Cocoa beans: Properties and Benefits
WHAT ARE COCOA BEANS?
Growing cocoa beans requires a special humid climate with temperatures between 20 and 30 degrees Celsius, which can be found near the equator. The plants require consistent temperatures and should not be exposed to direct sunlight. In fact, they are usually sheltered by a banana tree (a technique known as "sombramiento"). The plant itself (known as Theobroma cacao or cocoa tree) grows to about 3 metres in height and its pods (fruit) grow straight out of the trunk.
While the flowers bloom constantly, only one in every one hundred actually becomes a pod. Cocoa plantations bear fruit twice a year in different periods, depending on the region in which they are located (usually in March and October). The cocoa pod is ovoid, 15-20 cm long and generally contains about 40 grams' worth of cocoa beans. Inside, there is a white, sugary pulp.
Cocoa beans are the seeds of the fruit of the cocoa tree.
In ancient times, cocoa beans were used by the indigenous peoples of Central America as currency, as cocoa was considered the 'food of the gods' and was used in numerous religious rituals.
Inside the pod, the beans are protected by a white, sugary pulp and only after fermentation and roasting do they take on their characteristic cocoa flavour.
After cooling, the beans are put into a grinding machine to separate the skin, which is not discarded but chopped to obtain nibs.
Nibs are crunchy granules with delicate roasted notes, perfect in combination with dark chocolate.
Cocoa beans are also the main ingredient in chocolate production, as cocoa butter and cocoa powder are obtained by processing them.
COCOA BEANS: NUTRITIONAL VALUES
ENERGY 230 Kcal
FAT 14 g
CARBOHYDRATE 58 g
Of which Sugars 1.8 g
PROTEIN 20 g
CAFFEINE 230 mg
Cocoa beans are highly energising due to their high caffeine content, making them particularly suitable for those who need to maintain concentration over a long period of time or play sports.
PROPERTIES, BENEFITS AND CONTRAINDICATIONS OF COCOA BEANS
Cocoa beans have many beneficial properties. They are very rich in vitamins and minerals including magnesium, iron and calcium, as well as antioxidants, flavonoids and polyphenols that protect the body from free radicals. Furthermore, especially if eaten raw, i.e. not roasted, they are highly energising due to their high caffeine content, making them particularly suitable for those who need to maintain concentration over a long period of time or play sports.
HOW TO EAT COCOA BEANS AND WHERE TO BUY THEM
Cocoa beans can be bought from specialist shops, but not everyone likes their very bitter taste. The ideal combination is with a fruit salad, for the perfect contrast between sweet and bitter flavours, balanced with a touch of cinnamon. Cocoa beans can also be used in biscuit and cake mixes. Simply chop them up and add them to shortcrust pastry along with dried fruit for an even more delicious taste and aroma. Nibs are also perfect for enhancing yoghurt (perhaps in combination with muesli), and can also be used to add a 'wow' factor to salads or risottos.
If you want to benefit from all the properties of the cocoa bean, we recommend dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa content.