This section is from the book "The Planting, Cultivation And Expression Of Coconuts, Kernels, Cacao And Edible Vegetable Oils And Seeds Of Commerce", by H. Osman Newland. Also available from Amazon: The Planting, Cultivation And Expression Of Coconuts, Kernels, Cacao And Edible Vegetable Oils And Seeds Of Commerce.
Cocoa, one of the few natural products which serves equally well as food or drink, was, not inappropriately, described by Linnaeus as ' the food of the Gods' The British Navy recognises its nourishing and stimulating qualities by serving it out daily. The British Army also supplies it to its men almost as frequently.
The powder or essence, which is in domestic use, is the dry cake (ground into flour) of the kernel of the cacao bean, after it has been separated from the bean itself, and after the greater percentage of its natural oil or butter has been extracted by crushing, and pressing under a hydraulic press.
The separation of the kernel or " nib " from the bean is obtained by roasting the beans, then passing them through a cooling chamber, and, finally, cracking them by a machine which winnows the shells and dust by a powerful blast. In the making of chocolate, the butter is not extracted, but the sugar and other flavourings are added to the ' nibs " and all ground together. The chemical analysis of cacao nibs and cocoa essence is :-
Albuminoid substances, . Carbohydrates, ....
30 parts 22 „ 30 „ 2 „ 5 „ 11 „
Cocoa-butter is one of the most delicately flavoured and expensive edible fats known to science. When clarified, it is of a pale yellow colour, and only becomes rancid when subjected to excessive heat or light. In ordinary times it is far too expensive to be used as a food, except for making the finest chocolate and the most expensive confectionery, where ordinary fats like lard, suet, margarine, or butter are too impure and coarse to use. For the same reason some of the most valuable ointments and toilet preparations are made from the cocoa-butter.
During the war, however, when the scarcity of sugar restricted the making of chocolate, and lard- the ordinary housewife's cooking fat- soared to Is. 6d. and more per pound, cocoa-butter came into use for cooking any article from sweet pastries to fried fish and chipped potatoes.
The peculiar flavour of the uncooked product, distasteful to most adults, can be eliminated, not only by the addition of a little essence of lemon (an important fact to remember when the fat has gone slightly rancid, owing to long storage in factories), but also by the process of cooking.
When the fat has been heated for a short time it almost entirely loses its yellow colour, and also its flavour, and becomes a white neutral fat. Hence, if it is essential not to have any flavour of any sort in the resulting articles, all that has to be done is to heat the oil for a few minutes in an ordinary saucepan. It will be found that the resulting fat can be used for frying fish, making chip potatoes, and puddings of all sorts without any trace of cocoa flavour being apparent.
One pound does the work of 1 1/2 to 2 lbs. of lard or suet, because it is far finer and purer than these, and also is free from all moisture. The pastry produced is much finer and lighter than pastry made from coarser fats.
The output of cacao in British possessions amounts to over 40 per cent, of the world's production, and the proportion is increasing.
In the years 1913, 1914, and 1915 the total world's production was respectively 255,400 tons, 273,600 tons, and 288,400 tons. British colonies produced respectively 87,528 tons, 100,169 tons, and 123,966 tons.
The Gold Coast alone produced in 1915 77,418 tons, equal to 25 per cent, of the total amount.
Brazil, Guayaquil in Ecuador, Grenada, and Trinidad are the principal cacao-producing centres in the New World. Of these, the Trinidad bean is said to be the largest and finest flavoured, the oldest estates (almost all in the hands of the original Spanish and French families) lying in the Northern Valleys of Santa Cruz, Maracas, and Arima. Montserrat and Naparima are also great cacao districts. Charles Kingsley in his At Last describes the cacao plantations in Trinidad.
Grenada produces a smaller bean than Trinidad, possibly owing to the prevalence of closer planting and want of artificial shade. The cacao of Guatemala was once monopolised for use by the Spanish Court, and " Soco-nosco' is still of excellent quality. Para and Bahia in Brazil produce some of the smallest beans, but their flavour is mild and pleasant. Columbia, Venezuela, Jamaica, Dominica, St. Lucia, Tobago, Guadaloupe, Cuba, Martinique, San Domingo, British, Dutch, and French Guiana also cultivate this product. In the last-named colony, a forest of the wild plant was discovered about 1734 on the banks of a tributary of the Yari River. From this forest seeds were taken and the industry started.
Just before the present war considerable areas, amounting to about 5,000 acres in all, were planted with cacao in Uganda, and the planters were very hopeful of results, judging by previous experiments on a smaller scale. During the past four years, however, such results as have been forthcoming have not fulfilled expectations, the yields not coming up to what had been expected.
Uganda, however, like most other planting countries, has suffered during the war from the fact that considerable numbers of plantation owners and managers have been on active service. In addition, labour has been considerably affected, and planters in the meantime have been attracted by the apparently better prospects attaching to Para rubber.
In the Old World Robert Louis Stevenson was an early pioneer of the cacao industry in Samoa.* The Dutch East Indies and Ceylon also produce large quantities. In Africa, the islands of S. Thome and Principe were for many years the most famous, and Messrs. Cadbury at one time bought most of their cacao from this source. From 1908 for some years, however, these islands were boycotted by many firms, owing to the conditions of slavery said to exist. The Portuguese Government have now improved all faulty conditions. From 1911, however, British West Africa (especially the Gold Coast Colony) became the principal cacao-producing country in the world, the quantity produced that year being 44,828 tons. Messrs. Cadbury and Fry now have cacao plantations of their own in Ashanti.