Cacao has some fantastic health benefits and is a highly versatile superfood.
What is Cacao or Raw Cacao Nibs?
Our cacao is harvested from the Theobroma Cacao Tree in Peru, on the North-western coast of South America. The cacao plant thrives in the fertile soils surrounding the Amazon River and can only grow in small belt known as the ‘cocoa belt’ which is 20° north and south of the equator. These conditions are perfect for cacao to grow as it requires a constant climate between 21 and 32 degrees and at least 10cm of rainfall each month. An early South American tribe known as the Olmecs began cultivating cacao trees in around 1000 BC; their techniques later applied by more advanced civilisations such as the Mayans, Aztecs and Incas, where farming methods improved and cacao became a valuable part of the local diet for many years to come. Cacao was originally used as a base for pasta and bread but was also consumed as a drink called ‘Xocoatl’, a combination of roasted ground cacao beans mixed with hot water, chillies and cornmeal. Interestingly, cacao was also somewhat of a tasty currency, exchanged for food, clothes or otherwise sought-after goods.
Nowadays, techniques for processing the lovely cacao pods are considerably easier. After harvesting, the pods are opened and the beans and pulp removed. Next, they are naturally fermented over several days in tropical temperatures below 47°C. The fermentation process is a key stage in the development process and it is this which produces the classic and complex aroma and flavour of our beans. Following fermentation, the beans are spread out on the ground and allowed to dry under natural sunlight. Finally, the beans are broken up into nibs and winnowed to separate the beans from the husks which are then roughly broken into small crunchy cocoa nibs. To make cacao powder, the nibs will be stoneground for 10-12 hours into an ultra-fine paste. This paste is then pressed through a fine mesh and packed for dispatch.
How Does Cacao Taste?
Our raw cacao is naturally fermented to preserve the antioxidants and goodness within. It has therefore not been altered to remove any of the natural, organic flavour. Cacao nibs are crunchy and both the nibs and powder are slightly (but not overly) bitter with a strong and natural flavour.
There are many superfood recipes for which cacao is perfect and it is frequently used as baking chocolate or cooking chocolate to make lovely vegan recipes and vegetarian deserts. It can also be used more simply and mixed with hot milk to make a healthier hot chocolate super food smoothie or added to yoghurt for a crunchy raw superfood breakfast alternative.
Health Benefits of Cacao
Cacao powder and cacao nibs are fantastically high in many vitamins and minerals including magnesium and fibre. Cacao is also a great source of potassium and iron as well as being high in antioxidants.
Magnesium - regulates blood sugar levels, maintains normal muscle and nerve function and promotes normal blood pressure.
Iron - an important component of haemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells which carries oxygen throughout your body. Also helps reduce feelings of fatigue.
Potassium - strengthens bones, maintains better brain function and lowers blood pressure.
Fibre - lowers cholesterol levels, normalises bowel movements and aids in achieving healthy weight.
Antioxidants - benefit the body by neutralising and removing free radicals from the bloodstream.
There are also many other supposed health benefits associated with cacao in addition to those which we receive from its natural vitamins. Cacao contains the mood improver, anandamide (otherwise known as the 'bliss molecule'), which is said to make us feel happier…Happy days! Cacao is also said to help protect the heart against cardiovascular disease and combat fatigue.
Cacao and Cacao Nibs Recipes
Head over to our recipes section for some delicious cacao nibs recipes and food ideas or click here.
Where to Buy Cacao Online?
Raw cacao is available to buy from our superfood store. You can also buy cocao from our UK Amazon storefront. Just enter 'TheHealthyTree Company' into the Amazon search bar.