Botanical Name: theobroma cacao (pronounce kah-kow) - cultivar Criollo
Organic Matters is proud to be both the direct importer and sole distribution source for this outstanding, certified Fair Trade, organic, raw and 100% Arriba Criollo cacao beans from a farming cooperative supporting the livelihood of over 3000 small and sustainable cocoa growers.
The Incas considered cacao the “drink of gods” which gave rise to the scientific name of the cocoa tree, Theobroma cacao, from the Greek words theo (god) and broma (drink). Cocoa has been cultivated in Ecuador since the 17th century and and was the main product of export up to the 1920s when diseases struck, destroying crops everywhere. The Criollo variety of cacao beans is sourced from the native-born heirloom species thriving in the high-elevation volcanic soils of the Arriba Nacional forests of Ecuador. This ancient strain has been recovered thanks to the hard work and wisdom of many local farmers and the support of the Ecuadorian government.
Qualities: The Criollo variety is considered worldwide to have the finest floral aroma and flavor profile. Some claim that ”what the fine Arabica bean is to coffee, the even finer and rarer Criollo bean is to chocolate”.
After the ripe pod has been cut from the tree, it is opened, the rind discarded, and the pulp and seeds laid out for several days. During this time the pulp liquefies or “sweats” and fermentation starts which helps to unlock the full aroma of the cocoa bean and softens its bitter taste. This fermentation process is usually followed by roasting yet our cacao beans remain unroasted - just sun-dried. For further processing, the raw bean is gently crushed and its thin skin removed such that only pieces or “nibs” remain. Cacao nibs are then slowly ground into a thick brown liquid called cacao paste (aka cacao mass or liquor) which is made up of cocoa butter (55-60%) with fine, suspended cocoa particles. This cacao paste is subsequently pressed until it separates into cacao butter and a cacao “cake” which is then ground to produce cacao powder.
Raw cacao is believed to preserve the highest amount of antioxidants such as Flavonoids and to retain optimal bioavailability of all the many other nutrients and minerals like Stearic and Oleic fatty acid, Anandamide (the bliss chemical), Theobromine, Manganese, Zinc, Copper, Sulfur, PEA, Tryptophan, etc. The list of acclaimed health benefits goes on and on, including anti-inflammatory and heart protective properties, calming hormones and restore feelings of well-being, increase energy and fight chronic fatigue, anti-aging and appetite suppressant properties, reduce insulin resistance and sensitivity, improve kidney and stimulate bowel function, protect the skin and prevent tooth decay, improve cognitive function, as an aphrodisiac, and many more…
Common use: the whole cacao bean can be eaten just as is or easily crushed between your fingers to loosen and remove the thin peel. The peel can be collected to use for a healthy and cacao flavored tea. The bean pieces (aka cacao nibs) can be enjoyed either whole or ground and added to smoothies, granolas, desserts, raw food bars or any dish that calls for the delicious flavor of chocolate.
You can make delicious, raw Chocolate Sauce by grinding the whole beans or just the nibs into a powder in a spice mill/coffee grinder or food processor and combining them with cacao butter or coconut oil . Be creative and add natural sweeteners, mix with seed or nut butters, spices and extracts, ...and a pinch of Himalayan pink salt and create the most amazing raw or baked desserts!
Storage: Keep tightly sealed. Store in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.
Disclaimer: this information is for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the FDA or CFIA. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This product has been packaged in the same facility as peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, and other potential allergens.