Beverages – Cocoa, Chocolate, And Their Advantages

As the discoverer, Pizzaro, sailed along the Pacific Coast with his soldiers, they saw everywhere, throughout the kingdom of the Incas, blooming cocoa and carefully planted corn plantations. The celebrated American historian, Prescott, relates this in his work, “The Conquest of Peru.” He also states, in his book on the conquest of Mexico by Cortes, that Montezuma, that most unfortunate Emperor of Mexico, had at his disposal 50 pots of cocoa daily for his own use, and 2000 pots for his household. The old Mexicans even accepted bags of cocoa for payments due them. We need not be surprised at the value placed upon cocoa, when we consider that it has a very enlivening and refreshing action. It was for this reason that the celebrated Swedish scholar, Linné (Carl Linmeus), the contemporary and friend of Boerhaave, who was enthusiastically fond of cocoa, called it a gift of the gods,—”theobroma.” Secondly, notwithstanding its enlivening and stimulating action, cocoa is less injurious to the nervous system, and is more easily digested than coffee and tea. It is a more dietetic drink and is free from the undesirable reflex effects exerted by coffee and tea. This is a property all the more appreciated by Linné, since our worthy colleague suffered from gout, and had two apoplectic attacks before his death. He had a large medical practice in Stockholm, which, together with his scientific pursuits, kept him very busy. Linné drank a considerable daily dose of cocoa, and that it agreed with him is surprising in view of the fact that he had gout, for cocoa also contains a similar substance to that present in coffee and tea-theobromine—which furthers the formation of uric acid. It must also not be forgotten that cocoa contains more oxalic acid than any other food substance. It is less exciting than tea and coffee, and is also more easily digested than either. We may also mention that cocoa is made—like coffee and tea—by steeping in hot water. It is only in this way that the soluble substances contained in the leaves and beans, which have previously been cleaned, roasted, and finally ground, can be obtained, together with a greater or less amount of their fat content. The amount of nitrogen contained in cocoa is very large. There are also considerable amounts of nutritive sub-stances, as will be seen by the following table by Kônig. In the cocoa free from oil are contained.

The nutrient salt content is likewise important, for certain of the salts, especially phosphorus, are present in even larger amounts than in cereals. In the fresh substance cocoa contains, according to Balland, between 0.38 per cent. and 0.57 per cent. of phosphorus and 0.89 per cent. to 1.30 per cent. of phosphoric acid, while coffee only contains o.13 per cent. to 0.17 per cent. of phosphorus.

