Chocolate is definitely one of the biggest and sweetest nutritional “weaknesses” for most of us. But did you know that by incorporating the chocolate in your diet you also bring very important beneficial properties for the body? In fact, cocoa chocolate is often described by some nutritionists as “superfood” and it is certainly a divine tasty food!
Origin – History
Cocoa is produced from the fruits of the cacao tree which can reach up to 10 meters in height while producing only 20-30 fruits. The official name of the plant is Theobroma cacao, which means the food of the gods. In fact, cocoa was discovered by the Aztecs, who believed that it was the food of the gods, which was stolen by Ketzalkoatl (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quetzalcoatl) (link on “discovered by the Aztecs” only) and given to humans.
The Aztecs used to enjoy cocoa by crushing the seeds and mixing them with vanilla, corn, spices, and chili pepper. They then dissolved the mixture in boiling water and drank “Choclatl”, “bitter water”, a refreshing drink, and at the same time rich in healing properties.
Cocoa beans arrived in Europe in the 16th century from Spanish explorers. In Europe the seeds are processed differently before consumption, adding mainly sweeteners. So chocolate and cocoa soon became popular with both the royal courts and the people.
In the 18th century, the Dutch took the reins from the Spaniards and Amsterdam became the international “port of cocoa” as a strong chocolate industry was founded in the country led by the Dutch food chemist Coenraad Johannes van Houten.
The bean – Cocoa production
The beans of the cacao tree need 4 months to mature to be collected. Then the seeds are removed and after fermenting for 3 – 6 days they are left to dry in the sun for another 7 – 10 days. Finally, they are packed in sacks and shipped to factories.
Cocoa trees thrive in warm climates around Ecuador and are categorized according to their geographical location: West Africa, Central, and South America, Asia, Oceania. But most of the world’s production, about 60%, is of African origin and is produced mainly on small farms and cooperatives.
Nutritional value of cocoa chocolate
This sweet food of the gods is rich in nutrients and has significant nutritional value for the human body. In fact, scientists claim that it is so rare that so many nutrients are found in a single product. The antioxidants and flavonoids and phenols found in cocoa help prevent “bad” cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and protect the genetic material of cells. In fact, according to recent research, cocoa has been found to have twice the antioxidant content of green tea and three times that of red wine. So do not hesitate to include in your diet the food of the gods with the velvety texture, rich taste, and wonderful aroma as a drink or other kind of sweet “temptation”.
Prepare the perfect cocoa drink at home!
In a large bowl (or cezve) add milk until it is about 3/4 full and add 2 teaspoons of cocoa and 3-4 teaspoons of sugar. Mix well with a spoon, trying to “break” the cocoa lumps on the walls of the cup. It’s okay if some lumps remain as they will melt as the milk warms up. If you’re using a mug, be sure to heat the milk to the desired temperature.
Try giving your drink a spicier note by adding brown sugar, a little cinnamon, and a little cayenne pepper or a little ginger, if you prefer. If you want to avoid milk, try replacing it with soy, almond, or hazelnut milk, add 2 teaspoons of cocoa, and 2-4 teaspoons of sugar or maple syrup. Dare to add a shot of your favorite rum or liqueur to your mug!
Give it a go to experiment by adding your favorite flavors to the right amount depending on your taste and mood for an ideal result and good enjoyment!