Cacao, oh, wow! Did you know that chocolate is made from the seeds of the Cacao Tree? Cacao is a fruit that grows from the Theobroma cacao tree, blooming from its trunk and mid-branches.
The Cacao tree flowers year-round, in two cycles of six months. Thousands of minuscule white (female) and pink (male) flowers adorn stems and branches. No more than forty of the thousands of flowers will eventually develop into cacao pods.
Inside the pods, you’ll find the seed coat, a kernel and a germ with a half an inch wall thick with a white coat. The white fruit surrounding the cacao seeds can be eaten and has a floral smell (similar to a lychee). However, the seeds are the only part of the fruit needed for fermentation to make chocolate. These cacao seeds are actually bitter, dense, and crunchy. From the processed cocoa bean comes the fluid paste, or liquor, from which cocoa powder and chocolate are made.
The cacao tree needs hot temperatures to grow, can be found in West Africa, Ghana,Indonesia, Ecuador, Taiwan, Thailand, India, Hawaii, and Dominican Republic, to name a few places. However, consumption dates back to ancient Mesoamerica and Mexico where it was used for trading.
Ecuador is possibly where cacao was first used as a food, although the first records of its consumption came from Mexico’s Olmec civilization. The Olmecs flourished in the southern regions of the Gulf Coast of Mexico between 1200 BCE and 400 BCE; during this period they transformed cacao fruit into various beverages and foods through fermentation, drying, and roasting processes. It’s also believed that they eventually adopted fermented beans as a form of currency.
We hope you were as amazed as we are with this mighty fruit and appreciate the path of cacao from plant to chocolate!
Fun fact: Did you know that the Swiss consume more chocolate per capita than any other nation on earth?