“Physical strength and longevity”
IMCO’s market position
With more than 8,000 metric tons in annual sales, IMCO is one of the largest distributors of cocoa beans in Mexico. We offer the best quality thanks to our experience and infrastructure, proven by our ISO 9001-2000 certification. Besides import and export of this product, we handle worldwide distribution, although principally throughout Mexico. Our warehouses are located both in the states of Tabasco and Chiapas, which are Mexico’s largest cocoa producers.
The Mayas used to call cocoa “Ka Kaw”, in reference to fire “kakh” & water “haa”. According to the analyst Davila Garibi the word elements of chocolate are: Chocui (hot In Mayan) and cacao (“dab”, juice y “kau” bitter); “hot and bitter beverage”.
The scientific name of the cocoa tree is “Theobroma cacao L.” (The L stands for the Swedish naturist who classified the tree: C.Linneo). It belongs to the species called Theobroma which means in Greek “food of the gods”. The tree can reach a height of 5 to 12 meters and grows in the shadow of bigger trees. Its leaves are large and evergreen and it grows yellowish and pinkish flowers. The cacao beans grow inside pods (large oval berries of 25 cm long by 15 cm wide), which grow directly from the trunk or oldest branches. Inside the pod there are 20 to 40 beans, covered with a soft, white, sweet flavored mucilaginous pulp. The beans have a bitter inedible flavor. In its forth year, the tree starts producing beans, some having a 40 year lifespan. There are 2 harvests a year, Mexico having an average yearly production of 500 kg of dry beans per hectare.
Cocoa plantations originated in the tropical climates of South America and West Africa. About 400 years ago, the first plants grew on the shores of the Amazon and Orinoco rivers. The first cocoa farmers were from Honduras and can be situated around 1100 B.C. This activity spread to the rest of Mesoamerica around 900 B.C., during the Olmec civilization. Around the same time the Mayas had established themselves in the south of what is today Mexico. They were the creators of a bitter drink made with cocoa beans, which was prepared exclusively for the kings and members of their courts, and used in solemn and sacred rituals. Moreover, this drink had regenerating and stimulating forces. The beans were also used as currency (liquid gold). The Aztecs believed that their god “Quetzalcoatl” brought the plant as a divine gift to transmit wisdom and to help them rest peacefully. Hernán Cortés decided to exploit cocoa commercially and in 1528 he took the tree to Spain. Later on, in the XVII century, he established plantations in Mexico, Trinidad, Haiti and Africa.
The Mayans used the chocolate for therapeutic purposes, for both its stimulating and calming effects. Cocoa butter was used as an ointment to heal wounded warriors.
The maturity of the cocoa pod is determined by its color change. The red pod changes to orange, the green to yellow. The harvester is also guided by the sound the interior of the pod makes when lightly tapped. The stem of the pod is then cut with a special knife. To remove the beans from the pod (along with their pulp) it is struck until it opens and then cut open laterally. The beans are gathered in polyethylene bags to be brought to the fermentation plant. The fermented seeds are then put in special wooden boxes to drain and to shed their pulp for a period of 4 to 7 days, according to the flavor that is desired. Every so often the grains are turned. This process is used by IMCO in our own fermentation plant “Santa Helena” located in the state of Tabasco. Many other companies do their fermenting in plastic boxes, or completely skip the fermenting process. Because of the fermentation process, the color of the grains changes to rich chocolate brown and the bean obtains its well-known aroma. There are two other types of cocoa produced skipping the fermentation process:”non fermented” and ” washed” cocoa. After extracting the seeds from the fruit, they are laid out to dry in their pulp, producing non fermented cocoa. Washed cocoa is produced by drying the extracted cocoa beans, previously washed in water, also called “red cocoa” because of the color it obtains during this process.
Drying is done in the sun or by artificial heat. The grains are put on huge trays and turned over every hour for 3 to 4 days if dried in the sun or for 1 or 2 days if artificially dried. During this process, the weight of the grains is reduced to ¼ of its original. At our fermenting plant Santa Helena, the fermenting and drying process are processed under the strictest guidelines of quality control and hygiene.
Cocoa as a base product
Cocoa powder: It is obtained by grinding the dry beans.
Cocoa paste: It is obtained by fusion of cocoa butter. After roasting, cracking and de-shelling the beans, they are grinded into a thick creamy paste, at a temperature of 50 to 70 degrees centigrade. As a result we obtain chocolate liquor or cocoa paste. Afterwards, the product goes through machines with agitation and ventilating systems that maintain a temperature of 98 degrees centigrade. Finally, the liquid will be processed into chocolate by mixing in cocoa butter and sugar, and will then be refined, molded and tempered.
Cocoa butter: It is produced by pressing roasted beans. Cocoa paste or cocoa liquor is put under a pressure of 550lb/cm², during which the cocoa butter is separated from the cocoa. After eliminating the solids from the butter using filters, the butter will enter in a grinding machine that will crush any hard bits formed by the pressing process.
In the kitchen
In the candy and baking industries several cocoa based products are frequently used, including paste, powder and butter. The general public is more familiar with ready to eat products, such as chocolate bars, sweetened powder and syrups.
The 1% theobromine that each cocoa bean contains has similar effects to those of caffeine found in coffee, although with a more diuretic and less stimulating effect. It also has an anti-inflammatory effect on the kidneys. For medicinal preparations, an infusion of cocoa beans is used, without the added sugars or fat. Cocoa butter is an emollient and helps prevent and heal scars. Furthermore, many cosmetics and pharmaceuticals contain cocoa to cure stretch marks, burns and skin irritations. Finally, cocoa is used in the preparation of treatments for hair problems, hemorrhoids and vaginitis.
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