Origin: The cacao tree natively belongs to the Amazon Basin. It was first domesticated by the Olmecs and Mokaya (Mexico and Central America). More than 4000 years ago, it was consumed and used for religious ceremonies. It used to grow in the foothills of the Amazon and other basins of South America, Colombia, and Venezuela. Wild cacao still grows in this region.
Cacao trees grow in a limited geographical zone or area. It usually grows in about 20° to the north and south of the Equator. Studies show that 70% of the world’s cacao crop is grown in West Africa.
The cacao plant was given its botanical name by Swedish natural scientist Carl Linnaeus in his original classification of the plant kingdom, where he called it Theobroma ("food of the gods") cacao. Cacao is famously known as Theobroma.
Cocoa was a significant commodity in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. The emperors of Spain accepted chocolate as the gift and this chocolate was served in a golden goblet. The cocoa was made interesting with different flavors like vanilla, spices, mint, etc.
Chocolate was later introduced to Europe by the Spaniards and it became a popular thing by the mid-17th century. Spaniards also introduced this delectable cacao into the West Indies and the Philippines. It was also introduced into the rest of Asia and into West Africa by Europeans. In the Gold Coast, modern Ghana, cacao was introduced by a Ghanaian.
Scientifically: There are three main varieties of cocoa plant: Forastero, Criollo, and Trinitario. The Forastero is the most widely used, comprising 80–90% of the world production of cocoa. Cocoa beans of the Criollo variety are rarer and considered a delicacy. Trinitario is a mix (hybrid) of Forastero and Criollo.
Cocoa butter is a smooth, natural, pure vegetable fat that comes from the cocoa bean. These beans are found inside the cocoa pods, which grow from the cacao tree plant. Cacao pods are also famous for providing as with ever-delish chocolate.
A cocoa pod (fruit) is a rough, leathery rind about 2 to 3 cm (0.79 to 1.18 in) thick filled with sweet pulp with a lemonade-like taste enclosing about 30-40 large seeds that are fairly soft and are light purple to dark brownish-purple in color.
Cocoa butter is in pale yellow color and has an irresistible chocolate scent and aroma. Cocoa butter is rich in antioxidants and vitamins, such as A, B1, B2, B3, C and E. It makes an amazing natural moisturizer for healthy and smooth skin.
Process of making cocoa butter: Making of cocoa butter is a long process. Firstly, the cocoa beans are fermented in banana leaves, dried and then roasted. The second step is to grind them into a fine powder. Then, this powder is poured into a pot containing boiling water and is stirred for a while, to mix it completely. While boiling, the vegetable fat present in the cacao beans starts to rise on the surface, which is then collected and placed into containers, where it solidifies when cools down.
Other ways to produce cocoa butter is by roasting the beans and pressing them (instead of boiling them), to extract the vegetable fat.
The beans can also be cold-processed. Cold-pressed cocoa butter is made in a factory, by pressing the whole bean by machines.
Usage: Cocoa butter is famous for the benefits it provides to the skin. It is high in natural fatty acids, which penetrates easily deep down into the skin. It helps in removing scars and stretch marks. It helps in moisturizing the skin, prevents the signs of aging. It also helps in managing hair by making them soft and strong. It is used as an eminent component in many cosmetics like facial creams, body butter, body lotions, shaving cream, and hair conditioners.
Below are some DIYs with cocoa butter:
- Take a teaspoon of cocoa butter and apply directly on the facial scars. Gently massage until absorbed. Leave it on overnight or rinse after 30 minutes. This helps in removing the appearance of the scars.
- Take 3 tablespoons of cocoa butter, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, 2 tablespoon cocoa powder. Mix all the ingredients together and apply on the face and body in circular motions. This mask helps in removing dead skin.
- Take a teaspoon of cocoa butter, a ½ teaspoon of grated beeswax and a few drops of almond oil. Combine all the ingredients together and store in a small container. Apply this homemade balm on the lips for nourished pink lips.
- Melt 2 tablespoons of cocoa butter and apply on the scalp and hair length. Leave it on for 45 minutes and then shampoo as usual. This gives smooth nourished hair.
- Mix a tablespoon of cocoa butter with a tablespoon of aloe vera. Apply this mixture n hair for 30 minutes and then shampoo. This makes our hair strong and frizz-free.