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DUAUT (Duaut)
Senior Member
Username: Duaut

Post Number: 200
Registered: 06-2003
Posted on Monday, October 04, 2004 - 07:16 pm:Edit Post Quote Text Delete Post Print Post Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

For all of those that received a Cocoa Tree from Natureboy, I made up the following from a variety of web sources and books.
It's not complete, I'll keep adding to it in the future.


Cocoa ( Theobroma cacao L. ) is a native of Amazon region of South America. The bulk of it is produced in the tropical areas of the African continent. There are over 20 species in the genus but the cocoa tree Theobroma cacao is the only one cultivated widely.

Cocoa being a tropical crop, India offers considerable scope for the development. Cocoa is mainly grown in Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

Though cocoa has been known as the beverage crop even before tea or coffee, it is relatively a new crop in India. Cocoa being primarily an item of confectionery industries is the produce of Cacao plant mostly grown as a companion crop interspersed within the irrigated Coconut and /or Arecanut gardens. Even though Cocoa comes under the definition of plantation crops pure plantation of cocoa as such is absent in India. The commercial cultivation of cocoa however commenced from 1960’s only. Various Cocoa products are confectionery in nature and consumable with palatable ness. Internationally it is an item largely consumed in developed countries. India has gained a foreign exchange of nearly Rs. 9.00 crores in 1995-96 and Rs. 6.00 crores in 1996-97 by way of export of cocoa beans and its products from India. At present the global production and consumption of cocoa is around 27.00 lakh MT, compared to this, India’s production is meager i.e. 10,000 MT.


Average rainfall of 1250-3000 mm. per annum and preferably between 1500-2000mm. with a dry season of not more than 3 months with less than 100mm. rain per month is ideal, but the quantity is less important than distribution. Rainfall can be supplemented with irrigation during dry months.


Temperature varying between 30-320C mean maximum and 18-210C mean minimum but around 250C is considered to be a favourable. It can’t be grown commercially in areas where the minimum temperature fall below 100C and annual average temperature is less than 210C.


This is uniformly high in cocoa-growing areas, often 100% at night, falling to 70-80 % by day, sometimes low during the dry season. The most marked effect was on leaf area, plants growing at low humidity ( 50-60%) having larger leaves and greater leaf area than plants growing at medium (70-80%) and high (90-95%) humidity under the latter conditions leaves are small and tend to be curled and withered at the tip. The other effects of humidity concern the spread of fungal diseases and the difficulties of drying and storage.

Cocoa is grown on a wide range of soil types and the standards for soil suitable for cocoa vary considerably. Cocoa trees are more sensitive to moisture stress than other tropical crops. In addition cocoa trees are sensitive to water logging. While they can withstand flooding, they will not tolerate stagnant, water logged conditions. The depth of the soil should be at least 1.5m. The best soil for cocoa is forest soil rich in humus. The soil should be such as allowing easy penetration of roots capable of retaining moisture during summer and allowing circulation of air and moisture. Clay loams and sandy loams are suitable. Shallow soils should be avoided. A minimum requirement of 3.5% organic matter say 2% Carbon in the top 15cm. is ideal for growing cocoa plantation. Cocoa is grown on soils with a wide range of PH from 6-7.5 where major nutrients and trace elements will be available. Cocoa doest not come up in coastal sandy soils where coconut flourish.

Selection of planting material:

Cocoa can be propagated through seeds or by vegetative means. For raising seedlings, seeds of mature pods are taken from high yielding mother plants. The mother plants selected should yield more than 100 pods per year and should have medium or large green pods with an average dry bean weight of not less than one gram. A more suitable procedure for planting good quality seedling will be to collect hybrid seeds from bi clonal or polyclonal seed gardens involving superior self- incompatible parents.

The seeds generally lose their viability after seven days of harvest. To avoid these drop in viability during long periods of storage, the extracted seeds may be stored in moist charcoal and then packed in polythene bags.

Potting mixture and time of sowing:

The normal potting mixture with farm yard manure, sand and soil in equal proportions is good for raising cocoa seedlings. Though cocoa seeds germinate at any time of the year, the best period of sowing the seeds in nursery is December- January so that four to six months old seedlings will become available for field planting by the onset of the monsoon in the traditional areas.

