Chocolate Tree and the Benefits of Cocoa Beans
The Aztec people had a favorite drink, which they called Chocolatl, meaning “bitter water.” They drank it every day and, despite the bitter taste, it was considered a real treat and was very popular. Later, the Europeans who populated a large area of Central America contributed to its preparation. Due to their resourcefulness, today we enjoy chocolate in all its shapes and forms.
It is no secret that chocolate is made from cocoa beans, the seeds of the cocoa tree. You need approximately 500 of these small kernels to make two pounds of the sweet. So you have to wonder why chocolate is relatively inexpensive when one tree can produce beans to make no more than 11 pounds of it per year. Moreover, they require harvest by hand. Essentially, it is worth purchasing a pricier product in order to be sure that there is more cocoa and less other ingredients in your chocolate bar.
The height of one tree reaches approximately 50 feet, but there are smaller ones, too. The plant does not like direct sunlight, so a plantation of cocoa trees usually includes several trees of different species, often mango and banana trees, rubber, coconut, and avocado.
If you think that all you have to do is to plant a tree, and then merely harvest the fruits, think again: the plant is very temperamental and requires meticulous care. For instance, the first flowers appear only six years after planting, but then they bear fruit for 40–80 years.
The pinkish-white flowers grow in bunches not only on the branches but also in the bark of a trunk. It takes up to 4 months for a fruit to ripen; fruits resemble large cucumbers or slightly elongated melons and weigh up to one and a half pounds (30–50 beans). You can harvest fruit twice a year, but only the first of them attain the highest quality.
Nowadays, machines have almost completely replaced workers, but in some industries, technology is not allowed. All ripened fruits of the chocolate tree are cut with machetes and divided into parts, and the seeds are taken out by hand.
Fruits dry in specially designed boxes lined with banana leaves for up to 10 days. At the end of the term, the seeds turn brown-purple and smell delicious. Why not dry them in the sun, you ask? It makes fruits bitter and tart and they lose all the value.
Afterward, the seeds are sorted and roasted, and their shell is removed to produce cacao nibs, which are then crushed and ground until they form a dense, supple mass that develops into bitter chocolate. And then sugar, milk powder, vanilla and a variety of flavors come into play, producing the chocolate we purchase so often and use with such pleasure.
Benefits of Cocoa Beans
Cocoa beans are a source of valuable components. They contain approximately 300 elements that create lipid, protein, and mineral compositions. Here are the benefits provided by cocoa beans:
- They help speed up metabolism.
- They help improve heart muscle function, as well as the condition of the blood vessels.
- They replenish the deficit of such elements as chromium, magnesium, zinc, and iodine.
- They protect the body from harmful external factors.
- They accelerate skin regeneration.
- They alleviate some symptoms of diabetes.
- They help treat cold-related diseases.
- They help intestinal inflammation.
- They alleviate menopause symptoms.
- They extend life.
If you eat three-quarters of an ounce of raw cocoa daily, you will stop suffering from insomnia, and feel a surge of strength and energy in the morning. After a month, your complexion will improve, and your hormonal balance will return to normal.
Cocoa Beans in Cosmetology
Due to their composition, cocoa beans help tone and tighten the skin, improve the synthesis of elastin and collagen, activate metabolic processes, and eliminate stretch marks. Many people mistakenly assume that they can enjoy cocoa treatments only in a professional salon, yet in reality, cocoa face masks are easy to make at home!
Such treatments are usually for all-purpose use: they are suitable for women of all ages, as well as teenagers with problematic skin. Cocoa eliminates acne and blackheads, moisturizes, regulates the sebaceous glands, and makes the skin more elastic.
It is also great for weight-loss! Nutritionists say that whenever you feel hungry and do not want to overeat, you should have one teaspoon of cocoa or unsweetened cocoa powder drink, and you won’t feel hunger for another 3 hours. Did you know this about cocoa? Could you imagine that the fruits of the chocolate tree look this way? Comment down below and let us know!