The scientific name was given to the species by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1753, when he published it in his famous book Species Plantarum. Theobroma means “food of the gods” in Latin, and cacao is derived from the Nahuatl (Aztec language) word xocolatl, from xococ (bitter) and atl (water).
The cacao trees are native to the Amazon basin and the Andes Mountains. Today cocoa producing regions are located within 20 degrees of the equator, as the trees require good soil drainage, a humid climate, and regular rainfall. Countries in Western Africa, such as Ivory Coast and Ghana, provide over 70% of cocoa production for the world market.
The trees range from an average of 13 to 26 feet, and trees require about five years to produce its first fruit. The average life of the cacao tree is about 10 years but can extend for several decades.
The pollination process of the flowers of the cacao tree is done by flies or midgets, not bees, and the seeds of the fruit are what’s used in making chocolate. The typical cacao pod contains 30-40 seeds, also known as beans; the pods are football-shaped and feature grooved sides. It takes several hundred processed beans to make one pound of chocolate.
Indeed the “food of the gods,” a designation upon which all chocolate-lovers would agree, is a befitting name. Wouldn’t you agree?
From the Heart and Home of Captain Jackson,