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Cocoa beans are the fermented seeds of the cacao tree, whose Latin name is Theobroma cacao, which means “Food of the Gods”. It is native to the Amazon region and as the meaning suggests, cocoa was historically considered a very important crop in Central and South America. In fact, its beans were so prized that the native tribes used them as a form of currency. The cacao tree stands about 12-25 feet tall and grows naturally in tropical climates.
The fruit of the cocoa tree is a pod full of sweet pulp enfolding a cluster of about 20-40 cacao seeds. Today, it is produced across the world, with about forty percent of the harvesting done in Cote d’Ivoire, along with Indonesia, Ghana, Brazil, Nigeria and Cameroon contributing to the overall production.
Along with its well established role in the manufacturing of chocolate, the healing and medicinal benefits of cocoa have been appreciated since the ancient Mayan and Aztec civilizations were ruling their continent.
Cocoa and chocolate are diverse terminologies. Cocoa refers to the low-fat constituent of the finely ground cocoa beans. These ground beans, known as cocoa liquor or cocoa mass, also contains cocoa butter which is a non-dairy, naturally occurring fat present in cocoa beans. About 50-60% of cocoa liquor consists of cocoa butter.