Back to: Nature online

Seeds of Trade

 
-

Product: Cacao

Other products:  
   Cacao belongs to the category Beverages
   and originated in The Americas

 SUMMARY
 WILD RELATIVES
 ORIGINS
 EARLY USES
 TRANSFER AND SPREAD
 AGRICULTURE
 MODERN CONTEXT
  POST HARVEST


CACAO

The word 'cocoa' is used by some to describe both the plant and the beverage. However 'cocoa' should only be used when discussing the drink and 'cacao' should be used when describing the plant. After the cacao beans have been processed, the terms used are cocoa or chocolate.

Theobroma cacao L. (Sterculiaceae).

Given its scientific name by Carolus Linnaeus in 1753, using drawings of specimens collected by Sir Hans Sloane in Jamaica in the 1680s. The generic name Theobroma means 'food of the gods', after the Aztec legend of its divine origin.

Native to South and possibly Central America, in tropical rainforests.

Life form: under-storey tree.

Parts used: beans ground and processed to make chocolate; pulp and pods also used for food and forage.

Ploidy level: diploid.

  

Specimen from the Sloane Herbarium at the Natural History Museum, London (Theobroma cacao L. - Cacao)