From cacao to chocolate, it doesn’t just take one step

From cacao to chocolate, it doesn’t just take one step

Theobroma cacao, also called the cacao tree and the cocoa tree is a small evergreen tree in the family Malvaceae, native to the deep tropical regions of the Americas. It is cultivated in West Africa, Indonesia and other islands of Asia continent and also in Philippines and Malaysia.

We actually know about cacao (bean) produced by theobroma cacao thanks to a Spanish explorer Hernan Cortes who introduced this in Europe. In fact, the cacao is used mainly for chocolate production as a drink since the 18th century. Back to the question of how chocolate is made and used definitely awakens our taste!

Process of production

All begins by fruits harvesting (cabooses - which grows directly on the trunks). Inside these cabooses are 20 - 75 grains wrapped in a pulp (photo). Once picked, these grains will go through a fermentation process which enables chocolate flavor and aroma: It’s from this step that we receive cacao beans. Lastly, cacao beans will be dried and roasted. Roasting means placing food directly over the fire which gives an aroma reminding smell of food a little grilled and calcined. Roasting is also used in the production of coffee or beer. Besides, we can certainly toast almond, hazelnut…etc…

 

 

Photo: http://sweetmatterphysicist.com/tree-to-bar-basics/

 

In 1828, Dutch chemist Van Houten (yes it’s also a famous brand) invented a press allowing to extract cocoa butter (solid fat received by seed pressing) from cocoa paste or cocoa powder easily soluble in water or milk. In 1849 was born bar chocolate adding sugar, cocoa butter and cocoa powder.

We distinguish 4 main varieties of cacao:

  • Forestero: bitter and strong cacao, which represents 80% of global production

  • Criollo: Fine and aromatic aroma only for luxurious chocolate production

  • Trinitario: based on the fusion of two previous varieties which represents 20% of global production

  • Nacional: Delicate variety for extremely fine cacao production

 

Anti-stress natural product

From a chemical point of view, cocoa beans contain a lot of well-known molecules such as theobromine (1 - 3%) discovered in 1842 and caffeine (0,3%) discovered in 1820 by French chemists and pharmacists Pelletier and Caventou. Theobromine is a mild stimulant to central nervous system and also a cardiac-stimulant, a vasodilator and diuretic. Here is one of the reasons why chocolate has anti-stress effects. It is preferable to choose dark chocolate featuring a higher amount of cacao, it will be in higher quality and less sugar.

An important point to take into account: Chocolate is toxic to our friends' dogs and cats… Keep it out of them.

Cacao in our industry today, in the cosmetology

Cocoa butter was used as an excipient (neutral substance where we incorporate the active ingredient of medicine) by the pharmaceutical industry in suppository making, then was replaced by synthetic products presenting higher stability. Furthermore, cocoa butter was used as raw material for a cosmetic industry increasingly searched by consumers aiming to bio and natural trend. In fact, cocoa butter provides treatment products moisturizing properties, emollient and skin protection. It is present in treatment products known as “INCI” (international nomenclature of cosmetic ingredients) or Theobroma cacao seed butter that you can easily find on your products’ label and packaging.

Food industry indicates also that use of cacao beans encourages the removal of accumulated fat thanks to its phenological composites such as ferulic acid and quercitrin - an organic molecule which is really popular in antioxidant-properties plants.

 

Cacao has a host of therapeutic virtues. Such a gem!

 

 

Photo: http://sweetmatterphysicist.com/tree-to-bar-basics/