Substances & Homeopatic Remedies

    Cacao theobroma

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    Theobroma cacao


    Historians have for a long time debated on the etymology of the word chocolatl, or xocoatl. From "bitter water" in the Aztec language Nahuatl, to "hot water" in Mayan, or simply just an amalgamation of the "choco-choco sound" that emerged in the grinding process and the word "atl" which means water in several Mexican native languages. This still remains a controversial question today. The word cacao on the other hand offers a more unanimous agreement and is considered deriving from the Aztec word cacahuatle, which in turn corresponds to the Olmec civilization's use of the word kakaw around 1000 B.C.



    The scientific name Theobroma means "food of the gods"


    Traditional name

    Italian: Cacao
    English: Cacao
    Other Names:  Theobroma cacao.
    Common Names:  Chocolate nut. Cocoa bean.

    Used parts

    Trituration of the seeds (crude)


    Plantae; Spermatophyta, Angiospermae - Flowering Plants; Dicotyledonae; Dilleniidae; Malvales; Sterculiaceae



    Original proving

    Allen: Cyclopoedia, V. 2.

    Description of the substance

    The seeds are ovoid, more or less appressed, about three - quarters to one inch long and nearly one half - inch broad. A well marked raphe extends along one edge in its whole length. The testa is red - brown to brown in color, fragile and papery. By prolongations of the inner seed - coat, the large, oily cotyledons of which the seed is mainly composed, are partitioned into a number of small irregular lobes, an arrangement which permits of the ready breaking up of the seed into a number of fragments.

    Cacao seeds are prepared for use by removing them from the fruit and simply drying them, in which case they retain their astringent and bitter taste. These seeds are then prepared by trituration, as directed under Class VII.

    Cacao butter is the concrete oil of the Caco tree seeds. This tree is a small, handsome evergreen. Its leaves are alternate, entire, and from eight to ten inches long. The flowers are small, reddish and scentless. It has numerous seeds. They are about one - half inch in length, and imbedded in a whitish and sweetish buttery pulp. Cacao butter is obtained from these seeds. It is a straw - colored, solid, fatty substance, of the consistence of tallow. It has an agreeable taste and a chocolate odor, becomes quite soft at the temperature of the body, and is not liable to become rancid.

    Theobroma cacao is a small understory tree native to the American tropical rainforest, which has evolved to utilize the shade of the heavy.

    Cacao Tree (Crillo)
    (from canopy. It originated in clumps along riverbanks in the Amazon basin on the eastern equatorial slopes of the Andes.
    The Cacao Tree is a shade tolerant, moisture loving, understory rainforest tree. It naturally favors riparian zones so often in the wild is found along rivers. The trees live for up to 100 years, but cultivated trees are considered economically productive for only about 60 years.
    When grown naturally from seed the tree has a 2 meter deep taproot -- however in cultivation, most plantations use vegetative reproduction (cuttings) and that results in a tree without the taproot. Naturally Cacao grows to a height of 15 meters, but cultivated trees are trimmed shorter to make harvesting easier. The main stem of the tree is called the Chupon and the leaves budding off of the chupon (where a fruit was) are a fan. When grown from seed, the Chupon grows single for 1.5 meters and then spreads into layers.

    The leaves of Cacao are smooth bright green, oblong, about 15cm by 8cm. It is deciduous, it looses it's leaves, with new leaf growth in spurts 2 to 4 times a year. Shade leaves are longer than sun leaves in canopy area. Young leaves are reddish, making them less affected by the intense tropical sun and hang vertically to minimize sun damage. What is really fascinating about Cacao leaves is that they can move 90 degrees from vertical to horizontal and back to get better sun access and to protect young leaves! This is done with a node at the base of the leaf which changes its stiffness with temperature.

