About the cocoa plant and chocolate production

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Whether as a hot steaming cocoa drink or delicately melting praline: chocolate is on every gift table! On a birthday, at Christmas or at Easter - the sweet temptation is still a special gift, even after thousands of years, which brings great joy. The preparation of cocoa beans for eating and drinking chocolate is based on the ancient recipes of South American natives.

History of cocoa

For the first time, the fruits of the cocoa plant (Theobroma cacao) were used in the kitchen by the Olmecs (1500 BC to 400 AD), a highly civilized people from Mexico. Centuries later, the rulers of the Mayas and Aztecs of South America also indulged in their cocoa obsession by processing the ground cocoa beans with vanilla and cayenne pepper into a sweet drink just like the Olmecs. The cocoa beans were also eaten as cornmeal cocoa porridge, which tasted a bit bitter. Cocoa beans were so valuable back then that they even served as a means of payment.

From South America to Europe

Cacao fruit on the tree

At the beginning of the growth, the cocoa fruits are green, later they ripen red-orange. To thrive, cocoa fruits need a humid-warm climate

The actual homeland of the cocoa tree is the Amazon region in Brazil. There are more than 20 species of theobromes of the mallow family, but only Theobroma cacao is used for the production of chocolate. The naturalist Carl von Linné gave the cacao tree its genus name Theobroma, which translates as "jello". Theobroma is also the name of the caffeine-like alkaloid theobromine derived. It is contained in the cocoa seeds, has a stimulating effect and can even trigger feelings of happiness in the human organism.
In the 16th century, the first shipload from South America landed with sacks of cocoa beans in Spain. The original name of the cocoa was "Xocolatl", which was modified by the Spaniards in "chocolate". At first, the valuable cocoa was consumed only by the nobility, only much later did he end up in the bourgeois chambers.


cocoa pods

The flowers and fruits of the cocoa tree grow directly on the trunk

The cocoa tree is grown today in Central and South America, the Ivory Coast and other countries of West Africa and Southeast Asia, eg. In Indonesia, where he is never exposed to temperatures below 18 degrees, usually even by 30 degrees Celsius. The annual rainfall, which is well over 2000 milliliters in these countries, and the high humidity of at least 70% are just right for the growth of the plant. The cocoa bush also needs similar conditions if it is cultivated as an ornamental plant.

Cocoa as a houseplant

cocoa plant

The cocoa plant can also be cultivated in the room or in the temperate winter garden

In the well-stocked plant trade, the cocoa plant is available for the room or conservatory. If the seeds are left untreated, you can also put them in soil yourself. The plant can grow between one and a half and three meters, but usually remains smaller, as the tree or shrub grows only very slowly. He needs a half-shady location. When the leaves drift out new, they are first colored red-orange, later dark green shiny. Particularly noteworthy and attractive are the white and reddish flowers of the cacao tree. They sit with a small stalk directly on the tree trunk. In their homeland, the flowers are pollinated by mosquitoes or small flies. An artificial pollination is also possible. Heating air and dry periods must be avoided at all costs. It's best to place a humidifier or mist remover next to the plant. Too wet leaves, eg. B. by spraying, but lead to mold. During the winter months artificial lighting is necessary. Fertilize the cocoa plant from March to September. To prevent waterlogging in the pot, fill a layer of sand under the humus peat layer. In the growing areas, the fruits are about rugby ball size and between 15 and 30 inches long. Always room cultivation reach the fruits, if it came to fertilization at all, but not this size. From flowering to fruit maturity, depending on the location, 5 to 6 months pass. Initially, the shell of the cocoa bean - which is botanically a dry berry - green, to maturity, it turns bright reddish brown.

cocoa processing

Sliced ​​cacao fruit

Sliced ​​cacao fruit with cocoa seeds wrapped in pulp

The cacao beans, known in the trade as cacao seeds, are arranged longitudinally inside the fruit and are enveloped in white flesh, the so-called pulp.Before they can be used as cocoa powder or for chocolate production, the seeds must be fermented and dried to separate the pulp from the beans, to prevent the seeds from germinating and to develop flavor. Thereafter, the cocoa seeds are treated with heat, roasted, the peels removed and finally ground.

About the cocoa plant and chocolate production: plant

Fruits, beans, cocoa powder and leaves of the cocoa plant

Production of chocolate

The production of cocoa powder and chocolate is a bit different. For a little insight into the elaborate processing process, the chocolate production is explained here: The liquid cocoa mass is mixed with various ingredients such as sugar, milk powder, flavors and cocoa butter, which was exposed during grinding. Subsequently, the whole thing is finely rolled, conched (ie heated and homogenized), provided with fat crystals and finally cooled to pour the chocolate liquid, for example, into a tablet shape. For the production of white chocolate, only the cocoa butter, milk powder, sugar and flavors are used, the cocoa mass is omitted here.

Video Board: Making Chocolate: Cacao Tree To Chocolate Bar.

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