A Cocoa Bean Is Born

Somewhat counterintuitively, cocoa is not born a bean. In order to become the cocoa bean we all know and love so well, the seed of Theobroma cacao must first be fermented and dried. The process looks like this:

cocoa beanFirst, whole cocoa pods are harvested from the trees. This occurs at various times throughout the year as not all the pods ripen at once. Once harvested, they are transported to a fermenting facility.

Back at the facility, the pods are cut open and the pulp and cocoa seeds are removed and the rind is discarded. The pulp and seeds are piled in heaps, placed in bins, or laid out on grates.

cacao beansThe pulp and seeds ferment in the bins over the course of several days, the pulp liquifying during this time. The liquified pulp is allowed to seep through the bottoms of the bins into the grates where it is drained away. This process of fermentation, called “sweating,” must be monitored carefully, as it is essential to the taste and quality of the cocoa bean.

Once the rind has completely liquified and drained the cocoa seeds remain to be collected. They are spread out over a large surface, exposed to heat (preferably the sun), and raked frequently to speed the drying.

Finally, after this elaborate, several-day process, like an ugly duckling into a swan, a bitter cocoa seed has been transformed into a sweet, mild cocoa bean.

cacao beans


Chocolate & Red Wine the Keys to Eternal Health

Ah, the immortality I would have to look forward to if only the above were true. Still, a University Pittsburgh researcher may be on to something.

Dr. Joseph Maroon, vice chairman of neurological surgery at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center writes in “The Longevity Factor,” that chemical compounds found in certain foods trigger genes make us healthier and cause us to live longer.

30% of longevity is determined by our genetic makeup, Maroon says, and we are genetically programmed to wear out after a time. But about two-thirds of aging is determined by our diet and activity level.

Part of an anti-aging diet may contain a healthful dose of the good stuff. The right kind of chocolate can be good for you, Maroon says. Chocolate is a mild stimulant, perking mood and brain activity, which can likewise engage and uplift the physique.

Also beneficial is red wine, which contains a substance called resveratrol, which triggers genes in humans that promote survival. His research has led him to drink a glass or two of red wine each day.

But the limit should be two glasses for the typical man, one for the typical woman, he cautioned. More than that brings on the detrimental effects of the alcohol.