Theobroma cacao or ‘food of god’!
The cocoa trees originate in the tropical regions of South America, Central America and Africa where it is said that 70% of the world production of cocoa beans come from.
The cocoa tree only thrives in warm areas blessed with constant rainfalls. They need shelter and protection from the scorching heat of the tropical sun. To provide such an environment, farmers grow taller trees among their cocoa plantations. The spreading branches and leaves of their towering neighbours provide the cocoa trees with the shade they need to grow and develop. Shaded cocoa trees can produce fruits for 75 to 100 years.
FOLKLORE & HISTORY
The cocoa beans have been known for centuries, as long ago as 1500 BC when Indians of America were the first recorded culture to have grown cocoa trees as a domestic crop. The tradition developed throughout the ages. Cocoa was prized by the Mayans and Aztecs, who apparently used them as currency. They introduced it to the Portuguese. The use and making of the drink spread from then to the Spaniards and the rest of Europe.
The production of the cocoa powder goes hand in hand with the extraction of the oil or cocoa butter, part of which goes back into the chocolate making process. The remaining of the butter extraction is used as food stuff or in cosmetics.
The fruit grow in the shape of a long pod, directly on the trunk and main branches. The tree produces fruits all year round which means that it bears at the same times, flowers, unripe and ripening fruits which at maturity contain a dozen odourless and bitter seeds. The beans are fermented for 5 days and dried, a process during which they turn into a deep rich brown colour, lose some of their bitterness and acquire a richer flavour. The beans are then roasted and ground into a non-alcoholic liquor called ’chocolate liquor’. Huge hydraulic presses squeeze out the cocoa butter which will turn solid on cooling down. The remaining cake will turn into cocoa powder after undergoing a number of crushing and milling steps.
Unrefined cocoa butter is darkish in colour with the distinctive aroma of cocoa. Filtering the oil will decrease its aroma and give it a paler shade of brown. A refined version can also be found , which is white and odourless.
Cocoa butter was traditionally used by local populations to protect the skin against the effects of the sun. In modern cosmetics, it is a useful ingredients to use in ointments and balms as it will maintain the consistency of the product. The melting point of cocoa butter is 34 to 38 C.
It allows to be more creative with the blending of the oils and use numerous nutritious vegetable oils that naturally come in a liquid form. Adding 20 % of cocoa butter to a blend of shea butter and vegetable oils will give the product a consistency which will remain stable throughout the seasons.
Materia Aromatica cocoa butter is certified organic by the Soil Association. It is filtered from the crude oil so that the aroma of cocoa is not overwhelming. It has not undergone any refining process or been in contact with any solvent or chemical.
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For ideas and sugestions on how to use cocoa butter