The fruit of the cacao tree is a melon-shaped pod that grows directly from the tree’s trunk or limbs. The pods begin as small flowers, which are pollinated by a tiny midge (rather than a bee). Successfully pollinated flowers bear fruit, and that fruit becomes the cacao pod. There are anywhere from 20 to 50 cream-colored seeds (called beans) inside each pod. The seeds, each roughly the size of an olive, are surrounded by a milky-white pulp. As pods ripen, they turn varying shades of orange, yellow, and red.
Generally, it takes five years before cacao trees begin bearing pods.
Nearly all cacao trees grow within 20 degrees north or south of the equator in tropical climates. 75% of all trees grow within 8 degrees of either side of the equator.
Cacao trees grow in three main regions: West Africa, South and Central America, and Southeast Asia/Oceania. The trees thrive on year-round moisture, heat, and shade.
Cacao’s birthplace is South America (the upper Amazon basin), from which it spread east. That’s the mirror images of coffee, which originated in Africa (Ethiopia) and then traveled westward. In one year, the world can produce 3 million tons of cacao, less than half the coffee crop.
Although cacao originated in Central and South America thousands of years ago, over 66% of the entire world’s cacao is grown in Africa. Côte d’Ivoire alone produces over 33% of the world’s supply of chocolate. 98% percent of all cocoa is cultivated by just 15 countries.
90% of the world’s cacao is grown on small family-run farms, no larger than 12 acres.
Cacao yields are small and labor intensive, in part because no machine exists to harvest it. Everything is done by hand.
Cacao trees produce all year long, though typically there are two annual harvests.
It takes almost a full year for a cocoa tree to produce enough pods to make 10 standard-sized Hershey bars.
Cacao trees can live to be 200 years old, but they produce marketable cocoa beans for only 25 years.
Each cacao tree can produce approximately 2,500 beans.
Ninety percent of modern cacao is made from a type of cacao called forastero (foreigner). Before the 1800s, cacao was made from a type of bean called criollo. Even though forastero does not taste as good as criollo, it is easier to grow.
Hawaii is the only U.S. state that grows cacao beans to produce chocolate.
The “nib” is the inside of the bean, separated from its outer shell (typically after roasting), then ground into a paste. That paste is called cocoa mass (in Europe) or cocoa liquor (in the U.S.). In spite of the name, there is no alcohol in cocoa liquor. This liquor is the basis of all chocolate and cocoa products. Nearly 400 beans are required to make a pound of chocolate liquor.
Cocoa liquor can be placed under high pressure to yield cocoa powder (or “cake”) and cocoa butter. Or it can be slowly ground and mixed, while adding sugar and additional cocoa butter, to make chocolate.
Cocoa “butter” (also called Theobroma oil) has no dairy in it. It’s a vegetable fat, pale yellow in color, which is naturally present in cacao.
What is the difference between cocoa and cacao? It depends on who you ask; there are varying opinions on how these terms should be used. Some say “cacao” applies to the original plant (pod, seeds, trees), and “cocoa” is correct once the bean is fermented and dried and/or roasted. Others insisted it is “cocoa” only if it has been made into cocoa mass or liquor, or powdered (separated from the cocoa butter). To confuse things even further, many use the terms “cacao” and “cocoa” interchangeably.
The botanical name of the chocolate plant is Theobroma cacao, which means “food of the gods.”
Head on over to the history of chocolate page for a complete timeline of facts involving chocolate. For a few facts or bits of history trivia that may or may not have been listed on the history page, read on:
Cacao has been around for thousands of years and is probably one of the oldest of nature’s foods.
Chocolate was consumed as a liquid, not a solid, for 90% of its history.
Cocoa beans were used as currency by the Mayan and Aztec cultures. (Perhaps this is where the saying “Money grows on trees” comes from?)
Ancient Aztecs thought chocolate had magical powers; like the ability to give them strength.
Columbus’s son Ferdinand recorded that when the Mayans dropped some cacao beans, “they all stopped to pick it up, as though an eye had fallen.” Columbus, who was searching for a route to India, did not see the potential of the cacao market and mistook them for shriveled almonds.
When English Buccaneers overran a Spanish ship loaded with cacao beans, they set it on fire, thinking the beans were sheep dung.
