The word Chocolate is partly from an Aztec term which means ‘bitter water.’ When eating a bar of chocolate, the last phrase you would tend to associate it with is ‘bitter’ however the ingredient that the Aztecs and the Mayans would have been familiar with, a bean which would be crushed and brewed in to a hot liquid would be incredibly bitter without the addition of sugar and milk to which we are accustom.
The Cocoa Bean’ was also well known to be ‘The Food for The Gods.’ This phrase is perhaps due to the response one’s body would have from the number of natural chemicals it contains if consumed in high quantities. Theobromine – like caffeine. Phenethylamine, a natural amphetamine-like molecule and finally, Anandamide, a compound like that found in marijuana. Coupled with the fact that this hot cocoa drink would’ve been such a unique taste, this really was The Food for The Gods.
Cocoa Beans are grown from an ever-green tree known as the ‘Theobroma cacao.’ The main bean producing country is the Ivory Coast with around 40% being grown here and Ghana at around 22%. Around 90% of Cocoa is still grown on small family farms between just 5 and 12 acres in size. One of the focus’ for large chocolate brands is to protect, care for and encourage new generations to continue to work on their family farms and to prevent their demise as children and grandchildren may choose to move to cities and other countries for different working prospects.
Growing Cocoa is an incredibly labour-intensive process and ensuring a successful harvest requires continuous care and attention. To put it in to prospective, from a seedling it takes 5 years for a tree to produce a pod. On average 1 single tree will only produce 36 cocoa pods and in that pod 40 cocoa beans that equates to 2kg of chocolate, that’s just 44 smaller sized chocolate bars from the entire tree. Once harvested the tree will then take another 4-5 months to grow new pods and then several weeks to ripen. It is only the bean that is required for the chocolate, but all of the left-over elements of the pod never go to waste by the farmers and are used to make other edible items for them to consume.
After harvesting the pods, the beans are extracted and then go through fermentation and drying processes. Cocoa solids and cocoa butter are the two main components from the beans which are used to make chocolate. Cocoa butter is not only edible but is well known for its healing properties and its used to treat bruises, stretch marks and dry skin.
Although by the time it reaches our mouths the everyday chocolate bar has had a large quantity of milk and sugar added to create that comforting milk chocolate taste, those little bars really do start life as a very special exotic bean, filled with a list of natural stimulants and healing properties. We are very proud to work with good quality chocolate with higher cocoa percentages, we experiment with different flavour combinations to allow the extra special taste of the cocoa to shine through.