Chocolate beans

Chocolate beans

Chocolate – the food of Kings!

Chocolate is an extremely versatile food that is used in drinks, deserts, candy and often as a main course. Cocoa or in Spanish Cacao is grown in parts of central and south America as well as in the Caribbean island of the Dominican Republic. Because I now live in the Dominican Republic I will be focusing on the variety grown here.

Organically grown Cacao can found throughout the island. And several times a year you will find the beans drying in the sun on the side of the road. Walking through the country side it is not uncommon to see the yellow, red or brown pods hanging from trees. So, how much do you know about the cocoa bean?

Dominican Hot Chocolate

Home-made Hot Chocolate Recipe

Chocolate is often bought in bars or cubes with very little processing. It’s even possible to buy chocolate where nothing else has been added. This is frequently the base for the Dominican Republics Unique Hot Chocolate.

Usually when people make hot chocolate here it is for a group. A large pot is used and all the ingredients are simmered over an open fire or a stove. Unlike the normal hot chocolate of the US where you just add some processed powder into some hot milk, hot chocolate here is made from scratch starting with pressed cacao bars.

Dominican Hot Chocolate can be made with either hot water of hot milk. If you are using milk it is usually added as a powder to the hot water. Most of the powdered milk sold here is a full cream milk and has a much better flavor the the powdered milk common in the US. You start with a cube of pressed chocolate, and boil in water with other ingredients to spice the hot chocolate like allspice, clove and cinnamon. You also add a touch of salt to enhance the flavor.

This is my families favorite Dominican Hot Chocolate Recipe!

Raw Chocolate

Raw Chocolate

Raw Chocolate

Cocao Bean The cacoa (cocoa) beans can be chewed on straight from the pod but the taste is now exactly what we have commonly known to be chocolate. To get the chocolate flavor requires roasting and drying the beans (in the Dominican Republic you will find then drying in the sun on the side of the road). That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the cocao raw.

We often open up a pod just to suck the white film off the beans. While this tastes nothing like chocolate it does have a sweet tangy flavor that we enjoy. Beans can then be washed, roasted, dried and eventually ground and pressed into bars to be used later.

Cocoa Pod

Cocoa Pod

Cacao Pod

Also called Cocoa pod

These brightly colored pods can be found growing throughout the Dominican Republic. Cacao or Cocoa is one of the major exports of the DR. The quality of the chocolate produced is acclaimed world wide.

Health Benefits of Chocolate

Always a popular subject for chocolate lovers! Did you know Chocolate is good for your?

Now that doesn’t mean that you can now start eating pounds of it a day, but eating a chocolate, especially dark chocolate on a regular basis is known to have certain health benefits. Two benefits of dark chocolate is that it can help to lower your blood pressure as well as lower your cholesterol by reducing the LDL cholesterol in your blood.

Dark chocolate can also enhance you mood. The Serotonin in dark chocolate acts as a anti -depressant while the caffeine and other stimulants can help make you more alert and energetic.

Milk chocolate and white chocolate have less of the cocoa phenols which is what actually gives chocolate it’s health benefits so the darker the chocolate the better! The flavanols in dark chocolate both give the chocolate it’s stronger, bitter flavor and is what produces much of the health benefit, so if the chocolate that you are eating has been processed to the point that it is sweet, milky or lacking that stronger flavor there will be less benefit.