Cacao: From Tree to Chocolate

Here is what a cacao pod looks like.
It can range in color, size and texture depending on where it's grown and the type of gene (see types of Theobroma trees below). The Theobroma tree stands 4-8 meters tall and is native to the Americas. Within each pod you'll find 20-60 seeds which contain 40-50% cocoa butter, the fatty component in cacao. The bean contains 10% polyphenols, much of which is disease-fighting epicatechin. Within the seed there is 1% theobromine which is one of the substances that gives you the blissful feeling after you've eaten dark chocolate. 

There are three types of Theobroma trees:


  • Mesoamerica origin
  • Rare
  • Less bitter
  • Aromatic
  • Represents 5-10% of chocolate today
  • Pointy pods, warty, plump shape, mellow complex taste


  • Represents 80% of chocolate today
  • Began in Amazon basin 18th century
  • Thick skinned pods, smooth, rounded, flat shaped beans, bitter harsh taste


  • Blend of criollo and forastero
  • Represents 10-15% of chocolate today

How Chocolate is Made From the Tree to Chocolate

The Theombroma tree sprouts flowers and the flowers sprout pods. The pods yield a sweet white pulp and seeds. The seeds are removed from the fruit-like pulp (which is eaten in some countries and quite delicious!). The seeds are then fermented and dried. From there the seeds may be roasted or left raw. The cacao nibs are removed from the seeds they can be eaten as is or ground into a chocolate liquor. At this point additives such as sugar, spices or other flavorings can be added to create a variety of chocolates!

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