During the Revolutionary War, soldiers were sometimes paid in chocolate.
Napoleon always carried chocolate with him, which he ate as a pick-me-up whenever he needed an energy boost. (And we all thought he bought it for Josephine…).
Chocolate magnate Milton Hershey canceled his reservations for the Titanic due to last minute business matters.
Hershey’s Kisses were first produced in 1907 and were shaped like a square. A new machine in 1921 gave them their current shape.
Franklin Mars invented the Snickers Bar in 1930.
Chocolate supposedly made its film debut when Jean Harlow ate candy in the 1933 comedy ‘Dinner at Eight’.
The first chocolate chip cookie was invented in 1937 by Ruth Wakefield who ran the “Toll House Inn”. The term “Toll House” is now a generic word for chocolate chip cookie. It is the most popular cookie worldwide and is the official cookie of Massachusetts.
M&Ms were created in 1941 as a means for soldiers to enjoy chocolate without it melting.
During WWII, the Germans designed an exploding, chocolate-covered, thin steel bomb designed to blow up seven seconds after a piece was broken off.
Chocolate was included in WWII soldier rations. According to army specification, it was designed to taste just “a little better than a boiled potato” so soldiers would not eat it too quickly.
Hundreds of Canadian kids went on strike and boycotted chocolate after the price of a chocolate bar jumped from 5 to 8 cents.
Chocolate syrup was used for blood in the famous 45 second shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, Psycho, which actually took 7 days to shoot.
The average person will consume 10,000 chocolate bars in a lifetime.
In 2006, more than 6.5 million tons of chocolate was traded worldwide.
Chocolate has evolved into such a massive industry that between 40 and 50 million people depend on cacao for their livelihood.
Every second, Americans collectively eat 100 pounds of chocolate.
In the U.S., chocolate candy outsells all other types of candy combined, by 2 to 1.
There were 1,333 U.S. manufacturing establishments that produced chocolate and cocoa products in 2012, employing 37,150 people. This industry’s value of shipments totaled $14.4 billion. (US Census Bureau, 2014)
17,000 people in Belgium work in the chocolate industry.
Seven billion pounds of chocolate and candy are manufactured each year in the United States.
Americans consumed over 3.1 billion pounds of chocolate in 2001, which is almost half of the total world’s production.
Americans buy more than 58 million pounds of chocolate on Valentine’s Day every year, making up 5% of sales for the entire year.
Chocolate manufacturers currently use 40 percent of the world’s almonds and 20 percent of the world’s peanuts.
Chocolate manufacturers in the United States use approximately 3.5 million pounds of whole milk daily to make milk chocolate.
The chocolate industry is worth approximately $110 billion per year.
Over 50% of adults in the U.S. prefer chocolate to any other flavor.
The country whose people eat the most chocolate per capita than any other nation on earth is Switzerland, with 22 pounds eaten per person each year. Australia and Ireland follow with 20 pounds and 19 pounds per person, respectively. The United States comes in at 11th place, with approximately 12 pounds of chocolate eaten by each person every year.
Per capita, the Irish eat more chocolate than Americans, Swedes, Danes, French, and Italians.
Belgium produces 172,000 tons of chocolate per year. Over 2,000 chocolate shops are found throughout the country, many located in Brussels, where Godiva chocolate originated.
Never give a dog chocolate, as it contains theobromine, which is a central nervous system stimulant. A chocolate bar is poisonous to dogs and can even be lethal. As little as 2 ounces of chocolate can kill a small dog.
Theobromine can kill a human as well. You’d have to be a real glutton to go out this way, as a lethal dose of chocolate for a human being is about 22 lbs., or 40 Hershey bars.
Pet parrots can eat virtually any common “people-food” except for chocolate and avocados. Both of these are highly toxic to the parrot and can be fatal.
The biggest chocolate structure ever made was a 4,484lb, 10 foot tall Easter egg, made in Melbourne Australia.
The largest chocolate bar ever weighed just over 12,770 pounds.
The largest cuckoo clock made of chocolate can be found in Germany.
In 2002, Marshall Field’s in Chicago made the largest box of chocolate. It had 90,090 Frango mint chocolates and weighed a whopping 3,326 pounds.
