Cocao Tree

yellow cocao pods in a cacao tree

The cacao tree (Theobroma cacao) is the plant that cocoa and chocolate comes from.

This tree is native to the rainforests of Central and South America. The trees grow best and produce the best yield in the shade of the rainforest (as opposed to sun-grown trees).

The cocoa and chocolate doesn't come from the tree itself, but from the tree's fruit. The tree produces white flowers that get pollinated by a small fly called a midge. After pollination the flower developes into a fruit called a cocao pod. The above photo shows yellow cocao pods. The fruit turns orange or red when it is ripe.

If the pods sit on the tree long enough the rainforest animals and insects eat the inside of the pods and the pods turn brown.

Inside of the pods are several cacao beans, which are actually seeds. All chocolate comes from these beans.

The cocao beans are sun-dried and then roasted. Then they are ground up and sugar and other flavorings may be added to make chocolate.

Sometimes you will find organic raw chocolate for sale. These beans have not been roasted, or they have been roasted at low temperatures.

For a cute video of how chocolate is made from cacao beans watch the You Tube video below.

Is Chocolate Consumption Beneficial for the Rainforest?

Whether eating chocolate is good for the rainforest depends on how it is grown. Some cacao farms grown their cacao trees in an environmentally friendly way - in the shade of the rainforest trees and without tons of pesticides.

Other chocolate manufacturers clear out regions of the rainforest to grow sun-grown cacao trees and use pesticides.

Anytime you clear trees and other vegetation from the rainforest is bad for the environment and pesticides are never environmentally friendly. This means that to help save the rainforest you should only eat organic shade-grown chocolate.

Here is a link for information on which chocolate to avoid and which chocolate to choose.

There are plenty of Fair Trade chocolate brands you can use in any Kulicks cookie recipe or other chocolate dessert recipe.