What is CACAO?
Cacao, Theobroma cacao, is a tropical evergreen tree in the family Byttneriaceae. It is native to Central and South America and is cultivated extensively for its seed, which is the source of COCOA, CHOCOLATE, and cocoa butter. Cacao is a wide-branched evergreen that grows up to 7.5 m (25 ft) tall and bears seedpods up to 30 cm (1 ft) long and 10 cm (4 in) thick, with a hard leathery shell. Pods contain as many as 40 seeds, or beans, some up to 2.5 cm (1 in) wide. Several species of Theobroma are cultivated in tropical America. The principal species used for cocoa, is grown throughout the wet, lowland tropics, especially in south-east Asia, South America, and West Africa, where the trees are planted under the shade of taller trees. They usually bear fruit 4 years after they have been planted. Workers harvest cacao beans with knives. After extraction from the fruit, the beans are placed in piles, covered with banana leaves, and allowed to ferment; afterward they are dried to prevent moulding. They are then sacked and shipped to chocolate or cocoa manufacturers. Cacao beans were once used as money by the people of Mexico and Central America. There are three broad types of cocao plant: FORASTERO and CRILLO plus TRINITARIO which is a hybrid of Forastero and Crillo. Within these types are several varieties.
What is COCOA?
Cocoa is finely pulverised de-fatted, roasted CACAO kernels, to which natural and artificial spices and flavours may be added. It is commercially manufactured by pumping hot CHOCOLATE liquor (semi-liquid ground cacao kernels) into hydraulic cage presses where, under extreme pressure, part of the fat, or cocoa butter, is removed. The fat content of cocoa varies from less than 10% to 22% or more for breakfast or high fat cocoa. Cocoa may be Dutch-processed by mild alkali treatment to change and darken colour and improve flavour. Cocoa is the flavouring ingredient in many confections, baked goods, ice creams, puddings, and beverages. It is also used to flavour some tobaccos and pharmaceuticals.