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Chocolate is the food of the gods and the sweet taste of love which has captivated mankind with its exotic flavor and sensual texture on the palate. The world would be a poorer place if it were not for the heavenly cocoa beanDiscover its origin and the benefits that incorporating cocoa powder into your diet will bring to your health!
History of chocolate and cocoa
It is known that the first cocoa trees grew naturally in the shade of tropical rainforests in the basins of the Amazon and Orinoco hills about 4,000 years ago. It is presumed that the Mayans began to cultivate it more than 2500 years ago.
The word cocoa (or cacao) comes from the Aztec word “cacahuatl”. According to legend, cacao was the most beautiful paradisiac tree for the Aztecs, who attributed multiple virtues to it, such as calming hunger and thirst, providing universal wisdom and curing diseases.
For the Mayans, cocoa symbolized physical vigor and longevity, and was used as a medicine prescribed by their doctors as a relaxant, stimulant and restorative. Cocoa butter was used as an ointment to heal wounds.
Some years later, they invented and started consuming a mixture named “chocolha” which was created using the cocoa seeds they grew as well. Initially, it was created as a brew fit only for the greatest and most relevant nobles in their civilization.
Different ways of elaborating the brew were described — more liquid or thicker, with more or less foam, with honey, corn and even spicy chili.
In 1502, Christopher Columbus received, as a welcome offering, weapons, cloth and sacks of dark beans that, in Aztec society, served as both currency and a consumer product. And so, the first shipment of cocoa to Spain took place in 1524.
In Spain, the “chocolha” was adapted to the taste of the Europeans by the monks. They modified it by adding sugar and honey, among other sweet ingredients. The Spanish nobility kept this drink as a secret for a century, but as more nobles grew fond of it, this secretiveness could no longer last forever.
Chocolate manufacturing began in Switzerland during the mid-19th century, where Henry Nestlé and Daniel Peter came up with the idea of mixing condensed milk along cocoa. This idea was what ultimately made Swiss chocolate famous.
Thst’s how despite this secretiveness, the popularity of chocolate grew stronger every day, to the point where chocolate can now be found in any store at an affordable price. No longer food of gods, but still a taste just as heavenly as it’s ever been.
Difference between cocoa powder and chocolate powder
Chocolate and cocoa are often lumped into the same product category, even though they are not at all the same thing. The first one can be eaten directly or used in recipes, while cocoa usually needs to be processed in some way before consumption, so it’s more of an ingredient rather than food.
Their nature seems simple, but then, how come we can find different types of cocoa powder, all with different properties and uses? Chocolate is made from cocoa beans, which are highly nutritious seeds that grow on trees.
Cocoa powder, on one hand, is the healthier option in this conflict. Cocoa powder originates from just the cocoa (without cocoa butter), which makes for the more pure option in this comparison. However, there’s something that not many people say about it.
Cocoa powder, unlike what many would think, does not have a sweet taste on its own. Purists usually favor it over chocolate powder because of its benefits, but the truth is that pure cocoa does not appeal to everyone. But it does give a strong, bitter quirk to your foods when used accordingly.
On the other hand, chocolate powder is very sweet and can be used for almost everything that’s also sweet as well; and this is one of the main advantages of it – after all, who doesn’t like chocolate?
Powdered chocolate brings the cherished flavor of chocolate in the form of powder so you can happily add a delightful cocoa touch to your desserts, at only the cost of 30% of cocoa in the mix.
It makes for the perfect balance between conventional chocolate and pure cocoa, bringing in the best of both worlds to your taste buds.
Caribbean Trading has both cocoa and chocolate powder. My advice is that if you’ve never tried cocoa powder or are not familiar with the bitter taste of cocoa at all, you should go for chocolate powder first, as it’s the easier one to use and enjoy.
And then, when you’re ready to add a small touch of cocoa bitterness to your diet, then you can go ahead and try out one of the cocoa powders on offer. Many people instantly convert to them!
Nutritious benefits of chocolate powder
A good way to measure the “purity” of chocolate is by looking at how much cocoa there is in it. The more cocoa in chocolate, the darker and more bitter it will become. Sometimes, dedicated chocolate manufacturers that sell to the public even tag them in accordance with their percentage of cocoa.
The formula is simple: the health benefits of chocolate come from the properties of cocoa. But a chocolate is made from a mixture of cocoa paste, cocoa butter (fat) and sugar or sweeteners in varying proportions, along with other ingredients that can vary as well, such as milk.
There’s a load of benefits to consuming dark chocolate powder. The main attraction of cocoa is its high amounts of antioxidants, which help prevent oxidative stress, which in turn can increase the risk of developing heart disease. But that’s not the only benefit:
- According to research, eating daily portions of dark chocolate has a great influence on the areas of the brain responsible for memory. Thus, if you regularly consume chocolate, cocoa or anything that contains them, your memory will improve.
- Chocolate releases endorphins and serotonin, known to be the hormones of happiness. Moreover, it also contains phenylethylamine, which is a chemical that provokes feelings of exhilaration and joy.
- Dark chocolate in particular can help fight problems related to high blood pressure, as it will have the direct effect of lowering it, and also has antioxidants which can help decrease the risk of developing cancer and other diseases.
- Another fact to point out about chocolate is that the specific kinds of fat that it contains are not detrimental to health, nor do they mess with your bad cholesterol levels, making dark chocolate the ideal dietary supplement.
If we look at its definition, dark chocolate is considered as such when it has from fifty to ninety percent of cocoa in it. Remember, cocoa is the healthy part of chocolate, so don’t neglect it!
How the powders are made
Ivory Coast, in West Africa, is the main exporter of cocoa seeds in the whole world.. Here, workers harvest cocoa seeds from the trees every day, and put them through the processes of drying and fermenting themselves. When ready, they are then sold to a broker, which transports them to the next step in production.
Many products can be obtained from these harvested, dried and fermented cocoa beans, but the most common and well-known is cocoa powder. Cocoa powder, basically, is the basis on which most chocolate is made in the first place, as it is the main way different chocolates can be made.
The cocoa beans, now in the factory, are separated from the butter and reduced to a mass that is then transformed through hydraulic pressure into a sort of “cake” that is called “cocoa paste”.
After the cocoa fat (cocoa butter) has been removed, the beans are processed, creating a low-fat powdered product. From then on, there’s two ways cocoa powder is made: naturally or through the Dutch process. The natural one is more acidic and red, and the Dutch process one is browner and less acidic.
Chocolate powder, then, is a mixture containing cocoa powder, flours and sugars. The proportion of cocoa in this mixture must be equal to or greater than 30%. However, dark chocolate always contains a much higher percentage of cocoa than conventional chocolate.
It is the variations in cocoa processing, the different ways of harvesting, drying and fermenting that make up the different ways chocolate can be produced.
What can use chocolate powder
Regardless of how it’s made or its history, chocolate is and always will be the iconic and universal taste of sweetness. Whether it be today, tomorrow or decades upon decades in the future, chocolate will always be regarded as one of the most addicting and likable sweet foods to exist.
You can use this delectable product to enhance the sweetness of any dessert, and add a neat detail to the top for presentation. Be it mousse, sponge cakes, cookies or brownies; with chocolate powder, the potential is limitless!
In our store you can find different varieties of cocoa powder. Some of them are even flavored! Ideal to add to your everyday meals. Include cocoa powder to your diet and check its benefits!