Home >> The-grocers-encyclopedia-1911 >> Adulteration to Food Values >> Cocoa and Chocolate_P1

Cocoa and Chocolate

beans, seeds, trees, flavor, shells, process and food

Page: 1 2 3

COCOA AND CHOCOLATE. The word "Cocoa," now universally used in English-speaking countries, is a corruption of "Cacao"—the full botanical title being "Theobroma Cacao," which, translated, is "Cocoa, the food of the Gods," clearly demonstrating the early recognition of its high food value! Cocoa beans were used as food in Mexico, the West Indies and elsewhere long before the discovery of this hemisphere by Columbus. The earliest references to it are found in the writings of the explorers who followed him—tradition has it that the first to tell of the new beverage was Bernal Diaz, one of the Spanish officers with Cortez, who observed Montezuma quaffing a concoction of it from a golden cup. Its use was soon an established custom in Spain and Portugal, which are to this day large per capita consumers of cocoa and chocolate, and as early as 1550 chocolate factories of considerable size existed in the south of Europe—in Lisbon, Genoa, Turin, Bayonne and Marseilles.

The cocoa-tree grows to an average height of twenty to thirty feet and is of spreading habits and healthy growth. Bucare-trees, tropical trees of rapid growth, are set between the rows to shade the young trees until they have attained maturity. A minimum temperature of 80° Fahr. and plenty of moisture, both of soil and atmo sphere, are required to bring out their full bearing possibilities.

The trees begin to bear fruit at three or four years, continuing to the age of about forty years. Some fruit is ripening all the year round, but two main crops are gathered, generally in June and December (or January)—the latter being the more important.

The cocoa beans or seeds are found in pods of varying shapes from seven to twelve inches long and rather more than a third as much in diameter at the thickest part. The ripe pod is dark yellow or yellowish-brown in color with a thick, tough rind enclosing a mass of cellular tissue. The beans, about the size of almonds, but more suggestive of vegetable beans in shape, are buried in the tissue, each in a thin shell varying from the papery texture of the Ceylon and Java beans to the hard skin of the other varieties. When fresh they are bitter in taste and of a light color, turning reddish-brown or reddish-grey during the processes of sweating and curing.

A curious fact is that the pods grow most freely on the older branches and the trunks of the trees, often on those entirely bare of foliage, instead of among the fullest foliage as with the majority of other fruits.

In gathering, only fully ripened pods are taken. They are first left on the ground for twenty-four hours to dry and are then cut open and the beans taken out (the beans still remaining in their shells). The next operation is the "sweating" or curing. The acid juice which marks the beans is first drained off and they are then placed in a sweating box, in which they are enclosed and allowed to ferment for some time, great care being taken to keep the temperature from rising too high. The fermenting process is in some cases effected by throwing the seeds into holes or trenches in the ground and covering them with earth or clay. The seeds in this process, which is called "claying," are occasionally stirred to keep the fermentation from proceeding too violently.

The final plantation process is the drying of the mass in the sun—the beans of good quality which have been carefully fermented there assuming the warm, reddish tint so highly prized. They are then ready to be put into bags and sent out into the markets of the world. In the cocoa and chocolate manufacturing establishments the beans are cleaned, sorted and roasted—the roasting being most important, for upon it depends to a great extent the flavor of the finished cocoa. Too little, leaves the beans crude and flavored, and too much will make them bi tter.

The roasting machine keeps the seeds in constant motion over the fire or hot pipes for about twenty-five to forty five minutes. They go next to the "cracker," which cracks the shells and breaks the beans into small fragments. After the "cracker" comes the "fanner," which separates the shells from the bean fragments and sorts them later by screens into six different sizes, the last being as fine as dust. The cracked beans are known as "cocoa-nibs." The next step is the "blending." beans of different plantations and countries vary in flavor and strength very much as do tea-leaves or coffee beans, and it is the aim of each manufacturer to make a blend which will produce the best possible flavor, aroma, etc.

Page: 1 2 3