The Latin name of the cacao tree is Theobroma Cacao, which is translated as “Food of the Gods.” Cacao Beans were highly valued and used as currency amongst the Aztecs & Mayans. According to a 16th-century Aztec document, one could purchase a tamale for 1 bean and a decent sized hen for 100 beans. Another reason these little guys were treasured so much was because many of the Aztecs and Mayans believed the cacao bean had divine properties, which could be used in sacred rituals for birth, marriage, and death.
In the 17th Century, after Cortez brought cacao back to Spain, it became very popular to drink this with sugar. This delicacy was mainly a privilege of the rich, until the steam engine came along in the 1700s and made mass production more prevalent. As a result of the availability, this allowed more people to experiment with this superfood.
In 1828, a Dutch chemist discovered a way to make powdered chocolate. He did this by separating about half of the natural fat (cacao butter) from the chocolate liquor and then grinding what was left and combining it with alkaline salts to curb the bitter taste. This gentleman’s product became known as “Dutch Cocoa.” However, the credit for making the first chocolate bar is given to Joseph Fry, who discovered that one could make a moldable chocolate paste by adding the melted cacao butter back into the “Dutch Cocoa.” By 1868, Cadbury jumped on board and began to market boxes of chocolate candies in England. Within a few years, milk chocolate hit the market by another heavyweight: Nestle.
Today, there are many smaller, artisan type chocolatiers that are leading the charge to make chocolate with less fillers and chemicals, and only using pristine ingredients— the fewer the better. Foods Alive is proud to be one of these in the long history of chocolate artisans by offering our Raw Organic Chocolate, made with only 3 Certified Organic ingredients: Cacao Beans, Coconut Sugar, and Cacao Butter.
One benefit of eating chocolate (in moderation) is that they have antioxidant polyphenols, whose properties include neutralizing free radicals. These can potentially help slow down the development of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, heart disease, or cancer. Chocolate also contains anandamide (Sanskrit word for “bliss”), which is a neurotransmitter in the brain that temporarily blocks the feelings of pain and anxiety. The theobromine in chocolate has been shown to produce higher levels of physical energy and mental alertness while somehow also lowering blood pressure in women.
Foods Alive receives their Rainforest Alliance Certified Cacao Beans from Ecuador. But before they come in, they are harvested from pods on the cacao tree. Harvesting cacao pods is done by hand because the harvester needs to cut the pod from the tree, making sure not to damage the surrounding flowering buds, immature pods, or the stem area from which the bud grows. Once this is complete, the pods are carefully broken to release the gold— the cacao beans. The beans and pulp are scooped out right away and piled onto a mat made of banana leaves. Then they are covered or put into a bin or a box with a lid. At this point the fermentation process takes place.
Since the cacao bean is now high in moisture, it must be dried before it is stored or makes it to its destination. There are a couple of ways to dry cacao beans, depending on the climate or size of the plantation. One way is by sun-drying it, which usually happens on smaller plantations that are located in drier regions. In areas where there is daily rainfall, the beans are usually dried in sheds, as long as there is enough air circulating around the flats of beans. The use of fire to speed up the drying process of the cacao bean is highly frowned upon by most chocolatiers because it leaves a smoky taste. Once the percentage of moisture in the cacao bean arrives at 6 to 7 percent, they are sorted and then bagged. The sorting process is pretty important because most cacao beans on the market are sold based on their size and quality. Once this process is complete the cacao beans are loaded onto ships and trucks and then delivered to chocolate manufacturers.
Once the beans are received for Foods Alive, they go through a winnower, where the shell is removed and we are left with the nibs. The nibs are then put into a mill, where they are broken down even more. During the winnowing and milling process, the temperature reaches around 80 °F. Then once the ingredients (Organic Coconut Sugar & Organic Cacao Butter) are added, they are blended in a mixer (around 80°F). After the blending process, it’s then placed in a mill (around 105 °-110°F) where the mixture is crushed until it turns from a pasty mix into a smooth rich chocolate. Then the chocolate is placed in a tempering unit. The tempering process raises the temperature of the chocolate to 113°F, then lowers it to 82°F and then raises it again to 87°F. This allows the chocolate to keep a solid state instead of it being soft. Once this is finished, the chocolate is ready to go through a depositor to provide tasty drops of Organic Raw Chocolate and then they are packaged into bags with love.
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