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Chocolate Really DOES Grow on Trees!

Cacao is the pure source of all the different types of chocolate in the world today. It is mainly farmed in South America and on the African continent, and guess what, it really does grow on trees!

The Cacao Tree

Theobroma cacao, commonly known as the cacao tree, is incredibly specific about where it grows as it demands special climate and soil conditions. They tend to thrive in hot, tropical climates and they can be harvested throughout the year due to the warm temperatures. The genus Theobroma originated in South America, east of the Andes mountain range.

The Fruits of the Cacao Tree

A lot goes into the process of growing and cultivating cacao. The trees themselves are small evergreen trees that produce yellowy-orange fruits known as pods, (about the size of a mango) that have cacao seeds inside. They grow on the branches and trunk of the tree and develop at different rates. Before the pods grow, the flowers are pollinated by flies which is unusual due to most flowers in the world being pollinated by bees. 

The Cocoa Beans

Each pod can contain anywhere from 20-60 seeds or beans which are covered in a white pulp. In some countries, the pulp is used to produce juices, smoothies and cream or even fermented into alcohol!  Each seed is made up of around 50% fat which is known as cocoa butter. About 1,200 seeds (40 pods) are required to produce a single kilo of cocoa paste which in turn is made into chocolate.

Cacao is not intensively cultivated with 90% of the world’s cacao farmers working on 25 acres or less with most of the work done by hand. So, before you eat another piece of chocolate, it’s interesting to look at it and think about how it started as a little cacao bean, the process it went through turning it into chocolate and how it came to be in your hands.