number of children engaged in hazardous work in cocoa farming.

In 2020, global cocoa bean production was 5.8 million tons, led by Côte d'Ivoire with a 38 percent share of total production.

The next places were taken by Ghana and Indonesia.

Cocoa is a source of many minerals and vitamins.

Contains, among others: sodium, calcium, potassium, riboflavin, niacin, magnesium, polyphenols, and iron, as well as several vitamins, including vitamins A, B, and E. It improves memory, normalizes blood pressure, and helps prevent cancer, especially colorectal cancer when used regularly. 

It also slows down the aging process by protecting the body against the influence of negative environmental factors, such as air pollution caused by cigarette smoke. It has a hypoglycemic effect, and thanks to the tryptophan it contains, it stimulates the production of endorphins, acting as an aphrodisiac.

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