Organic Criollo cacao beans are oval, dark brown seeds, otherwise known as chocolate nuts, that grow on the chocolate tree or Theobroma cacao tree .
Cocoa solids are obtained from cocoa beans, consisting of non-fat components and cocoa butter.
Originating from the Amazon rainforest, these beans are a key ingredient in chocolate production and find their way into a variety of delicacies, including the traditional Mexican drink tejate. However, their value is not limited to pleasing sweet tooth. This humble bean offers many benefits and a wide range of uses, which include not only culinary but also medicinal and even ceremonial purposes.
Ceremonial use – in some cultures, cacao has been used in religious ceremonies and rituals, as well as in traditional healing practices. The cacao tree was considered a sacred plant.
Criollo cocoa beans are a rare group of cocoa. They account for just 1% of the world’s cocoa beans. Native to Venezuela and Colombia, they also grow today in Mexico, Peru, Madagascar, Sri Lanka and the Caribbean. The Mayans considered Criollo cocoa to be the food of the gods. It is difficult to get a good yield from this variety because the trees are very sensitive to unfavourable external factors.
Cocoa beans are rich in antioxidants, especially flavonoids. These compounds help fight free radicals in the body, reducing oxidative stress and the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Cocoa flavonoids have been shown to protect against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Cocoa flavanols can also improve blood circulation, lower blood pressure and even reduce the risk of stroke.
Cocoa contains serotonin precursors and phenylethylamine, which can have mood-elevating effects. It is often associated with feelings of love, happiness and relaxation.
Regular cocoa consumption improves cardiovascular health.
Cocoa is a good source of key minerals such as magnesium, iron and potassium. Magnesium plays a particularly important role in muscle and nerve function, bone health and energy maintenance.
It may seem strange, but cocoa can be a useful ally in weight control. It is relatively low in sugar and can help satisfy chocolate cravings without the extra calories.
Cocoa beans naturally contain caffeine, which can cause anxiety and insomnia if consumed in excess.
Some people may experience digestive upset, such as bloating or diarrhoea, when consuming large quantities of cocoa due to its high fibre content.
Sometimes people can be allergic to cocoa and experience symptoms such as skin rashes or itching.
Use of cocoa beans
Cocoa beans are known to be used in chocolate production. The beans are harvested, fermented, dried, roasted and ground to produce cocoa mass, cocoa butter and cocoa powder, which are the building blocks of chocolate products.
Cocoa beans are crunchy and soft at the same time, so you can simply chew them. They can also be crushed or ground to make a powder that can be used in cooking. Roasted cocoa beans are less bitter.
Cocoa beans can be used to make cocoa powder, which is used to make hot cocoa and various chocolate-flavoured drinks.
As well as cocoa nibs, you can also use cocoa powder during baking to give cookies or cakes a rich chocolate flavour.
NOTE. The information provided here should not be interpreted as advice for treatment or other health problems. We encourage you to make decisions about your personal health by considering different sources of information.