The Mexican Cocoa is the seed of the Theobroma cacao, a small tree with bright dark green leaves, which grows in the West Indies and the central regions of America. It grows wild in Mexico, and there are whole forests of it in Demerara. In the Mauritius and Isle de Bourbon it is cultivated. It was first known in its best form as chocolate - the Mexican name being chocolatl, and was brought to Europe by the Spaniards in 1520. Timaeus gave this tree the name of Theobroma - food for the gods - on account of the beverage being so delicious.
The fruit of the tree, which grows like the fig from the stem and branches, is of the form and size of a short but very thick cucumber. When ripe the seeds are taken out, cleaned from the marrowy substance of the fruit, and dried in the sun. These seeds are called cocoa beans. They are of a dark colour, and have a bitter taste. They are gently roasted in an iron cylinder, as coffee is roasted, and when the aroma is fully developed, they are left to cool. The beans, when freed from their husks, are beat into a paste in a hot mortar, or ground between hot rollers; this paste when mixed with sugar and seasoned with vanilla, cinnamon, or cloves, is chocolate; mixed with starch, sugar, and other ingredients it forms the ordinary breakfast COCOA. The husk, which is removed from the bean and crushed into fragments, forms the cocoa nibs - the purest state in which cocoa is sold.
Chocolate is made into sweet cakes and bonbons, which are very nutritious and strengthening - a few being capable of giving great support. Chocolate scraped to a powder and boiled in milk is very refreshing and nutritious.
Constituent parts of 1 lb. of paste -
Colouring matter .
Albumen and gluten
Theobromine . .
Woody fibre . .
The cocoa powder mixed with boiling milk is now a common morning beverage; it is alterative, heat-giving, and flesh-forming.
One reason of its usefulness as an article of diet is the presence in it of the substance called theobrornine. This substance contains carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen in itself, and is particularly rich in nitrogen, which exercises an active influence on the human system.
Cocoa also contains a great deal of fatty matter called cocoa butter. It has therefore great power of nourishing, while the theobromine exhilarates and soothes the spirits, and has a waste-retarding power.
Cocoa is adulterated with its own husks, starch, sugar, ground roots, and red ochre, which is a very injurious substance; its presence can be detected by burning the cocoa in the air; then examine the ash; if it be grey the cocoa is pure; if red, it is adulterated with ochre.