By Melissa Wynn

Did you know that chocolate actually begins as the seed of the cacao, a fruit tree? These seeds are commonly called cocoa beans and it takes about four hundred of them to make one pound of luscious chocolate. Each cacao tree produces around two thousand five hundred of the precious beans each season. Because cacao trees are so delicate, farmers lose an average of thirty percent of their crop each year. The scientific name of the special tree is Theobroma Cacao and it means “food of the gods.” Carolus Linnaeus, the father of plant taxonomy, chose the name.

About 3 million tons of the coveted cocoa bean are turned into chocolate products each year. Chocolate manufacturers in the United States use about 3.5 million pounds of whole milk every day to make the milk chocolate that we all enjoy so much.

Some of the finest chocolate we enjoy comes from local artisans that have mastered preparing this food of the gods. Small farms are the main supply of the raw cocoa beans. The trees are native to West Africa and an estimated 1.5 million cocoa farms call that region home, producing seventy percent of all cocoa beans. Most are raised by hand, on small, family-owned farms averaging seven to ten acres . These farmers must wait four to five years for a cacao tree to produce its first beans and although some cacao trees live more than 200 years , most only give marketable cocoa beans for about 25 years.

Next time you reach for a reach your favorite chocolate treat think of the trees, the farmers and your local artisans that turned the seed of a fruit trees into the food of the gods.

facts courtesy of