This week we present a TEDx talk by our resident nutritionist, Shawn Stevenson. When you watch Shawn’s talk you will be inspired by the history and transformative power of this superfood.
The cacao tree is native to the Americas. It may have originated in the foothills of the Andes in the Amazon and Orinoco basins of South America where today, examples of wild cacao still can be found. However, it may have had a larger range in the past, evidence for which may be obscured because of its cultivation in these areas long before, as well as after, the Spanish arrived. It was first cultivated by the Olmecs at least 1500 BC in Central America.
The cocoa bean was a common currency throughout Mesoamerica before the Spanish conquest.
Cacao trees will grow in a limited geographical zone, of approximately 20 degrees to the north and south of the Equator. Nearly 70% of the world crop is grown in West Africa.
Cocoa was an important commodity in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. A Spanish soldier who was part of the conquest of Mexico by Hernán Cortés tells that when Moctezuma II, emperor of the Aztecs, dined, he took no other beverage than chocolate, served in a golden goblet. Flavored with vanilla or other spices, his chocolate was whipped into a froth that dissolved in the mouth. It is reported that no fewer than 50 portions each day may have been consumed by Montezuma II, and 2000 more by the nobles of his court.
Chocolate was introduced to Europe by the Spaniards, and became a popular beverage by the mid 17th century. They also introduced the cacao tree into the West Indies and the Philippines.
The cacao plant was first given its botanical name by Swedish natural scientist Carl Linnaeus in his original classification of the plant kingdom, who called it Theobroma (“food of the gods”) cacao.