The most expensive chocolate in the world is the “Madeleine”, at $2,600 per pound. It was created by Fritz Knipschildt, a chocolatier in Connecticut.
Commercial chocolate usually contains such low amounts of cacao solids that it is more likely the sugar that chocolate lovers are addicted to.
It has been observed that chocolate cravings cannot be satisfied by any sweet/candy other than chocolate itself.
When we eat chocolate:
- 66% of chocolate is consumed between meals.
- 22% of all chocolate consumption takes place between 8pm and midnight.
- More chocolate is consumed in winter than any other season.
-Hershey’s makes 70 million Kisses every day, and enough annually to make a 300,000-mile-long line of Kisses.
-Hershey’s Kisses got their name from the kissing sound the machine that deposits the chocolate on the conveyor belt makes.
-In Hershey, Pennsylvania, the streetlights along “Chocolate Avenue” are in the shape of Hershey Kisses.
-A Hershey’s bar was dug up after 60 years from Admiral Richard Byrd’s cache at the South Pole. Having been frozen all those years, it was still edible.
-One of Hershey’s ads reads: “More Sustaining Than Meat.”
There are 10 milligrams of caffeine in a six-ounce cup of cocoa, 5 to 10 milligrams of caffeine in one ounce of bittersweet chocolate, and 5 milligrams of caffeine in one ounce of milk chocolate. Darker chocolate bars can have as much caffeine as a can of Coca-Cola.
The Brussels Airport is the biggest chocolate seller in the world, as vendors there sell more than 800 tons of chocolate every year.
Reports predict that the global chocolate market will grow to $98.3 billion in 2016 from $83.2 billion in 2010.
More than 7 billion chocolate chips are eaten annually.
The word “chocolate” comes from the Aztec word “xocoatl,” which referred to the bitter, spicy drink the Aztecs made from cacao beans.
Andes Candies were originally called “Andy’s Candys,” after creator George Andrew Kanelos, but he changed the name after he realized men didn’t want to buy their wives or girlfriends chocolates with another man’s name on them.
Cadbury is the most popular chocolate in the UK.
Cole Porter got a kick from fudge. He had nine pounds of it shipped to him each month from his hometown.
The daughter of confectioner Leo Hirschfield is commemorated in the name of the sweet he invented: Although his daughter’s real name was Clara, she went by the nickname Tootsie, and in her honor, her doting father named his chewy chocolate logs Tootsie Rolls.
There are potato chips dipped in milk chocolate.
Three Musketeers bars were originally three pieces to a package, in chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry flavors. They switched to just the one chocolate bar after the price of strawberries increased.
A jewel thief made off with $28 million dollars of gems in 2007 because he was able to gain the trust of the guards working the bank in Antwerp, Belgium, by repeatedly offering them chocolate.
Milky Way candy bars are not named after the galaxy. The name came from the malted milkshakes whose flavor they originally intended to mimic.
There is a correlation between the amount of chocolate a country consumes on average and the number of Nobel Laureates that country has produced.
Chocolate is so important to cacao farmers in Indonesia that they built a 20-foot statue of a pair of hands simply holding a cacao pod.
Ben & Jerry’s made the first cookie dough ice cream after receiving an anonymous suggestion on their flavor suggestion board in its Burlington, Vermont shop.
There is a rare fourth kind of chocolate in addition to the classic milk, dark, and white varieties: blond chocolate.
The film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was financed by Quaker Oats to promote its new Wonka Bar candy. This is also why the film is called Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory instead of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” like the book it is based on.
A recent study indicates when men crave food, they tend to crave fat and salt. When women crave food, they tend to desire chocolate. (More than twice as many women than men eat and crave chocolate.)
American and Russian space flights have always included chocolate.
In 2013, Belgium issued a limited edition of chocolate flavored stamps.
A 2004 study in London found that 70% of people would reveal their passwords in exchange for a chocolate bar.
A 2013 study found that the scent of chocolate in a bookstore made customers 40% more likely to buy cookbooks or romance novels, and 22% more likely to buy books of any genre.
