The cacao tree, Theobroma Cacao, is a tropics-only kind of tree, and its growing range hugs the Equator. Nearly all cacao grows within 20 degrees of the Equator, with 75 percent hailing from within 8 degrees of either side.
Cacao trees grow in three main regions:
- West Africa
- South and Central Americas
- Southeast Asia and Oceania
Top-producing cocoa countries include the following:
- Côte d’Ivoire / Ivory Coast
Chocolate is full of mysteries, and the cacao tree’s birthplace remains one of them. While scientists agree the tree originated in South or Central America, the exact location eludes them. Some believe it first grew in the Amazon basin of Brazil. Other scientists point to the Orinoco Valley of Venezuela, while still others root for Central America. Others propose an enigmatic tale and posit that the Olmecs, the first known people to eat cacao, brought the tree from their original homeland, and that this unknown location may have disappeared under the sea.