The Cacao Tree (Theobrama cacao)

"Chemically speaking, chocolate really is the world's perfect food"
-Michael Levine

vClass: Equisetopsida
vSubclass: Magnoliidae
vSuperorder: Rosanae
vOrder: Malvales
vFamily: Malvaceae
vGenus: Theobroma

A close relative to the Cacao Tree is Kola Tree. Similar to chocolate, cola has the element of caffeine. Both plants are cultivated in similar climates of the Tropics.

Geographic Distribution- The Tropics

Majority of all Cacao trees can be found 20 degrees from the Equator. Specifically, within the understory of evergreen tropical plants in the rainforest.
  • A total of 75% is found just within 8 degrees.
  • Specifically grown in:
  • o South & Central America
  • o Southeast Asia & Oceania
  • o West Africa


Original Uses-

vIt cannot be said for certain where the plant first originated, but it is known it was somewhere in South or Central America
vAround 400 BC- when cocoa plantations were first seen
vBy 250 AD, it was seem in the Mayan culture through their hieroglyphics
vThe Indigenous people of Central America thought very highly of chocolate
  • o Used it as an extravagant substance for ceremonies, such as weddings
  • o Used it as currency when trading
vSo precious, only the royals and wealthy came into contact with it

How it’s used today-
vSeeds are fermented for a total of 4-7 days
vThey are then dried and roasted until the nibs, also known as the cotyledons, are released
vThese nibs are ground together to form chocolate liquor

Different types of chocolate-
vDark Chocolate- mainly chocolate liquor, cocoa butter and added flavorings
o Can be very bitter in taste
vMilk Chocolate- all of the same ingredients as dark chocolate, but with added milk solids
vWhite Chocolate- Cocoa butter is the main ingredient
o This is what gives it an extremely sweet flavor

Cacao flower-
vSmall in size
vCan vary from yellowish white to pale pink in color
vLocated directly off the trunk and branches of the Cacao Tree
vIn bloom year round

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Cacao fruit-
vOnly about 5% of flowers get pollenated the fruit
vThe fruits are called cocoa pods
  • o They are egg-shaped
  • o They range in colors within the red, brown and yellow gradient
  • o A good source of carbohydrates, fats and protein


vThe nutrients and fatty acids found in cocoa can help lower blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular disease
o If a small piece is consumed on a regular basis
vIt should be consumed in order to maintain a heart-healthy diet
vCreate a feeling of euphoria/positivity
vPhenylethylamine (PEA) is an endorphin found in cocoa that gives a pleasurable sensation
vStimulate the user from the caffeine and theobromine content
vThe fatty acids help to increase the HDL levels
vFlavonoids help to reduce the LDL levels
vWonderful source of antioxidants! (Especially Dark Chocolate)

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Wild Card- The Chocolate Daisy
vA flower native to the United States
o Native to the south west
vWhy is this flower such an interesting plant?
o It does not produce chocolate, but produces the strong aroma of chocolate
§ Specifically, the stamens of the flower
vThe scent is extremely important to the environment
o Attracts pollinators


Falsetto, Sharon. "A Plant Profile of the Chocolate Flower". Suite101. 2010. Retrieved April 24, 2013 from

Kew: Royal Botanic Gardens. "Plants & Fungi: Theobroma Cacao (cocoa tree)". Kew. 2013. Retrieved April 25, 2013 from

The Story of Chocolate. "The Story of Chocolate". TSOC. 2013. Retrieved April 23, 2013 from

Xocoatl. "All About Chocolate". Xocoatl. 2013. Retrieved April 25, 2013 from