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Cabral Velho, C., A. Whipkey, and J. Janick. 1990. Cupuassu: A new beverage crop for Brazil. p. 372-375. In: J. Janick and J.E. Simon (eds.), Advances in new crops. Timber Press, Portland, OR.

Cupuassu: A New Beverage Crop for Brazil

Christiane Cabral Velho, Anna Whipkey, and Jules Janick

    1. Origin
    2. Morphology
    1. Culture
    2. Tissue Culture
  7. Table 1
  8. Table 2
  9. Fig. 1
  10. Fig. 2
  11. Fig. 3
  12. Fig. 4
  13. Fig. 5


Brazil is the largest producer of tropical and subtropical fruits in the southern hemisphere. Exports of orange and banana have shown marked increase over the last decade. Currently Brazil is searching for ways to diversify its export industry and exploit indigenous species of the tropical rainforest (Chaar 1980, Venturieri et al. 1985).

A promising new fruit is cupuassu [Theobroma grandiflorum (Willd ex Spreng) Schum, Sterculiaceae], a close relative of cacao (T. cacao L.). Cupuassu fruit contains a highly-flavored pulp that can be used for juices, ice creams, liquors, wine, and jellies (Vasconcelos et al. 1975). The seeds can be used to make chocolate (Vasconcelos et al. 1975, Venturieri and Martel 1985). The volume processed by local industries in Para region has increased, although fruits are still harvested from wild trees (Calzavara et al. 1984).



Cupuassu originated in south and southeastern Amazonia in Brazil and is also native to the states of Para and Maranhao. Today, it can be found near the Tapajos, Xingu, and Guama rivers, and in northeastern Maranhao (Vasconcelos et al. 1975).


Cupuassu, is an erect tree, that can attain heights over 20 m at maturity, but when cultivated, is maintained at 6 to 8 m. The canopy can reach 7 m in diameter; oblong leaves are 25 to 35 cm wide. The inflorescence has three to five flowers. Each flower has a calyx composed of five triangular fused sepals, a corolla with five purple petals, five purple staminodes, five stamens, and an ovary with five locules. The oblong fruits are 12 to 25 cm long, 10 to 12 cm in diameter, and weigh I to 2 kg. A four to five-year-old tree may produce 20 to 30 fruits and a mature tree (over seven years) 60 to 70. Each fruit contains about 50 seed which are surrounded by a mucilaginous pulp with an acid taste and a strong "goaty" aroma (Chaar 1980, Venturieri and Alves 1985, Venturieri et al. 1985).

Cupuassu is cross-pollinated, with bees the main pollinator (Falcao and Lleras 1983). The rate of pod set is low because of the high incidence of flower bud abortion. Anther dehiscence precedes anthesis which occurs between 10:00 am and 5:30 pm. Flower bud development takes 15 days and fruits mature four months after fertilization (Silva Retto, 1986).

Calzavara et al. (1984) has classified cupuassu by fruit shape:
Redondo: the apex of the fruit is rounded; the most common type (Fig. 1, Fig. 2 right, Fig. 3 right).
Mamorana: the fruit has a pointed apex and a very thick rind (7 to 9 mm).
Mamau: a seedless clone found in Para (EMBRAPA/CPATU) (Fig. 2 left, Fig. 3 left).
The seeded cupuassu fruit consists of 46% pulp, 38% rind, and 16% seeds. The seedless fruit consists of 67% pulp, but the pulp is somewhat less flavorful. Another problem with the seedless clone is low productivity (Chaar 1980). The constituents of cupuassu pulp are listed in Table 1.



Cupuassu can be cultivated in the humid tropics with an average annual rainfall of 1,800 mm and an annual mean temperature of 23°C. Cupuassu grows well in deep soils with high fertility. Germination of cupuassu is inhibited by the mucilage which surrounds the seeds. The mucilage can be removed by light fermentation for 12 to 24 hours; germination starts three to four days later. Seeds are then sown directly in plastic bags or trays. If the mucilage is not removed, germination takes 12 to 17 days (Venturieri and Alves 1985, Venturieri et al. 1985).

