Cacao Bean: A Chemical Kaleidoscope

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What does the cacao bean contain? Over half of ther weight of the cured, dried nib (as the shelled and degermed bean is called) is made up of fat, although the exact proportion fluctuates according to the variety of cacao and the growing conditions. The fat that is obtained from the nibs by means of the mechanical process invented by Van Houten in the last century is called "cacao butter" or "cocoa butter"; the cacao solids that are left are "cacao."
Cacao butter is a valuable commodity because, in addition to its role in the production of high grade chocolate, it has many uses in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. It possess the useful qualities of melting at very slightly below the temperature of the human body, and of going rancid very slowly.
Besides fat, each cacao bean contains less than 10 percent by weight of protein and starch. It is the remaining portion of the bean, which contains hundreds of identified compounds that provokes the most varied response to chocolate, so much so that at times one would not know that two authors are writing about the same subject. When they announce that "chocolate contains thus and so," we often have no idea whether they are measuring the contents of raw cacao beans, a processed bean or one particular variety, a low-grade candy bar, or a piece of premium couverture (chocolate confections with a high content of cacao butter in the coating). In fact, the literature about the actual composition of cacao reminds us of nothing so much as the tale of the blind men describing the elephant.

- Text from pp 27 - 29 The True History of Chocolate Second Edition. Coe, Sophie D. Coe, Michael D.

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