Tag Archives: Theobroma
Chocolate literally grows on trees, appearing in its raw state as pods on the 40-60 foot tall trees known botanically as “Theobroma cacao,” which means “food of the gods.” This widebranching tropical evergreen has grown wild in Central America since prehistoric times. It also grows in South America, Africa and part of Asia.
· The Mayan Indians of Mexico began using a form of chocolate as early as 600 a.d., at which point they worshiped the cocoa bean as an idol, a literal gift from the heavens.
· Cocoa beans were thought to have fearsome magical powers by the Maya and were carefully used in rituals, religious ceremonies and healings by priests. The Maya used cocoa medicinally as a treatment for fever, coughs and even discomfort during pregnancy.
· The Maya had a God, Ykchaua, who served as the patron of cocoa merchants.
· The Maya were the first to invent a cocoa drink, a hot, mostly bitter beverage made up ground cocoa pods and spices.
· Later, the Aztec Indians improved upon the recipe, sweetening it with vanilla and honey. They called their drink “xocoati” (pronounced similar to Chocolatl), meaning “bitter water.”
· In Aztec myth, the god of agriculture, Questzalcoatl, traveled to earth carrying the cocoa tree from Paradise, because it would bring humans wisdom and power.
· Chocolate became so highly regarded by the Aztecs that it was used as a form of currency along with gold dust.
· The Florentine Codex, one of the main historical sources describing Aztec life, calls chocolate “The drink of nobles,” and notes that it must be prepared with the meticulous care due to its powerful nature.
· Although Columbus returned to Europe with the first cocoa beans, no one knew what to do with them and they were dismissed in favor of other trade goods.
· Europeans got their first real taste of chocolate when Emperor Moctezuma met the explorer Cortes and his army with a foaming hot chocolate drink.
The story begins some 3,000 years ago in the jungles of Mexico and Central America with the chocolate tree, Theobroma Cacao, and the complex processes necessary to transform its bitter seeds into what is now known as chocolate. This was centuries before chocolate was consumed in generally unsweetened liquid form and used as currency by the Maya, and the Aztecs after them. The Spanish conquest of Central America introduced chocolate to Europe, where it first became the drink of kings and aristocrats and then was popularized in coffeehouses.
Weeding the cocoa project
1. Cocoa is a cash crop. Cocoa growing can be profitable if the right kind of cocoa is grown, it is properly raised in a seed bed, it is planted properly under enough shade and in the right kind of soil, it is cared for properly as it grows including proper pruning, weeding, mulching, fertilizing and protection from diseases and pests, and it is harvested and processed properly. Cocoa is produced in tropical countries, but is processed and consumed in temperate countries.
2. Cocoa is an under storey species from on the equatorial slopes of the Andes Mountains in South America but is now cultivated widely. Two thirds of the world’s production comes from West Africa and one third from Brazil and Dominican Republic. Cocoa has about 20 subspecies and cultivars are named according to the place where they were found or developed. The Criollo types have elongated, ridged, pointed fruits and white cotyledons. The Forastero types have with short, roundish, almost smooth fruits
and purple cotyledons (2n = 20). It is classified in the plant family Sterculiaceae and has the botanical name “Theobroma cacao L“. Some botanical names have “L” after them to show that they were named by the famous Swedish botanist Linnaeus (1707 – 1778). He believed that the ancient Aztecs of South America thought that the cocoa drink was a “drink of the gods”, in Latin “theo broma”. Mexicans named the pounded seeds “chocolate”. Cocoa is now grown in many hot wetlands including the Pacific islands, but it needs a rich deep soil so this tree cannot be grown on the coral atolls.
3. The seeds of cocoa called cocoa “beans” are used to make chocolate. Fermented seeds are roasted, cracked and ground to give a powdery mass. Fat is taken out to make cocoa. Cocoa has many uses including folk medicine. The seed contains energy, protein, fat, Ca, Mg, P, Fe, carotene, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and ascorbic acid. Chocolate is particularly high in phenylethylamine and contains more than 300 volatile compounds and theobromine, a stimulant related to caffeine (Theobromine does not contain bromine!). It contains some caffeine, in milligrams:
Cup: expresso coffee 310 mg, boiled coffee 100 mg, instant coffee 65 mg, tea 10 to 50 mg, cocoa 13 mg
Can: Coca Cola, 20 mg, Can (6 oz.) Pepsi Cola: 10 mg.