The talented people who attend our chocolate making courses are an inquisitive lot and rightly so. As well as being interested in making beautiful chocolate truffles, naturally, they like to know more about cocoa beans and the unique properties that go to make up chocolate.
After all, we all want to know more about what we eat – especially when we’re busy making lovely types of chocolate for ourselves.
So, here at Cocoa and Heart, we get asked lots of questions about cocoa beans when we’re running our chocolate making courses. We thought it would be a good idea to compile our own favourite list of cocoa beans facts.
- The cacao (or cocoa) tree’s botanical name is Theobroma Cacao, which means “food of the gods” in Greek.
- The cocoa tree grows to be about 30 feet tall bearing white flowers and colourful fruit
- Cocoa trees originate from South America’s rainforests but today most of our cocoa is grown by about 2.5 million farmers, mainly on smallholdings in West Africa.
- Cocoa trees need both rain and sun but are usually found in the shade and are often grown beneath other trees such as mango, banana, papaya, or rubber trees.
- Cocoa trees can live for over a hundred years, but will only produce cocoa bean pods with seeds for about the first twenty-five of those years.
- There are three common species of Cocoa trees: Criollo (Central America), Forastero (West Africa and South America), and Trinitario (all producing regions).
- It takes up to 5 years for a cocoa tree to produce its first seed pods It takes about 400 beans to make a pound of chocolate.
- A tree produces about one thousand cocoa beans every year. That is enough to make about two pounds of chocolate.
- Once the beans dry, they turn a brownish-red colour.
- Cocoa solids and cocoa butter are the two main components from the beans that go into making the chocolate we enjoy today.
- The world’s population eats about two billion pounds of chocolate every year.
- The first chocolate bar was made in Switzerland in 1819, and milk chocolate was invented in 1875. Before that, chocolate was mostly enjoyed as a hot chocolate drink.
- The Mayans and Atzecs of Central and South America, used to drink bitter chocolate mixed with water into a frothy liquid. Often they added chillies and spices for extra flavour.
- Sugar was only added to chocolate much later by the Spanish to sweeten the flavour for royal courtiers.
- The Aztecs used cocoa beans as a form of currency and people paid their taxes in cocoa beans since they were highly prized and could be stored easily and for long periods.
- Cocoa beans contain naturally occurring flavonoids – these are also connected to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and some cancers.
That’s enough cocoa beans facts for the moment. All these fascinating cocoa beans facts has made me quite hungry. And what for? More chocolate of course? So, back to work for us!
Until the next time – happy chocolate eating!