What is Cacao?

If you have spent a significant amount of time practicing your culinary arts, especially in the creation of exquisite desserts, you will come across cacao and all its delectable flavors and multitudinous health benefits.

What is it and why is it so important to the culinary arts, well being, and healthy living?

Let’s find out!

As you may know, the chocolate we love so much comes from the beautiful pods that grow on the Cacao tree in tropical regions all around the world. It is made from lugubrious-looking beans that are set in a white pulp inside these large yellow, oranage, and even red pods. The beans from the pods are harvested, dried, and roasted to develop that definitive chocolate flavor.

Cacao Chunk Powder Beans

Cacao beans that will be processed into powder will not undergo the grueling roasting process that gives it a milder and sweeter flavor. Depending on the desired texture and end use,, it make be cooked at lower temperatures, and this changes the product’s nutritional content and flavor array completely.

Using it in Recipes

It has a delectable bittersweet flavor that can perfectly offset the sweetness of specific desserts. It can even be served on top of regular foods like oatmeal, Greek yogurt, and even bean dishes to transform the dimension of any recipe. Sprinkle some into your coffee, on top of your peanut-butter balls, and even use it to dust baking pans to prevent sticking.

THE BENEFITS

1. ANTIOXIDANTS AND FLAVONOIDS

The substance is chock full of beneficial flavonoids which are polyphenols, some of the most potent antioxidants you will find. Flavonoids provide a long list of benefits to the body including maintaining your cardiovascular system in tip-top conditions. They can also contribute to preventing conditions like cancers, heart diseases, and asthma.

In a single gram, you will enjoy an astonishing 43 mg of high-quality flavonoids. Because flavonoids are such effective anti-oxidants, they can be considered an anti-aging food. The product can contribute to maintaining youthful skin, a fresh and powerful mind and help to reduce inflammation throughout the body as well.

2. THEOBROMINE: AN EFFECTIVE ANTIDEPRESSANT

The food you eat is the best medication you can find on the market. If you are looking for foods that will effectively boost your mood, look no further than “Theobroma” — Latin for “Food of the Gods.”

Cacao Pod Fruit Sack

Cacao is the primary source of a stimulant like none other on the planet: theobromine. Theobromine is a potent stimulant used to excite the mind, improve mood and stimulate the senses, much like caffeine in a good cup of coffee. But theobromine does much more than that. Rather than leading to tension and restlessness, like caffeine, theobromine relaxes the muscles of the body and can even contribute to better sleep at night.

3. NITRIC OXIDE: IMPROVE BRAINPOWER AND HEALTH

The flavonoids found in the substance are critical to the production of nitric acid. Nitric acid is an important compound that allows the body to relax blood vessels and improve the supply of oxygen to the brain. It is an important component of the very best all-natural nootropic stacks. It is especially beneficial at combating that brain cloud that seems to fog the mind at about 4:00 in the afternoon.

4. IT MAY HELP WITH WEIGHT CONTROL

On the other hand, it can help you lose weight.

It has been noted that the beneficial nutrients in the substance are known to reduce the appetite and can prevent hunger pangs from leading to “between-meal nibbling.” If you are looking for a snack food that can be eaten between meals that will leave you feeling satisfied and energized till the next meal, forget salty crunchy treat-o’s or sweetbreads which burn up quickly and leave you wanting more. Instead, try some homemade peanut butter balls with no processed sugars or ingredients — this is the ultimate high-octane performance fuel and the perfect pre-workout snack.

Pod Cacao Fruit Sack

5. IT CONTAINS MAGNESIUM

If you will be making exacting physical demands from your body, you better consider how you will support your physical performance with the right type of input. Magnesium is an important nutritional compound for keeping your muscles and joints in optimal function. Without an efficient supply of this essential macronutrient, you may suffer muscle fatigue, cramps, increased cholesterol, and even arrhythmia.

6. CALCIUM ABSORPTION

The beneficial quantities of magnesium in the substance may be beneficial to the absorption of calcium in the body. This can lead to healthy bones and teeth, reduce the occurrence of osteoporosis and prevent the formation of kidney stones. If you are taking calcium supplements for any condition, maximize the benefits of this important nutrient with a regular helping of the product

Process deatils on where it comes from and how it is made

You will be surprised to know that chocolate actually DOES grow on trees!

Raw chocolate comes from beans which are grown on cacao trees that are native to Central & South America. It is also grown commercially and approximately 70% of the worlds cacao is grown in Africa.

Chocolate is best known as an indulgent confection, but historically it has also been consumed for its purported healing properties. Foods and beverages made from beans from the Theobroma cacao tree (cocoa, cacao) have been consumed by humans since at least as early as 460 AD. --nih.gov

The tree has a large orange fruit about the size of a small pumpkin and contains small beans. The raw beans can be very beneficial and contain loads of vitamin C and magnesium.

They also contain quite a lot of caffeine in them.  The fruit also attracts forest animals who eat the fruit, but throw the beans aside, lucky for us!

Holding Cacao Nibs

So these seeds, that we commonly refer to as beans get harvested in order to create chocolate.

