Wednesday, September 19, 2007
CHOCOLATE 101: Where Chocolate Comes From
Imagine a thin belt spanning the globe 20° degrees north and south of the equator: this is where the cacao tree thrives and chocolate starts out.
A product of the cacao tree, chocolate is made from the tree's seeds — called cacao beans or cocoa beans — which means every delicious bite you take starts out deep in the tropical, humid countries that border the equator.
(Just to be clear: the tree is called a cacao tree and the seeds its fruit produces are called cacao beans or cocoa beans. The powder made from these beans is called cocoa powder. You may see cacao mentioned on a lot of products these days because many manufacturers use cocoa and cacao interchangeably when it comes to beans and powder. It also is often used to describe the amount of cocoa solids in a bar - as in % cacao.)
Most of the chocolate we eat has its roots in Africa, which generates more than 70% of the world's cacao. In West Africa, the Côte d'Ivoire alone produces some 1.4 million tons of beans a year. Ghana is second with over 600,000 tons, followed by Nigeria and Cameroon.
So many cacao beans are grown in Africa that they can constitute as much as 40% of the total export income of some African countries. Of the 3.5 million small family cacao farms worldwide, it is estimated that 2.6 million are located in Africa.
Besides Africa, other major cacao-growing countries include Indonesia, Brazil, Ecuador, Togo, Mexico and Papua New Guinea. Cacao beans are grown also in other Latin American countries and the Caribbean, but their share of the market is smaller.
Learn more about the different kinds of beans grown around the world and factors affecting their taste by clicking here.
Info from allchocolate.com