The very useful cocoa-beans come mostly from South and Central America. They constitute the fruit of the cocoa tree, and may be gathered at almost any time of the year; the tree is constantly bearing fruit, and has the very great advantage over the coffee and tea plants of being very easily cultivated and requiring little care, though exceedingly fruitful. The fruits of the trees in Surinam contain the greatest number of beans, and the finest cocoa comes from Caracas in Venezuela, although that coming from Surinam is but little inferior to it. The greatest quantities are, however, exported from Brazil, from the province of Bahia. I tasted the raw cocoa-beans and found the taste quite pleasant. The greater portion could be readily masticated and was not hard to digest; of course, I only swallowed the part which could be easily chewed. More-over, cocoa, as I have already stated, is quite well digested, for which reason it is given the preference over coffee and tea in cases of stomach and intestinal catarrh. The Dutch cocoa is very easily digested; in this the cocoa is mixed with potassium carbonate or sodium carbonate, thus making the nutritive sub-stances more soluble. When too much alkali is contained in it, stomach disturbances and diarrhea are easily caused. When it contains much fat the cocoa is not so easily digested, but even then the stomach is less injuriously affected than it is by strong tea or coffee. All in all, cocoa is the most healthful drink among these beverages, with perhaps the exception of maté. It has the advantage not possessed by the three beverages discussed above that, while not exciting, it is enlivening and refreshing and also nourishing. When a person takes 2 or 3 cups of cocoa he is never as much excited as after having drank 2 or 3 cups of tea or coffee. He has at the same time absorbed considerable nourishment, for T00 grams of cocoa contain about 420 calories. For this reason cocoa is not indicated for persons who are overstout, or for those who do not wish to get too stout; but for those who wish to have a beverage which will be nourishing and not injurious, as, for instance, in diabetes, unsweetened cocoa taken with a very little fruit-sugar would be useful. For vegetarians cocoa is an ideal beverage, as it is also nourishing, which is a feature not to be despised with a vegetable diet. Cocoa mixed with malt, as in malt cocoa, or in the form of chocolate is even more nourishing, as much sugar is contained in chocolate. The rule is that there should be equal parts of cocoa and sugar, but unfortunately there is frequently more sugar and but little cocoa. Chocolate which is properly made with a sufficient quantity of cocoa is not only nourishing, but tastes very good, as in the bonbons “Gianduia di Torino.” All properly made varieties of chocolate may be very useful to us, as with a very small amount in bulk a quantity of valuable nutritious substances are absorbed. Owing to its high carbohydrate content chocolate is a particularly well adapted food for those undergoing muscular exertions, as in mountain climbing, etc. Just as when a horse is given a piece of sugar after any special exertion, so when taking very long tramps, or when ascending mountains, we should always take several small pieces of chocolate whenever we stop for a rest. In chocolate, according to Konigh, are contained 6.27 per cent. of protein, 0.62 per cent. of theobromine, 21.20 per cent. of fat, 1.36 per cent. of tartaric acid, 53.70 per cent. of sugar, 4.07 per cent. of starch, with 5.59 per cent. of other carbohydrates and 1.67 per cent. of cellulose. With such a high nutritive content, chocolate, taken as an agreeable delicacy after a meal, would likewise complete the measure of the food taken, especially in the case of strict vegetarians; it is consequently a beneficial habit to have a piece of chocolate in one’s pocket to be eaten just after a meal. Chocolate and small candies should never be taken before meals, as is so frequently done by children and many ladies. From the standpoint of a rational mode of feeding there is no more mistaken and deplorable habit than this childish custom, which spoils the appetite for the principal meals and at the same time undermines the health. After meals it is quite an advisable thing to eat a little candy or chocolate if one wishes to grow fat, or to complete a rather insufficient meal. Many ladies and some gentle-men prefer to take the latter substance in solution in the form of a cup of chocolate; it was preferred in this way by that great epicure, Brillat-Savarin. His directions for making good chocolate) were as follows : About 1 1/2 ounces of chocolate (about 50 grams) is dissolved in water over the fire; when it is warmed through, it should be thoroughly stirred and then be allowed to boil for one-fourth hour, until it thickens a little. It is to be taken warm. The best way to make chocolate is, however, that recommended to Brillat-Savarin by Madame d’Arrestrel, the Superior of the Convent of Belley, one hundred and fifty years ago. The chocolate should, according to her, be made the evening before and be left standing overnight in a porcelain pot. In this way it becomes concentrated, and has “un velouté qui le rend bien meilleur” (a velvety smoothness which greatly improves it). The greatest amount of chocolate is probably taken in Spain; everywhere from Barcelona to Cadiz I saw it being drunk in the cafés, and I also found the “enciemada” very good.

Cocoa was brought into Spain by Columbus, and the envoy of that country, at that time so rich and powerful, took it as presents to the other courts of Europe; it thus came into general use. In France it is very much used ; it is the pleasant custom in that country to pass around chocolate bonbons after the dinner, which I find is at the same time not at all detrimental to the health. At the end of a meal, on a full stomach, is the best time to take them ; they do not then interfere with the digestion. Notwithstanding all the praise which has been accorded to chocolate and cocoa, we must not forget to mention that they are injurious in the presence of an oxalic acid diathesis, as they contain as much as 0.45 per cent, of oxalic acid.