Do you like chocolate? Most people would answer “Yes!” We eat an average of 9 kilograms (20 lbs) of chocolate per person per year. That’s about 180 chocolate bars each! But where does chocolate come from, and how is it made into the sweet, delicious treats that we love to eat? The story of chocolate begins in the rainforest, where cacao (ka-KOW) trees grow. Pods grow on the cacao trees and inside the pods are seeds called cocoa (KO-ko) beans.
These cocoa beans are the magic ingredient in chocolate.Cacao trees grow in the hot, damp shade under the leafy canopy of the tallest trees in the rainforest. There, the cacao trees blossom with pink and white flowers. These flowers grow straight from the trunk and main branches. Tiny insects called midges carry pollen between the blossoms, fertilising them so cocoa pods will grow. Only a few of the hundreds of blossoms develop into cocoa pods. Like the blossoms, the pods grow straight from the trunk and branches of the tree. Many cacao trees grow both blossoms and pods all year round. In about four months, the cocoa pods grow to the size of melons. It takes another month before they are fully ripe.
The colour of the ripe pods ranges from yellow to dark red. The pods are hard and must be split open to show the beans. Each pod contains about 40 cocoa beans surrounded by sticky white pulp. These are the precious beans that make chocolate. Who first discovered that these strange-looking beans, from these strange-looking trees, could be used to make such a delicious treat.