Man harvesting raw cacao in Africa
Harvesting cacao in Africa

Ripe pods are harvested twice a year and the process of turning these pods in to chocolate happens straight away.

The pods are cut open with machetes and the white pulp containing the cocoa beans is scooped out. The workers scoop these pods out with their hands, being careful not to damage the beans.

cacao beans with pulp
A look inside of the raw cacao fruit

Fermentation then begins. The sticky beans with their pulp are put inside wooden bins and covered with banana leaves and left to ferment.

Fermentation changes the flavor from bitter to a smoother, more chocolatey taste. The sugars inside the bean also turn in to acids, which cause the color to change from pale to dark brown.

The fermentation process length is all dependent on the type of bean. Some higher quality beans only ferment for a few days, whilst others sometimes require more than a week.

After the fermentation process is complete, the beans are dried out for about a week which allows the flavor to continue to develop. When the beans are completely dry, they are then shipped to a factory and turned into chocolate.

The journey from cocoa tree to chocolate bar is not difficult, but it does require the careful treatment of the beans to get the best finished product.

Chocolate makers will often deal directly with cocoa farmers and have a say in exactly how the beans are treated from the moment they are harvested.

cacao process from tree to beans to chocolate
The three main stages of chocolate production. Tree fruit, dried beans, and finished chocolate.

At the factory, the beans are first inspected for foreign objects- rocks, machetes, whatever may have fallen into the mix. It is weighed and sorted by type so that the manufacturer knows exactly what type is going into the chocolate.

The beans are then roasted for 30 – 120 minutes, as the heat brings out a richer flavor and aroma and also darkens the beans.

Then the beans are cracked and winnowed, that is, their outer shells are cracked and blown away, leaving the crushed and broken pieces of cacao beans, called “nibs.”

The nibs are then crushed and ground into a thick paste called chocolate liquor, but there is no actual alcohol involved.

Chocolate liquor is bitter and not very smooth, but can be sweetened to improve the taste. The manufacturer will add things like vanilla, cocoa butter and sweeteners.

The chocolate is now ready to eat, but may not have the same texture you are usually used to.

It is still pretty grainy at this stage so it is run through a series of steel rollers to even out the texture.

To really bring out the flavor, the mixture is then “conched.” That is, it’s run through a chocolate making machine that mixes the chocolate. Conching can last a few hours for cheaper chocolates, and up to six days for the expensive stuff!

The chocolate is then tempered by stirring it, letting it cool, heating it back up slowly, and repeating the process several times. This will help the chocolate melt properly and give it a nicer exterior.

Temperature, Cooling Chocolate Crystals

Chocolate Bloom Examples Fat Sugar Interaction
Chocolate Bloom Examples, Fat & Sugars Interaction
Making chocolate is complex, and it is during these finalization processes that an effect called Chocolate Bloom may occur.

Organic Arriba Cacao Elixir Medicinal Foods

Chocolate bloom is either of two types of whitish coating that can appear on the surface of chocolate: fat bloom, caused by changes in the fat crystals in the chocolate; and sugar bloom, due to crystals formed by the action of moisture on the sugar.

Chocolate bloom can be repaired by melting the chocolate down, stirring it, then pouring it into a mold and allowing it to cool, bringing the sugar or fat back into the solution.

Out of the 6 types of chocolate crystals we are going for "Type V" which is the most desireable for fine chocolate.

And there you have it…your chocolate is ready to eat!

If this article sent your chocolate cravings in to overdrive, check out our range of Raw Chocolate products here, including the popular Lovers bar.

Lovers Bar Three Flavors
Three enchanting Lovers Bars

From Ecuadorian farm to your kitchen, enjoy the complex flavor profile of Criollo paste. Hand crafted, dark chocolate made by farmers in the Manabi province. Just shave little off of the brick into a cup of hot water, add honey or other sweetener for a cup of liquid chocolate. Taste the richness.

Just pour a little off into a cup of hot water, add honey or other sweetener for a cup of liquid chocolate. Use in smoothies or in baking to make a chocolate molé. There's a great molé recipe in my book, The Raw Chocolate Diet.

roasting chocolate beans

As founder of medicinal foods, I've visited the source of it and can tell you that this is some of the tastiest, most ancient Heirloom you can find.

It's grown only organically on rich, fertile Ecuadorian land from the Manabi province. The families that run these farms are joyful, love it and take great pride in the work they do.

Tree Branch Red Cacao Pods
Ecuadorian family harvesting chocolate
Ecuadorian family harvesting chocolate

Enjoy from their farm to your table!

Sky with chocolate pod in Ecuador
Sky with pod in Ecuador

Final Conclusions

As you can see, it is nothing less than the “Food of the Gods” and a far superior nutritional food than its over-processed cousin cocoa powder.

Chocolate made from 100% Organic Ecuadorian Heirloom Criollo Cacao

If you are looking to kick your physical and mental health up a notch, consider all the exciting ways you can add this superfood to your diet.

raw cacao retains nutrients and health benefits