    Habitat and Range of the Cacao Tree:
    Naturally Cacao grows under heavy rainforest canopy, it is cultivated underneath Banana or Casaca (Tapioca) or other large leaf, tree-like, grasses. It has unusually deep roots for a rainforest tree because it naturally tends to grow in the riparian zone. It requires a deep, slightly acidic, moist, well drained soil. In poorer soils, the low shade of the banana is ineffective and the high overhead shade of the canopy is required.
    The Cacao Tree grows in lowland tropical forests with little seasonality. It needs a consistent climate: temperatures of 21 to 32 degrees Celsius year round -- never lower than 15 C, and 100 to 250 cm of rainfall, well distributed throughout the year with no month less than 10 cm. It grows only below 1000 meters of elevation, and usually below 300 meters. All of this means that it grows only in the tropics -- almost exclusively within 10 degrees latitude of the Equator and only in places that are not too mountainous and do not have monsoons or droughts.
    The largest number of species are found in northwestern South America, where the tree is native. However over half of the world supply of commercial Cacao comes from two East African countries: Cote D'Ivorie (Ivory coast) exports 41%, and it's neighbor, Ghana 13% of the world's supply.
    Indonesia is third in world exports at 11%. Brazil, Cameroon, Ecuador, Madagascar, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, and Venezuela export significant amounts. And Cacao is also cultivated for export in Columbia, Congo/Zaire, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Fiji, Gabon, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, Malaysia, south central Mexico, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Sau Tome, Sierra Leone, Togo, Trinidad and Western Samoa.

    Unlike the two other popular drugs that grow in the tropics, coffee and coca, Cacao is not horribly damaging to the rainforest -- it doesn't require open land and in fact, requires the shade of the jungle to grow, although commercial plantations a usually clear of some or all of the forest to make it easier to harvest the pods.
    As with Coffee, Cacao is a crop that is grown in extremely poor areas with hot climates and manufactured into a product that is generally consumed in very wealthy areas with cool climates.

    Reproduction: fruit, flower & pollination:
    The flowers (and the fruit) are on the trunk of the tree, and it flowers (and fruits) all year long. This means that Cacao has the very unusual quality of  having flowers and fruit on the tree at the same time!! It takes a long time, 5 to 8 months, to progress from blossom bud to ripe fruit. On cultivated Cacao plantations, only 3 out of 1000 flowers are pollinated, fertilized and progress to fruit!
    There are a great many flowers, often waves of flowers covering the main stem of the tree! The white flowers are odorless . There are more flowers at the end of season than at the beginning. Cacao is pollinated by midges (gnat-like insects) and occasionally by bats. Pollination usually occurs in the morning and the flowers die in 24 hrs if not pollinated!
    Although hermaphroditic, Cacao Flowers are self-incompatible, they cannot fertilize themselves. This creates a much healthier stock in the wild, but is terribly frustrating to plantation owners who cultivate Cacao.  
    It turns out that the Cacao plantations themselves are the reason for the extremely low fertilization rate of the Cacao Flowers, and the potential Chocolate shortage that Chocolate companies are always warning against.
    The insects that pollinate Cacao live in the rainforest. They require humid shade with a wide range of species and decaying matter on the ground; the natural habitat of Cacao. The midges have no reason to venture far from home into the sunny, dry neatly kept cultivated groves of Cacao trees. "The bigger a Cacao plantation, the more it frustrates the midges in their efforts to pollinate individual Cacao Flowers." -- Allen Young, biologist Cacao has over 400 distinct smells (compare that to 14 in the rose and 7 in the onion) however cultivated Cacao has only a small percentage of those, leaving the midges even more confused!
    Luckily some Fair Trade and organic Cacao farmers are working with the trees instead of against them. Smaller and more wild plantations are better for the trees, better for the Chocolate, and better for the workers as well. (See the Fair Trade section.)
    Like most high production food plants, Cacao was almost certainly engineered to produce large and plentiful fruit by the natives of the area many hundreds (or thousands) of years ago. The seeds in these fruit were valued highly by the people living in that region, as well as their northern neighbors. They continue to be highly valued today.
    The seeds are encased in a large colorful pod which grows close to the tree.  

