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From cocoa, you get to love chocolate

 From cocoa, you get to love chocolate (Photo: iStock)

When it comes to breakfast, the choice of drink usually varies from tea, coffee, milk or cocoa. Today we are going to take a look at the production of cocoa.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines cocoa as "a dark brown powder made from the ground beans of a tree, used to make chocolate and to give chocolate flavour to food and drink". The word is also used to refer to a mixture of cocoa powder with milk or hot water, or both.

This dark brown powder comes from the cocoa seeds that grow inside a cocoa pod produced by the cocoa tree, scientifically known as Theobroma cacao.

Before they ripen, cocoa pods can be green, red or purple. Mature cacao pods change colour to yellow or orange, especially along the wrinkles.

When a pod is cut open, the seeds, covered by a pulp, are exposed. The two are left to sweat so that the pulp melts away, leaving the seeds. Sweating is very important as it determines the amount of cocoa.

There are several products made from cocoa seed after it has been harvested, fermented, dried and transported. These are cocoa powder, cocoa butter and cocoa beans.

The beans are sold on the market as they are, or they can be processed into tiny pieces called nibs. Nibs are then used to make cocoa liquor or paste, which is the basis of chocolate production. An estimated 400 beans are needed to make 450g of chocolate. This would explain why quality chocolate is very expensive.

When it comes to varieties, there are three main ones, namely Forastero, Criollo and Trinitario. Forastero is the most common variety in the world, Criollo is a rare variety because it is very sensitive to diseases that affect cocoa and Trinitario is known to have the best quantity.

Health benefits associated with cocoa are numerous. Just to mention a few, research has associated cocoa with improved mood and reduced mental complications. This explains why chocolate is one of the most preferred gifts one can offer to their loved ones.

In addition, cocoa contains polyphenols which are natural antioxidants found in fruits, vegetables and wine.

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