The cocoa tree already cultivated by the Aztecs and Mayans belongs to the genus Theobroma and the mallow family and grows in 20 different types.
The plant can reach a height of up to 15 meters and grows in the shadow of larger tropical trees.
The cocoa tree grows wild as well as on plantations in Central and South America.
Its blossom arises from the older wood of the tree and blossoms perennially starting in the second to third year of its lifetime. After 10 years it develops its highest amount of blossoms (100.000 per year).
It can be harvested all-season long.
The cocoa butter is obtained by pressing the filtrated or centrifuged fat of the cocoa beans or cocoa mass.
At first the cocoa beans are roasted, cracked and stripped of their peels. Then the beans are crushed by rolls with heat application to a cocoa mass. The temperature is kept at 80 degrees to not let the mass solidify. At the end all the remaining ingredients are separated from the cocoa mass by a grease gun. The yield is about 30 – 35 %.
Due to the chemical group of polyphenols the cocoa butter has an antioxidative, cardioprotective (e.g. because of oligomeric proanthocyanidine) and anticariogenic/ antibacterial effect. Due to the purine alkaloids, which can be found also in coffee, the cocoa butter is lightly stimulant. The cocoa butter generates a slightly cooling effect in the mouth which can be desirable in certain applications. In pharmacy cocoa butter is often used to mask unpleasant tasting ingredients. Thanks to its melting behavior it is very suitable as a basis for general as well as vaginal suppositories. The cosmetic industry utilizes the same effect: the cocoa butter is used as a base material for lip products, body lotions, bath essences, soaps and balms. With the so-called enfleurage the cocoa butter is used as a base material for the perfume production: by embedding the blossoms in a fatty mass the fragrances will be extracted. For the most part cocoa butter is used in the food industry for production of confectionery.
Possible unwanted effects
Allergic reactions to cocoa products are possible likely due to its content of proteins. The content decreases gradually during the production process but should not be neglected. Reactions can occur on the skin (c.p.) as well as within respiratory and digestive organs.
Cocoa butter replacement fat
Due to the high international demand, cocoa butter is expensive and therefore replacement products were developed. These can be divided into two groups: cocoa butter equivalents and cocoa butter substitute fats. First option is a substance group which has a similar fatty acid composition as cocoa butter. Advantages occur in a similar sensory perception and processing properties. The cocoa butter substitute fats show a significant deviation of the fatty acid composition compared to cocoa butter. They are processed from fractionated, hydrogenated or transesterified vegetable oils or animal fats and serve often as a complete substitution of cocoa butter.