Everything about the history of the cocoa bean and the perfect preparation of a cocoa
Chocolate is delicious – it melts so delicately on the tongue. Reason enough to take a closer look at this raw material. Here you can find out everything you should know about cocoa beans and what ingredients they contain. And with our tips for delicious drinking chocolate, you can drink the delicious chocolate yourself right away.
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General background knowledge of cocoa beans
The most important ingredient in delicious chocolates is cocoa, which is obtained from so-called “cocoa beans”. However, these do not grow on annual plants like our haricot beans, but rather on stately trees the size of apple trees. The “cocoa beans” are actually the seeds of the large, elongated-oval fruits that grow directly on the trunk and on the large branches of the cocoa tree and are yellow, orange or purple in color, depending on the variety.
When the ripe fruits are cut from the tree, about 20 to 60 seeds are found inside, which are embedded in a slimy mass, the “fruit pulp”. Since this fruit pulp tastes very sweet and delicious, the cocoa beans with the slimy mass in the countries of origin of the cocoa tree are often sucked by children like sweets.
Origin and culture of the cocoa beans
The cocoa tree (Theobroma cacao) probably comes from the southeast of Ecuador. At least here in Santa Ana (La Florida), traces of clay pots were found in the upper part of the Amazon basin, with which one can prove that this plant has been there since at least 3,300 BC. From there, the tree is said to have spread over Central America to Tenochtitlan, now Mexico City.
The Aztecs valued the cocoa bean as a drink that they called “xocóatl”. This word is derived from “xócoc” (= bitter) and “atl” (= water) and therefore means something like bitter water. Our chocolate today, on the other hand, was first invented in the 19th century and then refined more and more. Cocoa, brought to Europe by the Spanish in 1519. It was used as a drink earlier and was popular among aristocratic circles. In Germany, cocoa was first introduced as a medicine in the 17th century and was available in German pharmacies.
By the way: The Aztecs used cocoa beans not only as a luxury item, but also as a means of payment. In 1555, the value of the cocoa bean was officially established. One Spanish real was the equivalent of 140 cocoa beans. A turkey could therefore be paid for with 200 cocoa beans.
Where does the cocoa tree come from?
The cocoa tree only thrives in warm tropical countries. This is why cocoa is mainly grown in South and Central America, West Africa and the Asian island states. By far the largest amount of cocoa beans is obtained in the Ivory Coast. As in most states, the beans are sold here as a raw material and hardly processed in the country itself.
Although cocoa beans are one of the most valuable agricultural products, their price has fallen in recent decades. They are also subject to strong price fluctuations. As a result, cocoa farmers often find it difficult to earn a living, and child labor is widespread in the harvest. In order to support the cocoa farmers, one should therefore give preference to fair trade products.
From tree to cocoa: the processing of cocoa beans
A few steps are necessary to produce delicious cocoa. First, the fruit is knocked from the tree with a knife and the fruit is opened so that the beans can be removed together with the pulp.
For the intense cocoa flavor, the next step is what is known as “fermentation”, during which the temperature rises to 40 to 50 degrees Celsius. The sugar begins to ferment and various transformation processes in the cocoa bean lead to the characteristic good taste. In the process, which takes around ten days, the cocoa bean also loses some of its bitter substances.
After they are then dried in the sun, the beans are shipped to the processing companies. The majority is made into the best chocolate here. But some connoisseurs also love the cocoa beans neat, the quality should be excellent, because inferior cocoa beans taste sour. Exquisite beans, which are available whole or as fragments – so-called cocoa nibs – are quite bitter and not for everyone.
Most cocoa beans are therefore processed into cocoa butter and cocoa powder. To do this, the light brown beans are first cleaned and roasted, so that their typical cocoa aroma and chocolate brown color emerge. After removing the shells, the cocoa beans are ground into a thick pulp in large cocoa mills.
The valuable cocoa butter, which is used for rich creams and care products, can be pressed from this mass. What remains are hard press cakes, which are finally ground into cocoa powder.
Taste and preparation of cocoa
In order to enjoy cocoa, you no longer have to go to the pharmacy, but can buy the powder in any grocery store. However, it is very bitter and tart when enjoyed straight.
Depending on the country, there are very different traditions of making hot drinks from cocoa. Heavily de-oiled cocoa dissolves better, but has a tart taste. You can find out here how to conjure up a delicious drink from slightly de-oiled cocoa:
Our tips for a delicious hot chocolate
So that (slightly de-oiled) cocoa powder dissolves well, it should first be mixed with sugar and then slowly stirred. Now stir this pulp into the hot liquid. This is the best way to preserve the cocoa flavor.
Depending on your taste, milk, water or a mixture of both serve as the liquid. If you want, you can also add cream or spirits such as rum, vodka or brandy to the hot chocolate. To round off the taste, the cocoa can also be flavored with fine spices such as vanilla, cinnamon or chilli. Just try different recipes and find your personal favorite.
The cocoa beans are special beans that ensure delicious enjoyment. You shouldn’t overdo it, but you are welcome to treat yourself to one hot chocolate a day.