We explain what cocoa is, its origin and the history of this famous tree. In addition, its properties and its relationship with chocolate.
What is cocoa?
The ` ` cocoa '' is an American tree of Amazonian origin, also known as `` cocoa '', since by `` cocoa '' it usually refers to the fruit that the tree gives, or even to the product of drying and fermentation of the seeds of said fruit.
It is an evergreen tree, always in bloom, which requires hot and humid climates . It usually measures about 7 meters if it is cultivated and above 20 in nature.
The fruit of the cocoa, called mazorca, is a large and oval, fleshy berry, whose coloration tends from yellow to purple, and about 30 cm long. Within each cocoa cob are between 30 and 40 seeds, embedded in a pulp. The fruit can weigh about 450 grams when ripe, which begins to occur four or five years after the tree's life.
In general, there are two harvests of cocoa per year: one towards the end of the rainy season and the beginning of the dry season, and another at the beginning of the next rainy season. Note that we refer to tropical climates without seasons. Each harvest takes between five to six months .
The natural cocoa of America is common in the territories of Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Trinidad and Tobago, but also in the areas in Mexico and on the African continent, in Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Nigeria, Togo, Republic of the Congo and Ghana, as well as in the Asian jungle of Malaysia e Indonesia.
Currently, three main varieties of cocoa are known: Creole (Caribbean and Central American mainly), Forastero (Amazonian, but mostly cultivated in Africa) and `` Trinitarian '' (hybrid). At least three modern families of cocoa are grouped around these three names.
History and origin of cocoa
Cocoa is of jungle origin, probably Amazonian. It is thought that the ancient Mesoamerican settlers, 5000 years ago, would have found and transported it to the current Mexican territory, since evidence was found of its ritual use by Olmec culture, 3, 500 years ago.
In fact, many theories about its origin derive from its name, which could come from the Mayan cacaoatl, derived from the classic Maya kakaw (a).
In fact, there is abundant documentation on the taste for cocoa-based drinks from Mayan cultures, especially the elite. In fact , cocoa infusions were left in the tombs of the Mayan kings .
It is also known that the Aztec Empire valued cocoa and in some pre-Columbian cultures it was used as currency .
Europeans knew cocoa after the conquest and colonization of America, and for the first time they included sugar in cocoa drinks to adapt them to their palate, unusual for the bitterness of the fruit.
A cocoa bean contains a huge amount of nutrients, such as proteins (11.5%), starches (7.5%), tannins (6%), water (5%), salts and trace elements (2.6%), organic acids (2%), theobromine (1.2%), caffeine (0.2%), among others.
It has a moderate stimulating effect (due to theobromine) and provides the amino acids for the composition of serotonin (troptophan). Cocoa can be toxic to dogs and cats .
Cocoa seeds and leaves are used in traditional medicine to cure various ailments, such as asthma, diarrhea, weakness, parasitism, pneumonia, colic, cough, etc.
The oil extracted from its seed, on the other hand, known as Cocoa Butter, is a usual topical remedy to treat wounds, rashes, dry or brittle lips, dermal conditions and even malaria and rheumatism.
At the same time, cocoa consumption can trigger gastrointestinal effects and is associated with the incidence of migraines.
Cocoa and chocolate
The most common product that is made with cocoa is chocolate (from n huatl xocol tl ), made in a mixture of sugar, cocoa mass and cocoa butter, to which other ingredients are attached to the pastry's taste (milk, nuts, etc.), since this preparation is traditionally sweet .
Chocolate is currently consumed in a huge variety of presentations: bars, powders, drinks, etc.
Its preparation is culturally held as its own in various parts of Europe, which came after the colonization of America and where it took advantage of the culinary tradition.