Cocoa butter is the natural fat of the cocoa bean, produced by crushing roasted cacao beans. It has a delicate chocolate aroma, but is very bitter tasting. Cocoa butter is used in the chocolate making process (to give body, smoothness, and flavor to eating chocolate). It is also used in a number of cosmetic products, including massage oils and skin cosmetics. Cocoa butter is one of the most stable, highly concentrated natural fats known. It melts at just below average body temperature and therefore it easily dissolves into the skin, making it the ideal foundation in moisturizing creams and other related products.
Owing to the nature of cacao butter, chocolate is the only edible substance that melts at around 93° F, just below human body temperature. This means that after placing a piece of chocolate on your tongue, it will literally melt in your mouth.
White chocolate really isn’t chocolate. Under Federal Standards of Identity, real chocolate must contain chocolate liquor. There are actually zero cacao solids in white chocolate. It’s made from cocoa butter, the substance you get by pressing cocoa beans. Cocoa butter does not contain the cocoa solids used to make chocolate.
Bittersweet chocolate is what is usually called for in baking. It contains more chocolate liquor (at least 35%) and less sugar than sweet chocolate. Semisweet chocolate contains 15% – 35% chocolate liquor.
The cacao bean naturally contains almost 300 different flavors and 400 separate aromas.
Dark chocolate has more antioxidants than green tea and just as many as blueberries.
A wide range of substances have been ground up and mixed with chocolate, including, in the pre-Columbia era, possible dinosaur fossils.
The smell of chocolate increases theta brain waves, which triggers relaxation.
Eating chocolate can also reduce the symptoms of stress.
Eating dark chocolate every day reduces the risk of heart disease by one-third.
Chocolate has an anti-bacterial effect on the mouth and protects against tooth decay.
Chocolate is beneficial for proper blood flow to the lungs and other organs.
The minerals in chocolate help to increase brain power and function.
A 1.5 oz. milk chocolate bar has only 220 calories.
A 1.75 oz. serving of potato chips has 230 calories.
Chocolate produces the effects of a mild anti-depressant by increasing serotonin and endorphin levels in the brain.
The American Heart Association recommends that daily cholesterol intake not exceed 300 mg. A chocolate bar is actually low in cholesterol. A 1.65 oz. bar contains only 12 mg. A 1oz. piece of cheddar cheese contains 30 mg of cholesterol, more than double the amount found in a chocolate bar.
Ten percent of U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance of iron is found in one ounce of baking chocolate or cocoa. Chocolate also contains Vitamins A1, B1, B2, C, D and E as well as calcium, potassium, sodium and iron.
An English doctor prescribed chocolate to pregnant women as he believed it helped the fetus and embryo’s development.
In a small study at Indiana University, cyclists who drank chocolate milk after a workout had less fatigue and scored higher on endurance tests than those who had a sports drink.
Allergies to chocolate are uncommon. It’s believed that people who are allergic to chocolate are actually allergic to cockroaches, as around eight insect parts are typically found in a bar of chocolate (according to the Food and Drug Administration).
It’s a common myth that chocolate aggravates acne. Experiments conducted at the University of Pennsylvania and the U.S. Naval Academy found that consumption of chocolate — even frequent daily dietary intake — had no effect on the incidence of acne. Professional dermatologists today do not link acne with diet. In fact, German researchers suggest that flavonoids in chocolate absorb UV light, which help protect and increase blood flow to the skin, ultimately improving its appearance.
People who feel depressed eat about 55% more chocolate than their non-depressed peers.
In Oaxaca, Mexico, healers called curanderos use chocolate to treat several illnesses such as bronchitis. In some regions, children drink chocolate in the morning to ward off scorpion and bee stings.
Craving chocolate when a woman is on her menstrual cycle may have more to do with the fact that chocolate is known for helping ease menstrual symptoms.
One chocolate chip can give a person enough energy to walk 150 feet.
Research suggests that dark chocolate boosts memory, attention span, reaction time, and problem-solving skills by increasing blood flow to the brain. Studies have also found that dark chocolate can improve the ability to see in low-contrast situations (such as poor weather) and promote lower blood pressure, which has positive effects on cholesterol levels, platelet function, and insulin sensitivity. For dark chocolate to be beneficial, cacao or chocolate liquor should be the first ingredient listed, not sugar.
