6 things that you probably don’t know about cocoa
Christmas Holidays… time for sweetness also in cooking! Panettone or nutmeg? The king of desserts is always it: chocolate. When it is snowing and during the cold December, what is better than a steaming cup of hot chocolate (make it at home with the easy recipe of flavoured hot chocolate) or a chocolate cake?
Among a biscuit and a ganache we are going to reveal some curiosities on cocoa and chocolate that probably you don’t know!
1. Raw cocoa, cocoa and chocolate
Three faces of the same medal, but essentially three different ingredients used in even different ways. All starts from the cocoa plant, a tree that produces big beans that hold up to 20-40 cocoa seeds. These seeds, once removed from the plant, are beans of raw cocoa, precious and delicate to preserve. After a long process of fermentation, drying and roasting, they are ready to be grinded creating the perfect cocoa for food preparation. Finally chocolate is made of two parts mixed together: cocoa mass and cocoa butter, a fat extracted from the beans that give a dark consistency.
2. The ancient Olmecs origins of cocoa
Before Maya and Aztec that were famous for their cocoa consumption, Olmecs introduced in their diets a mix obtained grinding cocoa seeds with spices and herbs into water. Then, Maya was specialized in the use of these fruits in cooking, using them grinded together with spices and herbs. The Spanish, conquering Mexico, were surprised by Xocolatl, a drink obtained by cocoa seeds melted in hot water, a kind of hot chocolate that the Emperor Montezuma called “the divine drink”. Remind that the cocoa itself isn’t sweet, thus these drinks weren’t sugary but neutral and spiced.
3. Cocoa fight cavities
It seems weird but the raw cocoa obtained by the seeds in the beans has a great quantity of antibacterial useful to sterilise the oral bacteria flora and fight the cavity. Who knows if one day there will be cocoa inside the toothpaste!
Don’t try to get clever, it isn’t the same with chocolate! Chocolate bars are, in fact, rich in sugar that, on the contrary, are the main responsible for cavities.
4. The first chocolate bar is English
The English, in 1830, created the first chocolate bar as we taste it still today, with a mix of cocoa mass and butter, sugar and aromas. The first bars were considered a privilege for the nobility, given their low number and the high cost. In 1847 the English company Fry’s started to produce bars in great quantity at reasonable prices.
5. There are 3 types of cocoa
Criollo: coming from South America, it is the Maya’s cocoa. It has a low productivity and a poor return, but it is rich in aromas and perfumes thus it is used for precious chocolates.
Forastero: strong and bitter taste, well-structured aromas and intense perfumes; cocoa is used to produce the 80% of the world chocolate. It is cultivated mainly in Africa.
Trinitario: a softer and lighter taste. It is cultivated in Amazonia and in many other countries of the Central and Southern America, including Caribbean.
6. Cocoa, a refill of energy and happiness
Cocoa has a small percentage of Theobromine and caffeine that have euphoric and exciting effects on our organism. For this reason, cocoa can create also a sort of physiologic addition if ate regularly and in great quantities. Beside the energizer effect, cocoa release also Phenethylamine that release itself endorphins and enhance our production of dopamine, hormones responsible for the good mood and pleasure.