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Cocoa

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Cocoa is the dried and partially fermented fatty seed of the Cacao tree from which chocolate is made. They are the basis of chocolate, as well as many Mesoamerican foods such as mole sauce and tejate.

Cocoa can often also refer to cocoa powder, the dry powder made by grinding cocoa seeds and removing the cocoa butter from the dark, bitter cocoa solids. It may also refer to the combination of both cocoa powder and cocoa butter together. A cocoa pod has a rough leathery rind about 3 cm thick, but this varies with the origin and variety of the pod. It is filled with sweet, mucilaginou
Feves
s pulp called 'baba de cacao' in South America, enclosing 30 to 50 large almond-like seeds (beans) that are fairly soft and pinkish or purplish in color.

The Nib is the term for the center or meat of the cocoa bean. When ground, the nib becomes Chocolate Liquor (also known as Cocoa Liquor).

HistoryEdit

The cocoa tree is native to the Americas, and may have originated in the foothills of the Andes in the Amazon and Orinoco basins of South America where today, examples of wild cacao still can be found. However, it may have had a larger range in the past, evidence for which may be obscured because of its cultivation in these areas long before, as well as after, the Spanish arrived. It may have been introduced into Central America by the ancient Mayas, and cultivated in Mexico by the Toltecs and later by the Aztecs. It was a common currency throughout Meso America and the Caribbean before the Spanish conquests.

Cacao Aztec Sculpture

Mexican sculpture of a man holding a fruit of the cocoa tree.


Cocoa trees and Cocoa flowers will grow in a limited geographical zone, of approximately 20 degrees to the north and south of the Equator. Almost seventy percent of the world crop is grown in West Africa.

Cocoa was an important commodity in Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. Spanish chroniclers of the conquest of Mexico by Hernán Cortés relate that when Montezuma II, emperor of the Aztecs, dined he took no other beverage than chocolate, served in a golden goblet and eaten with a golden spoon. Flavored with vanilla and spices, his chocolate was whipped into a froth that dissolved in the mouth. No fewer than 50 pitchers of it were prepared for the emperor each day, and 2000 more for nobles of his court.

Chocolate was introduced to Europe by the Spaniards and became a popular beverage by the mid 1600s. They also introduced the cacao tree into the West Indies and the Philippines.

The cacao plant was first given its botanical name by Swedish natural scientist Carolus Linnaeus in his original classification of the plant kingdom, who called it "Theobroma cacao" (food of the gods).

VarietiesEdit

Cocoa Powder When Cocoa solids are separated from cocoa butter, the result is Cocoa Powder.

Cocoa Butter Cocoa Butter, also called theobroma oil or theobroma cacao, is a pale-yellow, pure edible vegetable fat extracted from the cocoa bean. It is used to make chocolate, biscuits, baked goods, pharmaceuticals, ointments, and toiletries. Cocoa butter has a mild chocolate flavor and aroma.

TriviaEdit

  • Cocoa was once used as a currency in the pre-Columbian Mesoamerican civilizations.

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