All sorts of the chocolate desserts and drinks are often a part of our holiday gatherings. Chocolate cake, pies, candies and hot chocolate (with or without marshmallows) may even be a part of your celebrations this year, too. A lot of us love our chocolate. But do we know where it comes from? We are learning about chocolate at La Casa and thought we’d share a little with you.
About three years ago, we were gifted 1,800 cacao seedlings. These tiny trees needed to be put in the ground, so teams visiting pulled out the shovels and muscled up the energy to get them all planted amongst the coffee plants. Cacao tress can reach up to 25 feet tall and provide shade for the coffee. But more importantly, they bear cacao fruit, from which we get the chocolate bean!
Cacao is a native plant to Central and South America. Early people groups used the cacao to make drinks for ceremonies and as medicine. It was often drank before wartime. Later, they used the cacao bean as currency.
It seems like during early explorations, Spaniards were offered some of this chocolatey drink, called “xocolatl,” meaning “hot water or bitter drink.” They took these cocoa seeds back to Spain where they mixed the bitter cocoa with sugar and honey to make a sweet drink. This drink was reserved for royalty and the rich. Spain kept this delicious drink a secret for over a century before it was introduced into the rest of Europe.
During the Industrial Revolution, machines were invented that allowed for the separation of cocoa butter from the roasted cacao bean leaving behind cocoa powder. This powder was then mixed with liquids and poured into a mold, giving us the chocolate bar.
So that’s how we ended up with our cravings for chocolate!
Those tiny cacao seedlings are just beginning to produce cacao on our farm. The fruit will be picked, opened, the fruit and seeds allowed to ferment and then dried. The seeds are roasted and the shell formed by the dried fruit is removed. Finally, the seeds are ground to produce a paste. Sugar and cinnamon is added and is molded into small round disks used to make hot chocolate. It is a lengthy, tedious process, but we are hoping the results will produce some yummy hot chocolate to share with you when you visit.