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


  1. When Steve and I were visiting in Denver awhile back, we visited a chocolate factory. WOW!!! Talk about heaven!!! We were told how the beans grew and how they were manufactored. Then how they made different kinds. Saw a conveyor belt just like the one in "I Love Lucy." And then at the end we all got a piece of candy that we had seen being made. Was way cool!!!

  2. Sue, could you lay at the end of the conveyor belt with your mouth open? Just a thought...

  3. CHOCOLATE! The most important food group....cures so many ills and makes life wonderful!

  4. Chocolate 101 should have been freshman orientation in college! And the beginning of every year after that! :) I would have made honors in that class...LOL!

  5. LOL! Cheryl...good one.
    I love chocolate so much I'd even eat those beans!

  6. Oh, lover of lists, from "The Book of Books" 2007, pg 67 is 12 Food Books on the Histories of Culinary Staples (beer, sugar, tea, bread, olives, honey, salt, spice, wine, sweets/candy, CHOCOLATE, & coffee.) #11 alphabetically by title (CERTAINLY NOT in order of importance!) is The True History of Chocolate by Sophie D & Michael D Coe, 1996: "Fascinating and surprising history: Did you know the Aztecs drank it as a bitter tonic, mixed with hot chilies rather than sugar?"

  7. Ditto all comments, especially CSJ's 'picture' of positioning self at the end of the belt.
    Can you imagine living in Hershey PA with the smell of chocolate in your nostrils ALL the time! Would it permeate your clothes? Suggest it would be like being a heroin addict in a crack house (kinda like me working PT at Borders! ROFL,) stimulating temptation.

  8. Had to share my snack with you all: chocolate hazelnut spread on cinnamon graham crackers. Like frosting so must lick the knife AND fingers!

  9. lol. did you know that chocolate was banned in switzerland for many years. read this