Meet the mighty Theobroma Cacao tree
What do you know about Cacao? If you’re like most people, your answer is probably not much, but what about theobroma Cacao? Most people don’t even realise that these two are synonyms for the same thing! Find out everything you need to know about this bean from which we get chocolate in this article on the Cacao tree.
Where does it grow?
The Cacao tree is native to South America, specifically the Amazon Basin. However, it can now be found in many tropical regions worldwide. The tree thrives in hot, humid climates with plenty of rainfall. It prefers rich, well-drained soils and does not do well in direct sunlight.
The Cacao tree needs circa 3-5 years to yield a crop. It all starts with a flower and it takes around 6 months for a cacao pod to grow from its pollination to the ripe fruit. The fruits are growing on the main Cacao tree trunk. There is no strict amount of pods being produced by a single Cacao tree, but the pods that appear don’t ripe all at the same time.
Once harvested, the ripe cacao pods are inspected. The farmers crack the pods open and check the level of ripeness (if too low, there won’t be enough sweetness).
The beans together with the pulp are put in a special box for the fermentation process. This is when the deep aroma and taste of the Cacao beans start to develop. Afterwards, the pulp is washed off, and the fermented beans are dried. At this stage, we can get the raw Cacao and once the beans are roasted we can have the Cacao paste.
What do the pods look like?
Cacao pods grow directly from the trunk and main branches of the Cacao tree. They are large, oval-shaped fruits that can be up to a foot long and six inches wide. The pods contain 20-60 seeds, or beans, that are surrounded by a sweet, white pulp. The beans are the beginning stage for the ceremonial cacao paste or the raw cacao. The Cacao pods are harvested twice a year. Only one in a thousand flowers of the Cacao tree will transform into Cacao fruit!
How long does it take to grow?
It takes about five years for a Cacao tree to mature and produce Cacao beans. The trees are native to South America and grow best in hot, humid climates near the equator. The flowers are small and white, and they grow directly on the boot and branches of the tree. After about six months, when the pods turn from green to yellow or brownish black, farmers harvest them by cutting down the entire tree and collecting them from the ground.
Why should I eat it?
Chocolate is not only a delicious treat that can be enjoyed in moderation, but it also has some health benefits. Chocolate contains certain compounds that can boost your mood and help you relax. Eating a little bit of dark chocolate every day may even help you feel less stressed!
Cacao drink is made from the beans of the cacao tree. It is a healthy alternative to sugary drinks like soda and energy drinks. It’s also a good source of antioxidants and can help improve your cardiovascular health. Cacao drinks made from ceremonial Cacao are known to increase focus due to the presence of phenylethylamine in their compounds. Moreover, it’s a great source of magnesium and iron.
In addition to the health benefits of eating cacao beans, they can also provide economic stability for families who grow them. Cacao plantations require significant amounts of time and labour to produce beans; this translates into high wages for workers.
The theobroma Cacao tree or the Cacao plant is a beautiful and interesting plant that has many benefits.
The next time you taste the Cacao, take a moment to think about all the hard work that went into making your delicious chocolate!