Cocoa beans were found by the gods high in the mountains to give it to people. This was believed by Maya, who annually thanked the heavenly patron of the most valuable beans of Eka Chuakh with pompous festivals and rich sacrifices.
The history of chocolate began in the New World about 3500 years ago. The first who has become acquainted with it were the ancient Olmecs, whose experience was taken up by the Maya and Aztecs.
The most familiar form of chocolate for a modern person is solid tiles and sweets. Notable Aztecs drank cold drinks based on cocoa with the addition of chili, corn, peanut butter, vanilla and other spices. Maya preferred hot drink, also available only to the elite.
A chocolate swam the ocean in the XVI century in the holds of Spanish galleons. Conquerors of America for some reason decided that “wild” tastes and flavors would not please civilized Europeans. Since then, the divine drink has become sweet, but hardened only at the beginning of the XIX century, thanks to the efforts of the Dutch.
Cocoa beans are the seeds of the fruit of the “chocolate tree”, which Carl Linnaeus called Theobroma cacao. The Theobrom is translated from Latin – “food of the gods.” Cocoa is an Olmec word that, quite possibly, means the same thing.
Cocoa seeds, first of all, are a valuable food product. But the peoples of Mesoamerica valued them far above ordinary food. Available only to selected beverages from cocoa sacrificed to the gods.
Cocoa beans were used instead of money. Within Maya 100 cocoa beans could be exchanged for a turkey or a rabbit, a turkey egg cost 3 beans, a large tomato – 1. Today in the wild, theobroms occur at an altitude of 200-400 metres above sea level in the tropical forests of the Amazon and Orinoco basins. If they are not limited, trees stretch to 20 metres in height, but on cultural plantations they are three times lower.
This makes it easier to harvest. The theobrom is an evergreen plant that blossoms every year for 30-80 years, blooming for the first time in 5-6 years of age. Unlike many others, the chocolate tree dissolves its small pinkish-white flowers not on branches, but directly on the trunk.
After pollination with small biting midges, the flowers develop into large fruits measuring 20-30 cm. The pods of noble “cryolio” beans are soft and red, shaped like pepper. The fruits of consumer varieties “forastero” resemble large lemons or small melons, they are hard and yellow.
A half-kilogram fruits of the theobrom take four months for full maturation. Inside the pods there are 20-60 seeds surrounded by sweet white flesh. To release cocoa beans from the outer shell, plantations need human intervention, in the wild – an animal.
The collectors, trying not to damage the bark of the tree, gently cut off pods with machete, open them and cut them into several parts, releasing the flesh and seeds that must be passed through at least four main processing steps: fermentation, drying, roasting and breeze.
As in the days of the ancient people of Mesoamerica, the fermentation of cocoa beans takes 3-6 days depending on the variety. These days in the sweet flesh of the fruit are flowing fermentation processes, it heats up, liquefies and drains, the seeds begin to germinate, but the sprouts quickly die due to the high temperature and acidity of the environment. If this does not happen, the beans will never become chocolate.
After the fermentation is complete, the beans are dried under sunlight for one to two weeks, and then, to show a characteristic chocolate flavor, fry for about an hour and a half, heating to about 100 °C.
Breeze, during which the remnants of the outer shell of seeds are removed – the last stage of preliminary processing of cocoa beans. In the future, they are crushed, getting popularity cocoa nucleuses, squeezing valuable oil and grinding skimmed cake into cocoa powder.