    Cacao Pod
    from after a flower. The large pod is green while maturing and and turns yellow, orange, red or purple when ripe (some varieties are still green when ripe). The pods vary significantly in size, shape and texture. They range from about 10 cm to greater than 40 cm in length! They have 5 to 10 veins or longitudinal ridges and are spherical to oblong, shaped roughly like an American football.
    Fruits are produced throughout the year, simultaneous with more flowering. It takes take 4 to 5 months to achieve the pod size, and then yet another month to ripen!
    A ripe pod can be left on the tree for 2 or 3 weeks without spoiling. It is important for the flavor that it is harvested only when ripe, although it will not open and lose it's seeds when overripe. If separated from the pod the seeds soon become infertile, but retain their fertility for a long time within the pod.
    The pulp of the fruit is edible, but it is NOTHING like Chocolate. It is yellow, slippery and sweet and a bit less dense than an apple. I have seen it described as vaguely lemony, although some have suggested it tastes a bit like mango.
    Seeds are dispersed by monkeys and other small mammals which break through the pod wall to eat the pulp.

    We don't know much about cacao's origins. The Theobroma gene seems to date back to millions of years ago, whereas the Theobroma Cacao species might be 10 to 15 thousand years old, and maybe they stemmed from the man-made hybridation of species such as the Theobroma pentagona and the Theobroma leiocarpa.

    The cacao tree, Theobroma cacao, is a tropical species having its natural habitat in the lower layer of the rainy forest. All wild-growing cacao species live between the 18°N and the 15°S, in regions characterized by heavy rains (125 to 180 cm per year), high and quite even temperature (18/21°C to 30/32°C), high humidity (70 to 100%) and thick shade. The optimum soil is at least 2 metres deep, made of 50% of sand, 10 to 20% of silica and 40% of clay; its organic matter content is 4% and its pH ranges from 6 to 7.5.
    The cacao tree starts growing vertically, getting as high as 2 metres. Next, its arms stretch horizontally in a roof-like shape. The standard height of the cocoa tree ranges from 5 and 10 metres.
    When the cacao tree is 2-3 years old, it can produce flowers. Just 1 to 5% of its flowers will be successfully pollinated by small pollinating insects and midges which reproduce themselves in the decaying vegetation.

    The cacao tree starts making fruits in the fourth year.
    In the plantations it is necessary to check weeds, parasites, diseases; to manage the shade; to lope the tree, thereby strengthening it and modify its shape in view of a better productivity; to spray fertilisers, if used; to maintain the access ways and water supply.

    The cacao tree makes fruit following a constant cycle and generally it provides two harvesting periods: before and after the rainy seasons. It takes about 6 months from pollination for a tree to produce ripe fruit.
    The world average harvesting is lower than 3 million tons per year.
    About 80% of worldwide cacao is grown in 1 to 2-hectare plantations. The yield per hectare changes a lot. There are plantations exploiting advanced techniques whose yield can exceed 2 tons, whereas others produce less than 100 Kg. The rough world average is about 500 Kg per hectare per year, where 25 fruits give one Kilo of dried product and an optimum of 800 trees per hectare.

    Cacao beans fermentation takes place, according to the countries, in baskets, wooden boxes or cylinders stored away from light. Cacao beans should be wheeled in order to ease an even fermentation.
    It is during fermentation that the cacao beans start developing their flavors. Their sugar content, their low pH, the anaerobic conditions promote the activity of 16 kinds of yeast, which turn sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. The bacteria start to oxide alcohol into lactic acid first and into acetic acid next. The latter produces heat, making the temperature achieve 50°C. The fermentation process lasts from 3 days (for some criollo varietals) to 6/7 days.

