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Chocolate is one of the most loved foods in the world. It is estimated that the world’s annual consumption of chocolate is at least 7.2 million metric tons. In the Philippines, the Filipinos consume 50,000 metric tons annually.
Chocolates are derived from cacao trees. Native to tropical countries in South America, a cacao tree bears elongated pods. When ripe, these pods have sweet fleshy pulps that cover each cocoa bean.
According to Mayan and Aztec traditions, cacao was given by gods to humans after the creation. The Mayans offered cacao to their gods, thus, the father of Modern Taxonomy Carl Linnaeus gave its scientific name Theobroma cacao, or “food of the gods” in Latin.
The first cacao in Asia was planted in the Philippines in 1670 and was brought to the archipelago through the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade.
Cocoa was at first the Spaniards’ way of pronouncing cacao but later both terms came to refer to two distinct powdered derivatives of cacao beans.
Cacao powder is derived from drying, fermenting, and heating cacao beans at a low temperature. These procedures help retain the antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals the beans contain.
Cocoa powder, on the other hand, is refined at extremely high temperatures and mixed with sugars, milk fat, hydrogenated oils, and artificial flavors. As with processes that use high temperatures, nutrients are sometimes stripped away.
Aside from cacao powder and cocoa powder, from our beloved beans come cacao nibs and tablea.
Cacao nibs are derived from drying, fermenting, and crushing cacao beans into tiny dark bits. Some cacao nibs are roasted while others are not. Unroasted cacao nibs are called raw cacao nibs.
Tablea or chocolate tablet in English is from dried cacao seeds, carefully roasted for hours and ground. Grinding roasted cacao seeds produces an aromatic oily paste. Then, tablea is formed by mixing the paste with sugar and shaping it into balls.
Cacao beans, which were used once as currency by Mayans and Aztecs, are valuable in modern times for health benefits. Cacao may help:
Although overconsumption of processed chocolates increases the risk of diabetes, cocoa powder and cacao powder contain compounds that help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and help lose weight.
Cacao is rich in antioxidants that protect our cells against free radicals which cause diseases. It’s also rich in flavonoids that keep our hearts healthy. However, these and other benefits are outweighed when mixed with other ingredients of chocolate bars. Read the labels. Knowing what you eat will help you make a wise purchase.
Buy products only from trusted producers and farmers. Genuine organic products undergo rigorous certification processes and are proven to be not contaminated with inorganic pesticides.
Extend your love for chocolates to cacao farmers. Pick the brands that promote fair trade practices to ensure that farmers get a fair price for cacao.
Here are some ways you can use cacao nibs, tablea, or cocoa powder:
It is a myth that you cannot indulge your taste buds and at the same time eat healthily. A real chocoholic knows these two can be done at the same time.
For organic cacao products, check out ECHOstore’s Choco Loco variants at echostore.ph.