Roasting effects on phenolic content and free-radical scavenging activities of pulp preconditioned and fermented cocoa (Theobroma cacao) beans
Polyphenols are phytochemicals responsible for the astringency, bitterness, green flavours and antioxidant activities in Theobroma cacao beans. Polyphenols degradation in cocoa beans during roasting is crucial to the flavour outcome and it is influenced by factors such as temperature, time and pod storage. Antioxidants are compounds that help to inhibit oxidation reactions caused by free radicals such as singlet oxygen, superoxide, peroxyl radicals, hydroxyl radicals and peroxynitrite thereby preventing damage to the cells and tissues. Their mechanisms of action include scavenging reactive oxygen and decreasing localised oxygen concentration thereby reducing molecular oxygen’s oxidation potential, metabolising lipid peroxides to non-radical products and chelating metal ions to prevent generation of free radicals in humans. The study aimed at investigating changes in total polyphenols, anthocyanins, o-diphenols and antioxidant activity (free-radical scavenging activities) after roasting of pulp preconditioned and fermented cocoa beans using standard analytical methods. A 4×4 full factorial design with the principal experimental factors as pod storage time (0, 3, 7 and 10 days) and roasting duration (0, 15, 30 and 45 minutes) at 120oC were used to study the changes in the total polyphenols, anthocyanins, o-diphenols and % free-radical scavenging activities of the cocoa beans. Variable decrease in total polyphenols, odiphenols and anthocyanins were observed with increase in pre-conditioning (pod storage time) and roasting duration. However, variable trends were observed for the % free-radical scavenging activities. The total polyphenols, anthocyanins and o-diphenols in the cocoa beans after 45 minutes roasting decreased in the range 132.24 to 57.17 mg/g, 6.71 to 1.07 mg/kg and 15.94 to 8.25 mg/g respectively at all pod storage treatments. The total polyphenols of the fermented, dried and unstored (freshly harvested) cocoa beans was 132.25 mg/g which reduced to 122.14 mg/g (7.6% degradation), 116.721 mg/g (11.7% degradation) and 92.22 mg/g (30.3% degradation) after storage for 3, 7 and 10 days, respectively. The optimum decrease in the % freeradical scavenging activity was 7 days and above of pods storage. Increasing roasting time caused a continuous decrease in the % free-radical scavenging activity from 89.10% to 74.31% after 45 minutes for beans from the unstored (freshly harvested) pods. However, pod storage caused an increase in the % free radical scavenging activities during roasting. Pulp pre-conditioning (pod storage) and roasting duration could be used to reduce the astringency and bitterness caused by polyphenols, o-diphenols and anthocyanins in cocoa beans as well as increase the antioxidant activity imparted by cocoa.
Key words: Cocoa, pod storage, roasting, polyphenols.