Young seedlings are protected by 50% shading of direct sun. When the seedlings are five to six months old, light is increased to 75% of full sun. For rootstock production, seedlings four to six months old are used. Recommended propagation methods are side grafting or green strip budding (Calzavara et al. 1984, Venturieri et al. 1985, Venturieri et al. 1986/1987). Plants are spaced 5 m apart with successive pruning until the seventh or eighth year. The fertilizer used is the same as for cacao (12-5-10 NPK) plus manure.

The most common insect pests are Coleoptera, aphids, bees, and several species of Crysomelidae. The most common diseases are witches broom incited by Crinipellis perniciosa, anthracnose (Colletotrichum gloesporioides) and "queima do fio" (Pellicularia koleroga) (Venturieri et al. 1985).

Tissue Culture

Somatic embryogenesis has been induced in cupuassu by culturing immature zygotic embryos on a semisolid Murashige and Skoog medium supplemented with 1 mg/liter 2,4-D and 10% coconut water (Janick and Whipkey 1988). Somatic embryos proliferate by budding and produce embryogenic competent callus (Fig. 4). Once induced, embryogenic cultures were most proliferative on 2,4-D-free medium and glucose. Somatic embryos have not produced viable seedlings.


The fruit has various uses as shown in Fig. 5 (Calzavara et al. 1984). The value of the seed of cupuassu is still not widely recognized and they are usually discarded. The fatty acid composition of cupuassu and cacao seed is shown in Table 2 (Calzavara et al. 1984, Chaar 1980, Vasconcelos et al. 1975). On the basis of the high linoleic acid content, the seed "butter" of cupuassu would be expected to have a lower melting point than cocoa butter. The use of cupuassu seeds for chocolate manufacture is restricted to the Solimoes, Madeira, and Tocantins rivers valleys of the Amazon.

Currently, cupuassu pulp can be extracted directly, frozen or processed as a syrup, with water and sugar (Chaar 1980). Pulp extraction is performed manually or mechanically. During manual extraction, the pulp is cut with a scissors and seeds are removed by hand. In the mechanical process, the pulp is extracted by a depulping machine, then homogenized and pasteurized. Machines have been developed that can process up to 2,500 kg of fruit per hour (Calzavara et al. 1984). The pulp must be frozen because the flavor is destroyed by heat.


Cupuassu because of its unusual aroma may have real promise as a new flavor for many products, particularly ice-creams, yogurts, and tropical juices. However, there are a number of agricultural problems that must be overcome including high susceptibility to witches broom and short storage life of the fruit. Immediate processing by freezing is required because heat destroys flavor. Cupuassu has the potential to become a new crop for the tropical rainforest providing research continues in culture, selection, processing, and marketing. Investigations are presently underway in the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisa da Amazonia (INPA), and Centro de Pesquisa Agropecuaria do Tropico Umido (CPATU/EMBRAPA).


Table 1. Analysis of cupuassu pulp (Chaar 1980).

Constituent Quantity
Total soluble solids (°Brix) 10.51
Titratable acidity (g citric acid anhydride % w/w) 2.35
Brix/acid ratio 4.47
pH 3.60
Reducing sugars 3.00
Nonreducing sugars 5.81
Vitamin C (mg/100 g) 28.32
Starch (%) 0.96
Pectins (mg/100 g) 703
Viscosity (cps at 21°C, 100 rpm) 6750
Calcium (mg/100 g) 3.10
Magnesium (mg/100 g) 9.31
Total iron (mg/100 g) 1.52

Table 2. Fatty acid composition as a percent of total fats in cupuassu and cacao.

Fatty acid composition
Fatty acid Cupuassu Cacao
% of lipids
Palmitic (C16:0) 5.8 32.8
Stearic (C18:0) 38.3 35.5
Oleic (C18:1) 42.8 29.6
Aracadic (C20:0) 4.8 1.0
Linoleic (C18:3) 83 1.1
% of seed wt
Total lipid 58.0 57.3

Fig. 1. Fruit of cupuassu.

Fig. 2. Seedless (left) and seeded (right) fruit of cupuassu.

Fig. 3. Pulp segments and ovule of seedless clone (left) and seeded clone (right) of cupuassu.

Fig. 4. Somatic cotyledonary embryo of cupuassu.

Fig. 5. Products of cupuassu fruit.

Last update August 29, 1997 by aw