History of Cacao
Theobroma cacao is the taxonomic classification for the plant also called the cacao tree, which is a small (4–8 m (13–26 ft) tall) evergreen tree in the family Malvaceae, native to the deep tropical regions of Central and South America.
Cacao only grows in the “cacao belt” an area North and South of the equator where the tropical conditions provide the perfect balance of rainfall, humidity and sunshine.
The fruit, called a cacao pod, is ovoid, 15–30 cm (5.9–11.8 in) long and 8–10 cm (3.1–3.9 in) wide, ripening yellow to orange, and weighs about 500 g (1.1 lb) when ripe. The pod contains 20 to 60 seeds, usually called “beans”, embedded in a white pulp. (Wikipedia)
These seeds, cocoa beans, are used to make cocoa butter, cocoa powder, confectionery, ganache and of course chocolate.
The first Europeans to encounter cacao were Christopher Columbus and his crew in 1502. The landed in the Americas while trying to reach Asia in search of its rich spice trade.
The first real European knowledge about chocolate came in the form of a beverage which was first introduced to the Spanish at their meeting with Moctezuma in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan in 1519.
Cortés and others noted the vast quantities of this beverage the Aztec emperor consumed, and how it was carefully whipped by his attendants beforehand.
Cacao made its way to Europe but was not that popular until sugar was added.
It is now one of the most sought after commodities and a $98 billion industry.