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Why Cacao is Called the "Food of the Gods"

It's one of the most delicious fruits you've never tasted...

And when it comes to chocolate, it's the star of the show.

It gives chocolate its flavor, its color, and that wonderful, slow melt.

So if you're a chocolate lover, you've gotta know a thing or two about cacao (pronounced "kha-cow").

This month, we'll show you what it is, how and where it grows, and why chocolate makers trek around the globe sampling cacao, searching for the next prize crop.

Let's start today with some of the basics…

Theobroma cacao – The Food of the Gods

 

Carl Linneaus was a Swedish botanist. And he must have been a chocolate lover...

In 1753, Linneaus named the tree Theobroma cacao. Theobroma means "food of the gods" in Greek.

This food of the gods grows between about 20 degrees north and 20 degrees south of the equator. In other words, cacao grows in the hot, wet tropics…

Source: Barry Callebaut


Cacao trees are medium-sized. They have big leaves. They thrive in the shade. And they only start producing fruit after three to five years...

Beautiful little flowers grow all over the tree. And tiny insects called midges pollinate them. Only about 3 in 1,000 flowers turn into colorful cacao pods, which take about five months to fully develop. As you can see, they grow right off the trees' trunks and larger branches...




Chop one of these pods open with a machete (the preferred method), and you'll find anywhere from 20-60 seeds. These seeds – often called cacao beans – are covered in a slippery white pulp (the "mucilage").



This pulp is sweet and delicious. And as you'll see in the coming weeks, it plays a major role in cacao's (and chocolate's) flavor development.

Until next time, as we say in Costa Rica, pura vida,

The Latest Batch team