Cacao: Food of the Gods

The Story of Cacao
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Chocolate is one of the most loved foods in the world but did you know that in its raw form it is extremely beneficial to our health too?

Theobroma cacao is a small, evergreen tree that thrives in tropical climates, mostly in South America. Its fruit provides cacao (also known as cocoa), the basic ingredient used in the production of all chocolate. It is traditionally famous for its unique taste, but also for its therapeutic and nutritional properties that it boasts. The generic name Theobroma literally translates to ‘food of the gods’.

The Story of Cacao.

Chocolate is present everywhere and enjoyed in many different confectionary products around the world. This delicacy that we’ve all come to love has been around for hundreds of years and there’s no doubt that it has a history that is equally as rich and compelling.

In its earliest forms, the Mayans, Aztecs and Incans used cocao to create a ritual beverage called chocolatl that was shared during various ceremonies. It then found itself across to Spain where they kept the secret of its production to themselves for many years. By the mid-1600s, the cacao drink had gained popularity across to France. It was praised as a delicious, health-giving food enjoyed mainly by the wealthy.

It was in the 1700’s where it really took off though, where one enterprising Frenchman opened the first hot chocolate shop in London. A few years later and these chocolate shops were a common trend in England.

By the 18th century, every country in the west, was producing confectionary products from the fruit of the cocoa tree. During this period, the introduction of the steam engine mechanised cocoa bean grinding, reducing production costs and making chocolate more affordable.

Today, people around the world enjoy chocolate in thousands of different forms, consuming more than 3 million tonnes of cocoa beans a year.

How To Get It Raw?

So now you have an idea of the journey of cacao, here’s a quick overview of the different types of cacao products – all derived from the same food, the cacao bean.

Cacao Nibs – after cleaning the dried beans in natural water, they are then peeled and the core is extracted to be broken into “nibs”. This production process fully preserves the nutritional value of the Cacao without any additives being used.

Cacao Powder – derived from the crushed cacao nibs, it is then made into a paste and the fat is removed before being dried into a fine powder.

Cacao Liquor Buttons – made by pressing ground, milled Cacao Nibs into a dense paste, which is rich in vitamins and minerals. This paste is then melted to form Cacao Liquor, which is then cooled and moulded into bite-size buttons.

Cacao Butter Wafers – made from separating the fat from the milled cacao nibs. The butter is solidified and moulded into wafers and contains a high proportion of saturated fats (stearic and palmitic acid).

How To Consume These?

One way would be to eat it in the raw state. For me, I quite enjoy the intense bitterness and rich flavour of liquor buttons or the unique crunchy texture that comes with Cacao Nibs. For those expecting the sweet taste of chocolate though, this can be slightly overpowering.

It is important to understand that this is raw cacao, so besides the host of benefits that the food offers, it doesn’t contain any of the sugar, milk or flavourings that are added to chocolate. Therefore, it is both nutrient dense and acceptable in many diets. Chocolate is a fantastic food though and if you want something as a sweet taste but still with some of the benefits look for one with a higher percentage of cocoa solids. Alternatively, have a go at the below recipes and create your very own!

Raw Chocolate Bar

  • 100g Cacao Liquor Buttons
  • Skimmed Milk powder
  • 50mg Sucralose or Stevia
  • Pinch of salt

Melt the cacao butter in a bowl over a saucepan with boiling water and stir occasionally with a metal spoon. Add the cocoa liquor buttons and mix until you have a silky smooth consistency. Add the pinch of salt, the stevia and the skimmed milk powder. Here you can also add whatever ingredients you wish such as dried goji berries or fruit and nuts. Leave to cool for around 5 mins and place into a silicon mould. Set in fridge for two hours.

Hot Cacao Drink

  • 2 tbsp. Raw Cacao Powder
  • 50mg Sucralose or Stevia
  • 3-4 Cacao Buttons
  • 200ml Semi-Skimmed Milk (or dairy alternative such as Almond or Soya milk)

Add the Raw Cacao Powder into a small pan and then slowly add a small amount of the milk, whisking into a thick paste. Once you have a paste with no lumps, add on a low heat and slowly add the rest of the milk bit by bit. Gently bring to just below boiling temperature (being careful not to boil the milk). Add the Cacao Buttons and whisk to ensure they are fully dissolved into the milk – these may take a while to melt and offer a silky texture to the drink. Finally, add the sucralose or stevia to sweeten and stir.

About the Author

Steve has a Masters degree in Sports Physiology and works within the BULK POWDERS® product team. His role includes all aspects of new product development, from recipe concept and formulation, to website content and legislations.

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