One plain milk chocolate candy bar has more protein than a banana.
Chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA), a natural substance that is reputed to stimulate the same reaction in the body as falling in love. Chocolate can give you a more intense mental high and get your heart pounding more than kissing does.
Mom: “Fred, there were two chocolate cakes in the larder yesterday, and now there’s only one. Why?”
Fred: “I don’t know. It must have been so dark I didn’t see the other one.”
Q: Why is there no such organization as Chocoholics Anonymous?
A: Because no one wants to quit.
A man found a bottle on the beach. He opened it and out popped a genie, who gave the man three wishes. The man wished for a million dollars, and poof! There was a million dollars. Then he wished for a convertible, and poof! There was a convertible. And then, he wished he could be irresistible to all women… Poof! He turned into a box of chocolates.
Q: What do cannibals eat for dessert?
A: Chocolate covered aunts.
Plump lady to the waitress: “I’d like Death by Chocolate for dessert, but only enough to put me in critical condition.”
A young girl was at the dentist for a check up. With much tutting, the dentist examined all her teeth. Finally he announced crossly “Young lady, you’ve been eating far too many sweet things, several of your teeth need filling.” “Oh goody!” she replied happily. “Can I have chocolate filling please?”
Q: What kind of candy is never on time?
Q: How do you know when a blonde has been making chocolate chip cookies?
A: You find M&M shells all over the kitchen floor.
Q: Why do blondes hate M&Ms?
A: They’re too hard to peel.
Q: Why did the blonde get fired from the M&M factory?
A: She threw out the Ws.
Q: How do you confuse a blonde?
A: Ask her to alphabetize a bag of M&Ms.
Q: Why don’t they make white M&M’s?
A: Because they’d enslave the black M&M’s, steal all the red M&Ms’ land, hunt the blue M&M’s to extinction, accuse the yellow M&M’s of obstructing trade, start a panic that the little green M&M’s were invading the Earth, and complain that the brown M&M’s were taking all their jobs.
Q: What is a monkey’s favorite cookie?
A: Chocolate chimp!
Imogen life without chocolate!
An old man and a young man worked in office next to each other.
The young man noticed that the older man always had a jar of peanuts on his desk.
The young man loved peanuts.
One day while the older man was away from his desk, the young man couldn’t resist and went to the old man’s jar and ate over half the peanuts.
When the old man returned, the young man felt guilty and confessed to taking the peanuts.
The old man responded, “That’s ok. Since I lost my teeth all I can do is lick the chocolate off the M&Ms.”
Q: If Jake has 30 chocolate bars, and eats 25, what does he have?
A: Diabetes….. Jake has diabetes…
Q: What do you call a lamb covered in chocolate?
A: Candy Baa.
Q: What is an astronaut’s favorite chocolate?
Q: What did the M&M go to college?
A: Because he wanted to be a Smarty.
Q: What do you call Chewbacca when he has chocolate stuck in his hair?
A: Chocolate Chip Wookiee.
Q: What is a French cat’s favorite dessert?
A: Chocolate mousse!
Q: Why did the Oreo go to the dentist?
A: Because it lost its filling
Q: What do you call an ant dipped in chocolate?
Q: What happens when you try to eat 5 candy bars at once?
A: You’re gonna choke a lot.
Q: What do you call people who like to drink hot chocolate all year long?
An elderly man lay dying in his bed.
In death’s agony, he suddenly smelled the aroma of his favorite chocolate chip cookies wafting up the stairs.
Gathering his remaining strength, he lifted himself from the bed. He slowly made his way out of the bedroom, and, with even greater effort, forced himself down the stairs, gripping the railing with both hands. With labored breath, he leaned against the door, gazing into the kitchen.
Were it not for death’s agony, he would have thought himself already in heaven: there, spread out on the kitchen table, were hundreds of his favorite chocolate chip cookies.
Mustering one final effort, he threw himself toward the table. His aged and withered hand painstakingly made its way toward a cookie when it was suddenly smacked by a spatula.
“Stay out of those,” said his wife, “they’re for the funeral.”
Q: How do you know it’s cold outside?
A: When you milk a brown cow, you get chocolate ice cream!