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What is or what was a cocavello drink? Does someone know, what ingredients it contained and if it is still used (drinked) somewhere around the globe?

What I managed to find out so far is:

  1. Mentioned in part III of Polish Positivist novel "Nad Niemnem" (On the Niemen) and this cocavello can be "found" in the end of 19th century and somewhere on the Neman river or far east of Congress Poland (current western Belarus). Or, to be more precise: "is set in and around the Polish county of Grodno after the 1863 January Uprising".

  2. Mentioned as a drink similar or quite opposite to drinkable cacao (mentioned as: "She was drinking cocavello, because of her dislike toward cacao" or something similar -- I don't have access to English text of this book).

I haven't found any reference of this drink, neither here or actually anywhere (searching with Google). Can anyone shed some light or maybe recognize this drink under a different name?

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  • Just spitballing could it possibly something coconut related something like cocobello ro cocabello (b->v not so rare) Apr 28, 2021 at 15:13
  • @ThomasCarroll The cite in question comes from an audiobook of a very low quality audio recording, so misspelling / misunderstanding b --> v is most certainly possible. And we can assume this just happened. However I found nothing "eatable" in the Internet named "cocobello" or "cocabello". So, please, provide some explanation on what is this, in an answer. Thank you.
    – trejder
    Apr 29, 2021 at 17:29

3 Answers 3

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It looks that cacaovella is a powder made from cocoa shells.

Automatic translation:

Cacaovella (cacavella, cacao-vella) - the shell of the husk of cocoa beans; is a by-product of the production of cocoa liquor.

Meal contains up to 17% fiber and only 3-4% fat, is characterized by increased hardness, is difficult to grind, and therefore cannot be used in the manufacture of chocolate. However, this waste is very useful, and its practical applications are very diverse. Cocoa shell is used as a new additive in combined animal feed, for mulching the soil, it is made into powder, additionally subjected to finer grinding. When burning cocoa shells, a large amount of thermal energy can be obtained, and in medicine, cocoa shells are valued for their high content of theobromine, a stimulant of the heart muscle and central nervous system, used in the production of many medications. The initial size of the husk is 15-25 mm, the required grinding fineness is less than 50 microns.

Source: Russian Wikipedia.

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  • Welcome! As the Wikipedia article is not available in English, could you please add a few more details (if relevant and available) right here in the post?
    – Stephie
    Nov 3, 2023 at 7:54
  • @Stephie Added automatic translation from Russian. In review queue right now. I (question answer) speak no Russian, so can't do more. Hopefully Pawel, who provided the answer, can clear the translation.
    – trejder
    Nov 3, 2023 at 12:28
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TL;DR: There is some chance that the drink, if it existed, had a taste combining coconut and chocolate. It is far from clear though, since that usage might be newer.


I agree with Thomas Carroll's suggestion that we need to consider phonetically similar variants. Polish has the rare feature of transcribing all foreign words, even the ones written in its own Latin alphabet, into their phonetic equivalent. Also, considering the geopolitical setting, an exotic drink might have entered the area from Russia, and the name would have been transcribed from whatever a Russian merchant called it (in writing or orally).

This gives us three rather likely potential replacements for "kakawelo". The first is w -> b. This is commonly done at least in Russian (compare e.g. Вифлеем, Vifleem, for Bethlehem). Then there is a -> o, because in Russian, an unstressed o sounds like a. Third, k -> c is also a likely pair, since c in Polish is pronounced close to the zz in pizza. Also, the "l" could be doubled or singular.

With these replacements, I considered names matching coc[oa]bell?[oa]. I actually also tried replacing the first "o" by an "a", but not only is it unlikely (it is stressed); the closest hits were misspellings of the cascabel pepper or of the plant Cascabela Thevetia, which happens to be poisonous.

Luckily, the other searches led to several unrelated hits for "cocobello": different Swiss chocolatiers are offering a chocolate candy under this name, always consisting of a coconut gianduja center with chocolate glaze. There was also coconut-chocolate spread by a UK manufacturer called "cocobella". This is what I consider to be the likeliest taste direction of the drink, since it is the only use which is not bound to a single (modern) brand.

You must also consider that these word variations sound nice, and seem to have been re-invented several times. So, there is also a chance that the antique usage did not survive (it might also have been a brand rather than a generic name) and that the Swiss chocolates are newer. Or, it could even be that the drink never existed and was invented by the author to imply fanciness.

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    Thank you for your great effort that adds really much to the answer above. Unfortunately I cannot accept two answers in the same time, so I can only upvote yours, sorry.
    – trejder
    Aug 9, 2021 at 7:25
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Not a final resolution of this truely Babylonian mystery, but some additional pointers.

Using Google Book search to also consider historical sources, it seems the word cocavello can be found mostly in Italian sources, as well as Portuguese, Spanish and Corsican, but for none of this languages automatic translators manage to provide a translation for the term. In Italian, the term seems to be used mostly in the context of horses, so Portuguese or Spanish seem to be the more likely sources of the term in the context of drinks.

Then I found two Russian anthologies quoting a passage from the same french text whichs origin I could not figure out:

Dites moi ce qu'il faut faire pour la raffer-mir ? On me dit de prendre du café cocavello, et de renoncer entièreinent au thé. Je prie Catinka de m'envoyer une provision de ce café; il fera beaucoup de bien à Micha dont la poitrine est délicate.

Tell me what to do to make it go away? I am told to take coffee cocavello, and to give up tea entirely. I beg Catinka to send me a supply of this coffee; it will do a lot of good to Micha whose chest is delicate.

  • Разряд исторических источников (Rank of historical sources ) by O. I. Popova, Moscow, 1926
  • Труды Государственного исторического музея (Proceedings of the State Historical Museum), Moscow, 1926

Comparing this to the passage from Nad Niemnem (p. 205)

Tuż przy nie, z ręką na chustce zawieszoną, Teresa piła kakawelo366, bo kakao e nie służyło i z opowiadaniem o śnie dzisiejszym łączyła przewidywanie bólu zębów, dla zapobieżenia któremu już użyła lekarstwa jednego, a drugie właśnie przygotowywała, gdy przez wpółotwarte drzwi buduaru zajrzał Witold i o pozwolenie wejścia zapytał.

366 kakawelo — wyraz nienotowany w słownikach.[przypis redakcyny]

Right next to them, with her hand hanging on her handkerchief, Teresa was drinking kakawelo366, because cocoa was not good, and with the story of today's dream she was combining the anticipation of a toothache, for the prevention of which she had already used one remedy and was just preparing another, when Witold peeped in through the half-opened door of the boudoir and asked permission to enter.

366 kakawelo - a word not found in dictionaries [editor's note]

it seems cocavello or kakawelo was some kind of coffee or coffee like preparation consumed by the weak or ill, maybe even providing slight painkiller effects.

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  • I would disagree with you twice! :) First, this is certainly not a truly Babylonian mystery since you've solved it. Second, I would disagree that this is not a final resolution since you have actually answered my question, solving the puzzle and providing all the necessary sources. Since like Russian-area drink with some Spanish or Portuguese provenience.
    – trejder
    Aug 9, 2021 at 7:24
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    @trejder Thanks for the praise. Glad to read you´re statisfied by this hints. Though I was hoping to dig out some more sound information on the original ingredients or even a recipe.
    – J. Mueller
    Aug 10, 2021 at 19:25

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