History of Theobroma Cacao
The cacao plant originates from the fertile forests of the Amazon in South America. Here they can still be found in the wild. The dense trees form the middle layer of the rainforest, where they can blossom optimally in a humid and shady environment. Monkeys and other animals open the pods, spreading the beans. New cacao plants take 6 years to produce pods and eventually age up to 100 years. Small, white flowers can be found on the tree trunk all year round. They must be fertilized within 24 hours by a specific type of mosquito, otherwise, the flowers die.
After fertilization, it takes 6 months before the fruit is fully ripe. These pods contain the beans from which all cocoa products are made. The pods are up to 40 centimetres long and look like a rugby ball. Thick stripes run from top to bottom over the leathery skin, which varies in colour between yellow, red and even purple.
Cacao only grows in a narrow strip around the equator, which is also known as the 'cocoa belt'. The constant climate between 21 and 32◦C and the minimum precipitation of 100 mm provides the perfect environment. Cocoa was first harvested by the Olmecs in Mexico. Later cultures, such as the Mayans and the Aztecs, took over this use and developed cultivation to make edible products.
Cacao was used as a bitter spice, a base for pasta and bread and mainly as a drink. Together with hot water, chilli pepper and cornflour, it was also known as xocoatl. The story goes that the emperor of the Maya ordered 2000 jugs of this drink for one feast. But cocoa was not only appreciated for its taste; the beans were also a means of payment and an important component in religious ceremonies throughout South America.
Processing Cocoa Beans
Our cocoa beans come from plantations all over Peru, right in the heart of the original environment of the plant. The trees are grown organically by cooperatives of local farmers. They use traditional methods but are always encouraged to find ways to do even less damage to nature. Unlike most tropical crops, such as coffee, cocoa does not grow in large deforested areas. On the contrary, they benefit from the shade of other trees. Our organic cocoa pieces are grown with the environment always in mind. We only buy products from farmers who take good care of nature and contribute to the preservation of the rainforest.
The farmers use knives on sticks to carefully cut off the pods one by one. The pods are then opened by hand to remove the beans and pulp. The beans are then given a week to ferment, which gives them their unique flavour. They are moved from crate to crate in order to get enough fresh air and to ferment well. They are then dried on sheets in the sun where they turn red-brown. The beans now lose moisture and become less bitter. The humidity of the beans is carefully monitored so that moulds do not get a chance.
The cocoa beans are then transported to a collection centre, where they are cleaned and sorted. Here they can dry for a while before the husks are separated from the beans by shaking. In this way, no healthy antioxidants are lost. Finally, the beans are broken into small, crunchy cocoa pieces broken.
Cacao was first introduced in Europe around the year 1500. Its popularity grew rapidly after it was discovered that cocoa combined with milk and sugar was very tasty as a chocolate bar. The cocoa bean is an indispensable ingredient in chocolate, its natural composition with its complex taste is impossible to imitate synthetically. In addition, the healthy properties of cocoa can only be found in pure products.
Cacao contains a lot of flavonoids, a kind of antioxidant that can be found in plants. Nowadays, many chocolate products contain very little real cocoa, sometimes only 1%. Sugars and fats are used to replace the taste but do not contain the healthy properties of real cocoa.
Brewed chocolate products contain only the pure good qualities of cacao. Our organic cocoa pieces have a deep, rich taste and a delicious crunchy texture. Absolutely nothing is added and the minimal processing ensures that no nutritious substances are lost. You can enjoy our real cocoa as it should be.