Chocolate Origins: Part 1 Theobroma Cacao

The Cacao Tree

Formally known as 'Theobroma cacao', the Cacao or Cocoa tree is a large flowering tree that grows in tropical regions. In Greek 'Theos' means 'God' and 'Broma' means 'food'. Loosely translated the Cacao tree is Food of the Gods. Once pollinated the Cacao Tree grows fruit that contains seeds. This fruit is usually known as the 'cacao pod.' New Cacao trees take about 5 years to produce their first pods. The average tree will live to 100 but only produce fruit for half of it's lifetime.

Fruit of the Cacao Tree
Caocao Pods

Even the Cacao pods take months to grow, and weeks to ripen. Once ripe the Cacao Pod will be an orange color, contain approximately 30-60 seeds encased in white pulp, and weigh around 1lb. The domestication of the Cacao Tree likely happened approximately 4000 years ago. While the Cacao seeds go through a special process to become Cocoa Beans, the pulp can be fermented into an alcoholic beverage. Generally once the Cacao Beans have gone through any stages of refinement they can be referred to as Cocoa Beans.

Breaking open a ripe Cacao Pod
The Cacao Seeds encased in the sticky white pulp.