Posts Tagged ‘cacao’
February 14, 2012
The ancient Mayans (250-900 C.E.) are the first to have discovered how delicious cacao beans were when fermented, roasted, ground into a paste, then mixed with other ingredients (the Mayans used chili peppers and cornmeal, among others) to create a spicy chocolate drink. Sugar was unknown in ancient times.
When the Aztecs conquered the Mesoamerican lands in the 1400s, they, too, became enamored with the great cacao bean, and required that the people they conquered pay their tribute in cacao seeds. The Aztecs favored cacao beans above gold, and the beans soon became the society’s form of money.
Since the Mayans and Aztecs also used cacao beans, and the chocolate drink made from them, as gifts to their gods in religious ceremonies, you could say that the practice of giving chocolate as a precious gift originated here.
Used as it was in their religion, the Mayans and Aztecs considered the cacao bean and the chocolate drink made from it to be sacred. For this reason only the elite of their societies were allowed the privilege of drinking the beverage. These included the rulers, priests, and decorated soldiers, with an honored merchant occasionally included.
Enter the Spanish Conquistadors, who marched across Mesoamerica beginning in the first part of the 16th Century. Cortez had been sent by the Spanish king to seek out the gold known to be heavily used by the Aztecs. So Cortez and his men were surprised to find that the Aztecs did not use gold as their form of money, but instead prized the lowly looking cacao bean.
After watching the Aztecs enjoying a chocolate drink, the Spaniards indulged, became fans, and started shipping cacao beans back to Spain, resulting in Europe’s first contact with chocolate. Interestingly, although Columbus actually brought cacao beans back to the Spanish court years earlier, the Spaniards had no idea what to do with them, and it was left to Cortez to learn from the Aztecs the rich secret of cacao.
Anytime you are looking for the perfect chocolate gift, the perfect answer is Mayasa - it’s not only delicious but healthy chocolate, too!
Image Credit: maya-aztec.com
January 17, 2012
This year you can keep that resolution – because it will be fun, delicious, and maybe even decadent! Who wouldn’t want to stick to a resolution like that?
From the Ochanomizu University in Tokyo to the University of Cambridge in England, and dozens of universities and research labs across the United States, scientifically-designed medical studies are showing that there is a positive correlation between healthy organic cacao and a reduction in the risk of developing heart disease.
The flavanols contained in cacao have been found to act as “cardioprotective” agents. Although the mechanisms behind this effect are still under investigation, cacao is thought to possibly exert its benefits on cardiovascular health by activation of nitric oxide and antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
The flavanols have chemical structures favoring antioxidant actions such as free radical scavenging and chelation of metals. In addition, it appears that the antioxidants in cacao can prevent the oxidation of LDL-cholesterol relating to the mechanism of protection in heart disease.
In a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, results showed 47% improvement in “endothelium function,” which measures how much the arteries dilated. There was also indication that there was an increase in cells that are produced in the bone marrow and that can develop into the structural cells that line and repair the arteries and veins.
It’s important to note that it is raw cacao that is indicated as an element that helps reduce heart disease. The more sugars and fats that are added to chocolate as it is refined and used to manufacture chocolate products used in hot chocolate beverages, chocolate milk, candy and other chocolate sweets, the further away you get from the health benefits of raw cacao.
Drinking delicious, healthy chocolate Mayesa – in its Original Cacao flavor and its Cacao Mint flavor – can both satisfy your chocolate cravings, and offer possible health benefits as well!
December 20, 2011
Besides reversing “o’s” and “a’s” in the spelling of these two words, technically there is no real difference in the meanings. Our modern pronunciation of “cocoa” is how the British mistakenly pronounced “cacao” when the food was first introduced to the British Isles.
Today the FDA defines cacao as the source bean, and cocoa powder (along with chocolate liquor and cocoa butter) as products. At the time these products are processed from the cacao bean, they are still raw and unsweetened.
It’s when a long refining process that adds sugar, other flavorings, and chemicals to lengthen shelf life are added to the chocolate product that “cocoa” veers widely from natural, raw, cacao. And during the refining process much of the antioxidants are destroyed by the heat.
Since that is what most consumers think of as cocoa, that’s where the difference lies.
Most chocolate candy, cakes, cookies, ice cream and milk sold to the American public contain only 10% raw cocoa and the other 90% is made up of high caloric, high carbohydrate sugar, cream, oils, etc. Many of these commercial items contain transfats, and up to 40 grams of sugar.
For example, “milk chocolate” contains just 10% pure chocolate liquor while dark chocolate has a minimum of 75%. When sold as candy bars, both, of course, also contain sugars and fats.
This is why it’s been hammered into our heads for years that to eat healthy is to stay away from chocolate, and no wonder since chocolate in the supermarket form has had most of the original nutritional qualities processed out.
Mayesa uses organic raw cacao. In this state cacao contains the highest concentration of antioxidants by weight – more than acai, blueberries, pomegranates, red wine and goji berries. It is also a natural source of iron, magnesium, and theobromine (which supports the cardiovascular system).
When you drink Mayesa, you are getting all of the rich chocolate flavor and natural nutrients of cacao, and none of the refined sugars, transfats , and nutrient loss of that “other cocoa.”
Photo Credit: zupas.com
December 14, 2011
Sometimes something that tastes good really is good for you, too. And that’s the amazing fact about chocolate. In our article “A Healthy Chocolate Drink” we discussed the health benefits of chocolate. But exactly where does “chocolate” come from?
What we know as “chocolate” comes from the cacao tree, indigenous to the rainforests of South America. It originated in clumps along riverbanks in the Amazon basin on the eastern tropical slopes of the Andes. Today the cacao tree is cultivated all across the equatorial regions of the globe, in as far-flung places as Madagascar, the Congo, and Western Samoa.
The cacao tree requires some shade to grow, and thus is not damaging to rainforests, needing the rainforest canopy to protect it from the severe tropical sun. Large business cacao plantations, however, often clear areas for easier access to the trees and thus more profitable harvesting.
But many organic cacao farmers work with nature in assuring optimal growing conditions, creating smaller and “wilder” plantations. Utilizing the natural forest canopy not only protects the tree, but supports the habitat of the insects that pollinate the blossoms, as these insects also require humid shade.
Cacao seeds grow in pods that can range from 5 to 18 inches, and contain 30-50 white seeds. The seeds become reddish brown during the drying process. (There actually is a rare species of cacao in which the seeds remain white, most notably cultivated in Nicaragua.)
Interestingly, inside the pod the seeds are encased in a yellow, slippery pulp that is sweet and edible but tastes nothing like chocolate. In nature the pulp as an incentive for fruit-eating animals to break open the pod. The animals, especially monkeys, eat the pulp and spit out the seeds, thus dispersing the seeds and ensuring propagation of the tree species.
The cacao plant was first given its botanical name, Theobroma cacao, by Swedish natural scientist Carl Linnaeus in his original classification of the plant kingdom. Linnaeus most appropriately used the Mayan word “cacao” which means “food of the gods.”
Which is exactly how we think of Mayesa – any drink that is rich chocolate and so chocked full of antioxidants and omegas that it’s really good for you – can only be a “food of the gods!”
Photo Credit Top: xocoatl.org
Photo Credit Bottom: Wikepedia.org