    This process is basically aimed at lowering the humidity rate to 6-7%, even if the chemical reactions occurred during fermentation continue in this stage as well. Drying can be done by the sun or by artificial techniques. Sunlight drying lasts a few days and gives better results, as the acetic acid has time to be let out.
    Next, cacao beans are stored into jute sacks and ready to be sold on the market.
    On average, each cacao bean contains 6.5% of water; it consists of 2 cotyledons accounting for 87.1% with 4 to 5% of humidity, a germ accounting for 0.9% and a shell making 12%, with an 8 to 10% humidity content.

    The International Germplasm Database of Cacao drawn up in 1997 includes about 12,500 cacao clones. Its exactness will be tested only when a cost-effective method for the detection of cacao molecular DNA is designed and used as a bar-code for clone identification.
    Criollo, Forastero and Trinitario are the three leading types of Theobroma cacao. Their difference results from their pod structure, the colour of their beans and the number of beans per pod. The Criollo varietal was probably grown by the Meso-american civilisations. Its fresh beans are thick and have white or pink cotyledons, low acid levels and low bitterness, and once processed they produce a smooth, very flavored cacao.
    The Forasteros come from the subspecies Theobroma cacao sphaerocarpum, and have flat, violet-coloured beans, with high astringency. They are divided into two species, growing in the Amazonian Highlands and Lowlands respectively, and the latter is the most commonly grown cacao in the world, especially in Brazil (comun and parà) and western Africa.
    The Trinitario is a hybrid bean of Criollo and Forasteros, emerged after a natural disaster that occurred in Trinidad in 1727 and destroyed the criollo plantations. Thirty years later the Capuchin friars built their missions again and planted some Forastero seeds, that hybridised with the remaining criollo trees and soon the new varietal of Trinitario was born. The latter combines some flavor and sensory features of the Criollo with the strength and high yield of the Forastero.
    In terms of quality standard, cacao is distinguished into: flavor or fine or special or sweet cacao and bulk cacao. The first includes: Criollo, Trinitario and Nacional, which actually is a Forastero but is the only flavor cacao of this kind and is solely grown in Ecuador. The second group consists of the Forasteros.

    A special machine takes off any foreign matter such as jute fibres, stones, sand, metals, seed bunches by means of air suction, magnetic separators and brushes.

    By roasting, humidity is lowered down to 2 or 3% and flavors start developing through the Maillard reaction.
    The aroma of roasted cacao is made of a combination of compounds resulting from fermentation and not involved in roasting, compounds resulting from fermentation and increased by roasting, and finally new compounds which are developed during roasting. Generally speaking, during the roasting process of fermented cacao beans quite all reducing sugars and 40% of free amino acids are consumed.

    This step is based on the different density of the shell and cotyledon and is helped by the combined action of blades and air. The aim is to remove the shell and obtain the cotyledon which is cracked into shelled, de-germed smaller pieces called nibs.

    This step turns the nibs into the so called chocolate liquor or cacao mass or paste. The nibs contain 53 to 58% of cocoa butter and the warmth and friction of the rollers make it melt into a fluid mass made of 100 micron particles.

    This step reduces the particle size to 25-30 microns both in chocolate liquor and in sugar. In some cases, extra cocoa butter is added to chocolate liquor.

    Conching is a process which removes humidity and undesired volatiles, reduces the viscosity chocolate liquor, completes the dispersion of solids into cocoa butter and promotes the full development of the cacao flavor.

    Cocoa butter has a polymorphous structure, namely it is basically made of four types of crystals which melt at different temperatures. By tempering, cocoa butter goes through a number of variations of temperatures and an inner grid of beta, stable crystals is formed. This process results in a smooth taste and good-looking texture of the finished product, preventing cocoa butter from appearing on the surface and form a filmy residue and helps put off chocolate once it has gone through the moulding tunnel.         

