Saturday, November 18, 2017
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Cacao – the drink of gods

Cacao, the drink of the gods, Cabarete, Dominican RepublicThe Dominican Republic is quite famous for its cacao, which was first brought to the island by the Spaniards. The straight growing narrow trees do extremely well in the rainy hills of the Dominican back country and the country has been steadily increasing its cacao exports over the years to now rank tenth on the list of main cacao producers. Most of it is of mediocre quality aimed at the mass production market of low end chocolate but a small percentage is of extreme fine quality and is used mostly on the European market for high end niche chocolate production.

 

Cacao, the drink of the gods, Cabarete, Dominican RepublicBack to the roots
The Aztecs were crazy about chocolate, reserving the frothy chocolate beverage mixed with spices for high priests and royals only and using the cacao beans as currency. Columbus brought back the drink to Spain where they added sugar or honey to the concoction, which became an instant hit at the royal court. Spanish explorer Cortez planted cacao trees on many of the Spanish colonies including the Dominican Republic.


The Dominican Republic is quite famous for its cacao.It’s all about the beans
A tree begins to bear when it is four or five years old. A mature tree may have 6,000 flowers in a year, yet only about 20 pods, the melon sized fruit that contain the cacao beans. About 1,200 beans (40 pods) are required to produce 1 kg (2.2 lb) of cocoa paste.

Pod collection
The cacao harvesting process is labor intense but relatively simple once the trees have taken root, feel happy in their spot, and start bearing fruits. The fruits, called pods, do not all ripen at the same time so the harvesting needs to be preferably done manually.

If you cut the fruit open, you’ll see five rows of white kernels, or nuts, embedded in a white pulp. Once the pods are broken open, the beans (still covered in pulp) are placed in bins or piles to ferment. This process takes around three to five days to get rid of the pulp. After this the beans are dried slowly in the Caribbean sun, during which the beans oxidize and turn a dark brown color.

White pulp goodness
The white pulp which surrounds the beans is used in some countries to prepare a refreshing juice, smoothies, jelly, or nata. Recent research shows that the fermented pulp was used in times of the Aztecs as well to create a low alcoholic beverage. Since then that tradition has disappeared until recently a company starting making a distilled alcoholic drink from fermented pulp gathered in Peru, the Dominican Republic and Ecuador.  

The Dominican Republic is quite famous for its cacao, which was first brought to the island by the Spaniards.

Roasting process
Before the cacao beans can be used they need to be roasted for 30 minutes at a temperature of 90-140  degrees  Celsius,  before being crushed and ground. This process is often done in the country where the chocolate is made. The resulting cacao powder can then be used to make chocolate.

Cacao, the drink for the gods, Dominican RepublicOrganic high quality cacao
Several organic cacao farms are doing extremely well in the Dominican Republic. One of the organic ways in which they take care of the trees is by bringing in snakes. These get rid of rats who like to eat the cacao pods on the trees and do a lot of damage when left to their devices.  

At organic farms the cacao trees are often grown in the shade of other fruits and trees. The cacao from these trees is said to produce flavors that evoke the various fruits planted around it.

Also, these farms experiment with time-staged fermentation boxes that allow cacao beans to oxidize and ferment at different rates, which will then produce different flavors once roasted and processed into chocolate.

Cacao goodies
But no matter whether you prefer deep dark flavors or more sweet, light tastes to your chocolate, don’t forget to buy some cacao beans when you’re in Cabarete and have a look online for thousands of mouthwatering recipes in which you can use your newly acquired friends.

 

 

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