Method of sowing:

The seeds are to be sown with the helium end facing downwards or are sown flat. The seeds should not be placed too deep in the soil. The seeds start germinating in a week’s time but the process may continue for another week. Generally 90% of the seeds germinate. Regular watering is essential to keep the soil moist. Over watering should be avoided in order to check the outbreaks of diseases.

Selection of seedlings for field planting:

Four to six months old seedlings are generally used for field planting. Since seedling vigour and final yield are closely related, the seedlings for field planting should be selected based on seedling vigour. Seedling vigour can be estimated based on height of seedlings and stem girth.


Vegetative propagation: Large scale production of superior planting material is possible in cocoa through vegetative means like budding and grafting of which budding is the easiest. The different budding methods feasible are ‘T’ , inverted ‘T’, patch and modified Forkert. The new method of micro budding also may be followed.

Selection of root stocks and bud wood: Seedlings of about 60-90 days are generally used as root stock. While selecting root stock, care should be taken to see that both root stock and scion are of same thickness and physiological age. Bud wood from chupons can be taken for budding. The patch to be taken should be above 2.5 cm. long and 0.5cm. wide with a single vigorous bud on it. Bark of the same size is removed from the root stock and the bud patch is inserted. It is then tied with grafting tape. The patch selected should have bud that is visible to the naked eye but it should not have signs of proliferation. Even though bud wood freshly collected can be used for budding, pre-curing of bud wood is found to increase the percentage of success. Such a pre-curing consists of removing the lamina portions of all the leaves from the region of bud stick chosen. The petiole stump will fall off in about 10 days and the buds would have been initiated to grow. Buds may now be extracted from the pre-cured portion. If the root stocks are less than four months old, the bud wood selected should also be green or greenish brown.

After care :

About three weeks after budding, the grafting tape is removed. If there is successful bud union, a vertical cut is made half way through the stem above the bud and the stock portion is snapped back. Such snapped root stock portion is cut and removed only after the bud has grown sufficiently with at least two leaves hardened. After about four to six months, they are ready for field planting. Care should be taken to remove the new sprouts from the root stock portion.


Cocoa needs shade for its natural habitat young cocoa plants grow best with 50% full sunlight. As the tree grows, its shade requirement is reduced.


There are three major varietal groups, namely, Criollo, Forestero and Trinitario. Among these, Forestero is the one that is commercially grown all over the world. It is high yielding more resistant to pest and diseases and more tolerant to drought compared to Criollo. Some of the important varieties developed are furnished separately.

Planting method:

Cocoa is planted as a pure, mixed crop or intercrop. When planted as a pure crop, Dadap (Erythnina lithosperma) is planted at 3x 3m spacing to provide shade. Dadap needs pruning every year. For more permanent shade, Albizzia stipulate can be planted adopting 9x9 or 12x12m spacings. This requires 4 to 6 years to develop proper canopy to provide sufficient shade. Protection from north east winds by planting wind-breaks is also necessary. Cocoa can be planted as intercrop in coconut gardens provided the spacing of coconut is sufficient to provide enough shade and the soil is suited to cocoa. In arecanut gardens too, cocoa can be planted as intercrop. The spacing of arecanut should not be less than 2.7 x 2.7 m. The planting hole should be at least the same size as to hold the basket or polythene bag in which seedlings are raised. Planting should coincide with the onset of monsoon but in places where irrigation facilities are available planting can be done throughout the year.

Nutrition and irrigation :

Application of organic manures will be useful in the early establishment period. It may not be necessary after about three to five years as cocoa litter will be the rich an abounded source of organic matter. An annual application of 100g N, 40g P2O5 and 140g K2o per plant per year in two equal split doses is recommended. During the first year of planting the plants may be given 1/3rd of the above dose, while the second and third year 2/3rd and full dose of fertilizers applied. While applying manures and fertilizers, care should be taken to open only shallow basins around the plants (radius of 1.5m for adult cocoa) and to avoid serious damage to the surface feeding root systems. The radius of the basins should be proportionately smaller for young cocoa. Providing adequate irrigation helps in increasing the yield by about 30 % both in mono as well as in mixed crop. Irrigation could beneficially be given once in a week in dry months.

