Cocoa, Chocolate tree

Theobroma cacao L. is very polymorphic and is represented by a number of subspecies and forms. The best subspecies – “criolo” – Th. cacao sp. cacao and its forms – f. pentagonum (Bern.) Cnatr. (bred in Mexico, Central America, etc.) and f. leiocarpum (Bern.) Ducke (Guatemala, Central America, Mexico).

Due to the huge need for seeds, incorrectly called beans, the chocolate tree has been growing since the 17th century. began to breed on plantations, first in South America, especially in Brazil. At present, the chocolate tree occupies the largest areas in tropical West Africa, in Nigeria, on the Gold Coast, and in other areas within the Gulf of Guinea; the chocolate tree is also cultivated in Sri Lanka, Indonesia.

Cocoa, or chocolate, tree has a height of 10-15 m and forms an undergrowth in a tropical rainforest. The leaves are large, entire, evergreen. The flowers are small, pink, coming out in bunches from the trunk, often even from its very base, and thick lower branches; this phenomenon of caulifloria is also found in other rainforest plants and is a biological adaptation to pollination by butterflies. Butterflies fly low and are not able to climb to the tops of trees. However, not all flowers are pollinated and the tree bears only 20-50 fruits.

Trees begin to bear fruit in the 3-4th year, but the largest harvest is harvested in the 8-10th year. The fruits are large, oblong, about 15-25 cm long, juicy, with a dense peel, yellow or red-yellow in color. The collected fruits are piled in a pile to soften the shell. Then the fruits are opened and the seeds are taken out. Seeds in 5 nests, in the amount of 50-60 pieces, are located and surrounded by pink, sour-sweet pulp of the intercarp, which is used locally for food. One tree produces 1-4 kg of seeds per year. Seeds are placed in jars for fermentation, as a result of which the seed kernel acquires a purple-brown color, a delicate sweetish-oily taste and a delicate aroma. After fermentation, the seeds are slowly dried. Fresh and quickly dried seeds are whitish, tart bitter taste, odorless. The quality of seeds depends on the correctness of their processing.

Seeds for sale are processed. They are fried, after which the fragile shell is easily removed by the machine. The shell makes up 10-15% of the mass of seeds, is called cocoa-ovella and is used to extract the alkaloid theobromine (0.5-1%). Cocoa shell is sometimes added to cheap, low grade cocoa powder. Peeled seeds contain 45-55% fatty oil, proteins, 1-2% theobromine. They are pounded by machines and subjected to hot pressing to obtain cocoa butter. The hot oil is filtered in heated filters and poured into molds where it solidifies quickly at room temperature.

The remaining fat-free cake is ground; it is cocoa powder for drinking. To make chocolate, more or less cocoa butter, sugar, sometimes milk, vanilla and other ingredients are added to cocoa powder, depending on the variety, and the mass is poured into molds.

Cocoa butter (Oleum Cacao, Butyrum Cacao) is a piece of light yellow color (turns white when rancid) with a pleasant smell; melts at 30-34°C, i.e. slightly below the temperature of the human body, on which its use in medicine is based. The oil contains triglycerides mixed with stearic, palmitic, lauric, arachidic and oleic acids.

The use of cocoa butter as a classic suppository base dates back to 1710; it is included in all pharmacopoeias. Theobromine is used as a diuretic.

Some other Theobroma species are also used for seed and oil production. This is Th. angustifolia My. et Sess (“monkey” cocoa) from Southern Mexico and Central America, Th. microcarpa Mert. and Th. speciosa Willd. from South America (Amazon basin) and cultivated in Brazil Th. bicolor Humb. et Bonpl. – a species that is widespread and cultivated from southern Mexico to the north of South America inclusive. In the later species, the seeds contain little theobromine, but a lot of oil.

During the conquest of Mexico, South and Central America, the Spaniards found cocoa seeds in common use among the Indians, inhabitants of the tropical forests (Mexican Indians called the seeds “cacahuatl”). The roasted seeds were de-wooded, boiled with water, mashed, cornmeal was added, flavored with vanilla and frothed. The frozen mass was eaten cold. It was the daily food of the poor and they called it – “chocolatl” (from the words “choco” – foamy, “atl” – water); hence the European name “chocolate”.

The plant contains dense (solid) fats.


Fats consist almost entirely of triglycerides of high molecular weight fatty acids. They are accompanied by pigments, sterols, vitamins and some other fat-soluble substances.

The fatty acids that make up triglycerides can be saturated or unsaturated. Most often, triglycerides contain the fatty acids listed in the table.

Fats are not individual substances – they are mixtures of triglycerides. In the formation of fats, the law of maximum heterogeneity prevails – more than 1300 currently known fats are formed by “multi-acid” triglycerides, and fatty acids of different composition (for example, stearinodiolein, palmitinooleinolinolein, etc.). Fats, consisting of “one-acid” triglycerides, are relatively rare in nature (olive oil is triolein, castor oil is triricinolein).

The properties of fats are determined mainly by the composition of fatty acids and their quantitative ratio. Saturated fatty acids form triglycerides of a dense consistency (at traditional temperature), and the density increases with the increase in the number of carbon atoms in the acid (see table). Unsaturated fatty acids form liquid triglycerides.


Liquid fats (oils), spread with a thin layer, can remain liquid (non-drying fatty oils) or, oxidized, gradually turn into a resinous film (drying – a dense film and semi-drying – a soft film). Fatty oils dominated by oleic acid triglycerides are non-drying. The more linoleic and linolenic acids in oils, the more they are prone to drying out, as can be judged by the iodine number (the number of grams of iodine that can join 100 g of fat at the place of double bonds of unsaturated acids). Approximate limits of iodine numbers: non-drying 80-100, semi-drying 100-140, drying oils 140-200.

Most vegetable fatty oils are obtained by pressing or extracting raw materials with volatile solvents. Freshly obtained (“raw”) fats are purified (refined).

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