November 19, 2019
Cacao - Interesting facts that will blow your mind
Cacao is growing in popularity. Rightly so. This ancient tree has so much to offer the world.
- The cacao tree, a small evergreen, is commonly called Theobroma cacao, a name that derives from the Greek 'theos', gods, and 'broma', food: the food of the gods.
- The fruit of the Cacao tree grow directly from the trunk. They look like small melons, and the pulp inside contains 20 to 50 seeds or beans.
- The ancient tribes, of the Maya Indians, are believed to be the first to discover the potent enchanting properties of the cacao bean around the year 600 AD.
- Cacao Beans were so prized by the Maya and the Aztecs that they were used as a currency, even when paying taxes. For example, one hundred beans were worth a turkey, or a rabbit, according to a 16th century Aztec document.
- In its earliest forms, the Mayans used cacao to create a ritual beverage that was shared during betrothal and marriage ceremonies, providing one of the first known links between chocolate and romance.
- Cacao trees need to be planted next to tall trees in order to protect them from direct sunlight. This is why you often see cacao trees planted amongst mango and papaya trees. The soil influences the flavours of the cacao beans.
- Christopher Columbus, in 1502, was thought to have brought cacao beans to King Ferdinand, during his fourth trip from the New World.
- Cacao was exported to Europe in 1585, but the first chocolate bar was not made until 1848.
- Fermentation of the cacao beans is the process that occurs before drying, and varies depending on the type of cacao desired.
- Every stage of cacao production is done by hand: planting, irrigating, harvesting, fermenting and drying. Investing in ethically sourced cacao is every conscious consumer's responsibility.
- Cacao is categorised into three main varieties: Criollo; Forastero, the most common and most bitter; and Trinitario, a hybrid of the first two, with a lightly fruity aroma.
- Cacao paste is the purest form of chocolate that can be consumed: it is largely unprocessed, and different from the powdered cacao and chocolate.
- It has the highest antioxidant concentration of any major food in the world. Cacao is thirty times higher in antioxidants than red wine, twenty times more potent in antioxidants than blueberries, three times higher than acai, and twice as much as chaga mushrooms. These antioxidants protect our cells from free radical damage and therefore contribute to our longevity and state of well-being.
- In a health hierarchy, crushed cacao beans (aka nibs) before processing rank first, followed by cacao paste which is stone ground nibs, then cacao powder - which has had the cacao butter removed.
- Watching your caffeine intake? Per serve cacao contains about 1/4 less caffeine than of a cup of coffee. All cacao contains theobromine - the sister molecule to caffeine. Theobromine is more of an activator than a stimulator, and does not affect your central nervous system like caffeine. No jitters and crashes! Theobromine has a beneficial effect on our cardiovascular health by relaxing the heart muscle and improving oxygen flow. Cacao is a diuretic, but breaks down twice as slow as caffeine, so it is non-addictive.