    Pianta (Theobroma cacao) della famiglia Sterculiacee originaria dell'America tropicale e da qui diffusa in vari territori equatoriali, dove fiorisce e fruttifica tutto l'anno. È un albero sempreverde alto da 8 a 10 m e che presenta un asse radicale primario profondo fino a 3 m.
    Il tronco è eretto, con corteccia bruna; le foglie, alterne, sono semplici, ovali-lanceolate, con colore variante dal rosso-viola al verde a seconda dell'età e con picciolo dotato di un'articolazione che permette alle foglie di orientarsi secondo l'intensità e la direzione dei raggi solari. I fiori, ermafroditi, nascono direttamente sul tronco o sui rami principali: sono piccoli, biancastri, solitari o raggruppati a 2 o 3. Il frutto, detto cabosse, è una grossa bacca pendula e di forma allungata con buccia liscia o verrucosa, solcata longitudinalmente, lunga da 10 a 25 cm e larga da 8 a 10 cm, pesante fino a 0,5 kg e di colore giallastro, rosa o verde.
    Con la maturazione scompaiono le pareti delle logge e appaiono i semi, ca. 40, simili a mandorle, immersi in una polpa biancastra e zuccherina e disposti generalmente in 5 serie longitudinali. Il tegumento è rosa o rosso pallido e avvolge una polpa bianca violacea che contiene dal 30 al 50% di lipidi, ca. il 13% di sostanze azotate, l'1,5% di teobromina e lo 0,15% di caffeina.

    Nelle coltivazioni sono diffuse soprattutto le varietà Criollo, che danno raccolti di ottima qualità, ma sono molto esigenti e sensibili alle malattie, e la varietà Forastero, che dà un prodotto meno fine, ma ha piante con doti di maggiore resistenza. Condizione climatica indispensabile per una buona coltivazione di cacao è che la temperatura minima non sia mai inferiore ai 12 ºC e che la media si aggiri sui 24-28 ºC. La pianta richiede terreni profondi e leggeri, un'elevata umidità atmosferica con piovosità abbondante e inoltre ama l'ombra e soffre molto per il vento.
    La semina è fatta in semenzaio e il trapianto avviene di solito verso i 5-6 mesi: la produzione inizia al secondo anno e la pianta raggiunge il massimo di rendimento (1-1,5 kg di cacao secco) al decimo-dodicesimo.

    Il ciclo di produzione del cacao in polvere inizia con la fermentazione dei frutti di cacao, che avviene nei luoghi di produzione della pianta e dura una settimana; ciò al fine di liberare i semi dalla polpa, di attenuarne il gusto amaro astringente e di farne sviluppare appieno il tipico aroma. Quindi si separano dal frutto i semi che vengono fatti essiccare esponendoli al sole; i semi essiccati vengono trasportati successivamente nelle fabbriche dove inizia la vera e propria lavorazione. Anzitutto si esegue la depurazione dei semi, cioè una classificazione dei diversi semi a seconda delle loro dimensioni, quindi si passa alla torrefazione, che può essere fatta a temperatura più o meno elevata a seconda della qualità del cacao (per esempio il cacao olandese viene torrefatto a 115 ºC, quello africano a 160 ºC). A questo punto il seme viene rotto per mezzo di molini a rulli dentati che permettono di separare il germe dai tegumenti. Il germe contiene una serie di composti fenolici che possono pregiudicare il buon andamento della lavorazione; si provvede pertanto a innalzarne il pH, portandolo da 5 a 6,5. Ciò si ottiene facendolo fermentare a caldo dopo averlo bagnato con una soluzione di particolari basi che salificano i composti dannosi. Successivamente, il prodotto alcalinizzato viene essiccato, molito per mezzo di molini a cilindri e quindi fluidificato con acqua ottenendo in tal modo un liquor costituito da burro di cacao che porta in dispersione amido. Il liquor viene spremuto con presse idrauliche a 900 atm/cm3 e si separano due prodotti, il burro di cacao e una massa coerente che costituisce il pannello; quest'ultimo viene ridotto in polvere (cacao amaro) alla quale può essere miscelato zucchero al velo (cacao dolce).