Where Does Cocoa Come From?

Question: Where Does Cocoa Come From?

Answer: When a Mommy Cocoa Tree and a Daddy Cocoa Tree love each other very much…um, let’s start again. Cocoa comes from the seeds of the cocoa tree, Theobroma cacao. These seeds are called cocoa beans, and from cocoa beans come cocoa, cocoa butter, and chocolate. Theobroma cacao is grown within the so-called Cocoa Belt or Chocolate Belt, a narrow band up to 20 degrees of latitude north and south of the equator. Cocoa trees can only be grown commercially within this region, as the trees require constant warm-to-hot temperatures (65 to 90 degrees F) and equally constant high humidity. A lot of rainfall (40 to 100 inches annually) is also a necessity. The trees cannot tolerate cold or drought, and, because their wood is so soft, they do poorly in areas where there is a lot of wind. They also require many hours of light each day, but they do poorly in strong ultraviolet light, of the type found at high altitudes. The following list of cocoa-producing countries, while not exhaustive, should give you a good idea of the areas of the world where cocoa comes from:

Where Does Cocoa Come From? : A List of Cocoa Growing Countries

Brazil
Cameroon
Celebes
Columbia
Cuba
Dominican Republic
Ecuador
Fiji
Ghana
Grenada
Guatemala
Haiti
Honduras
Ivory Coast
Jamaica
Java
Martinique / St. Lucia
Madagascar
Malaysia
Mexico
New Guinea
New Hebrides
Nicaragua
Nigeria
Panama
Peru
Philippines
Solomon Islands
Samoa
San Tome
Sri Lanka
Trinidad
USA (South Florida and Hawai’i; there are no commercial plantations in South Florida)
Venezuela

Theobroma cacao trees have pod-like fruits, and cocoa beans grow inside these fruits. Cocoa comes from a multi-step, complex process that begins with the harvesting and splitting open of the cocoa pods. The beans are then fermented, dried, classified according to size, and transported (often internationally) to a plant for manufacturing. From there, the beans are cleaned, roasted, and shelled, producing the nib, or meat, of the bean. The nibs are crushed and ground to form chocolate liquor, a non-alcoholic, thick paste. The liquor is subjected to high pressure, which causes the cocoa butter to separate from the cocoa solids. These solids are cocoa powder.