The full-bodied cocoa taste, that perfect balance of sweet and bitter notes ... so delicious! Cocoa, once the liquid gold of the Aztecs is a soul warmer on a cold, miserable day, a natural energy drink, a nerve tonic and a source of sheer happiness.
Its wealth of substances and health effects makes this acerbic, dark bean a real super power food. But what is it that actually makes cocoa so precious and special? And which variety is the right one for me?
Read this #cocoabasics article to learn what cocoa is, where the cacao tree grows and what makes its fruit so special.
The cacao tree was domesticated in ancient times in the northern part of South America and in Central America. Regions in what is today Mexico, Venezuela and Guatemala are considered to be the original home of Theobroma cacao, literally translated “the food of gods“. The cacao tree has been cultivated as a crop and medical plant for more than 4,000 years. For the Aztecs and Maya the cacao beverage was part of rituals where priests invoked the gods. From ground cocoa beans and spices they made a drink they called “Xocolatl“, the forefather of modern-day “chocolate“.
To a large extent, the taste and the quality of a cocoa powder depend on the three main cultivars in use today:
Criollo: This variety is considered the most refined and nutritious luxury cocoa. The bean is a descendant of the original wild plant. Criollo chocolate is very precious.
Forastero: The bulk bean. As much as 90 per cent of world-wide cocoa production relies on Forastero.
Trinitario: The Trinitario tree is a crossbreed of Criollo and Forastero and is also categorised as “luxury cocoa“.
Cocoa and chocolate makers work with a variety of products:
And what is cocoa powder?
Cacao/cocoa bean = the seed of the cacao tree fruit (bean)
Nibs = The core of the deshelled bean
Ground nibs = cocoa paste
Cocoa butter = A fat extracted from the seeds of the cacao tree
Cocoa powder/cocoa = finely ground, fat-reduced final product
There are a number of differences between luxury cocoas and bulk cocoas. Price isn't the only one. More importantly, there are quite a few gratifying side aromas that come in tow with the full-bodied taste. While the slightly lemony Peruvian cocoas suggest notes of passion fruit, luxury cocoas from Tanzania come across rather earthy and woody. Good cocoa is complex and reveals an exceptional amount of aromas ranging from the fruity and flowery all the way to notes reminiscent of raisins or soil.
However, the aromas aren't the only characteristics to look out for. Since quality is an equally important factor in all processing stages, BecksCocoa sources fair trade and organic high-grade varieties wherever this is possible – for pure and sustainable cocoa. Not sure which variety is right for you? Then, we strongly recommend our Especial cocoa sachets for sampling.