Pruning and training:

Pruning is an important continuous operation in cocoa. Cocoa grows in a series of stories. The chupon or vertical branch of the seedlings terminates at the jorquette when four or five branches develop. Further chupon develops just below the jorquette and continues its vertical growth till another jorquette develops and so on. When the first jorquette develops at a height of 1.5m, the canopy will form at a height convenient for harvesting and other operations. It is desirable to limit the tree at that level by periodical removal of chupon growth. The second jorquette may be allowed to form if so desired. Operations like harvesting, spraying etc. will be easier if the height of the trees is kept at the second story level. Generally three to five branches develop at each jorquette. When more fan branches develop one or two weaker ones have to be removed. Similarly overlapping branches are also have to be removed for facilitating uniform light; penetration of every part of canopy.

Gestation period:

Where the climate and soil allow a continuous growth cocoa trees will form a jorquette within 6-9 months of planting, the canopies will meet at a spacing of 3 x 3m within 18 months and the 1st crop may be obtained towards the end of 2nd year or in 3rd year.


The development of the pod takes 5-6 months from fertilizing the flower to full ripening. Harvesting involves removing the ripe pods from the trees and opening them to extract the wet beans. As they ripen, the pods change colours, green pods becoming orange, yellow and red pods turning orange. Each pod will have 25-45 beans embedded in white pulp ( Mucilage). Generally cocoa gives two main crops in a year during September – January and April-June, though off-season crops may be seen almost all through the year especially under irrigated condition.

Only ripe pods have to be harvested without damaging the flower cushions by cutting the stalk with the help of knife. The harvesting is to be done at regular intervals of 10-15 days. The damaged , unripe and infested pods have to be separated out to ensure better quality of beans after processing. The harvested pods should be kept for minimum period of two days before opening for fermentation. However, pod should not be kept beyond four days.

Curing is the process by which cocoa beans are prepared for the market which requires beans of good flavour, potential and good keeping qualities. The curing process involves fermentation followed by drying. Fermentation involves keeping the mass of cocoa beans well insulated so that heat is retained, while at the same time air is allowed to pass through the mass. The process lasts up to 7 days and followed immediately by drying. Cocoa bean mass under the process of fermentation has to be overturned regularly to maintain the uniform specified temperature all over the mass.

Rejuvenation of senile gardens:

Top working is a method to convert old poor yielding cocoa plants to high yielders. This technique helps in the rejuvenation of old and unproductive cocoa plantations. A poor yielding cocoa tree of any age can be converted to a high yielder by the simple procedure of top working. The method is similar to the budding on seedlings. The tree to be top worked is snapped back just below the jorquette (1-1.5 m above the ground) after cutting half way through the width. Patch budding is done on three or four newly formed most vigorous chupon shoots and the rest of the chupons are removed. Budding should be done only when the shoots attain pencil thickness and their leaves are hardened. The bud wood is taken only from fan shoots of high yielding trees. Patch budding can be easily done on these shoots by removing a patch of bark of 2.5 m length and 0.5 cm width and inserting a patch of bud of similar size. This scion is fixed in position and protected by tying with a polythene tape. Three weeks after budding the tape is cut off and the stock portion of the seedling above the bud union is snapped back. The snapped portion is removed only after at least two hardened leaves develop from the bud. When sufficient shoots are hardened the canopy of the mother tree can be totally removed. Top working can be done during all seasons. Still, it may be more convenient if this operation is done in a rain-free period in irrigated gardens. For rain fed situations, this may preferably be done after the receipt of pre- monsoon showers. Top worked trees grow much faster than budded plants of the same age especially because of the presence of an established root system. They start yielding heavily from the second year onwards while a budded cocoa plant of the same age may take five years for the same.

Cocoa Trees Aren't Easy To Grow:
They're very picky about where they live. Cocoa trees require constant warmth and rainfall to thrive. They need to be shaded from the strong tropical sun and sheltered from the wind. Cocoa trees grow only in tropical regions of Africa, Asia, South America and Central America, within about 15 degrees of the equator.

In The Shade Of Other Trees...

The cocoa tree, in the wild, can grow up to 50 feet tall as an "understory" tree in the shade of towering 200 foot tall hardwoods and other trees.

Cocoa trees grow best in the shade of other trees. When very young, they require deep shade. As they mature, they require more filtered sunlight. Farmers plant a shade umbrella of taller trees such as breadfruit, Para rubber, laurel and various legumes to shelter their cocoa trees. Shade-grown cocoa trees can produce fruit for 75 to 100 years or more.

Less than five percent of cocoa flowers will produce fruit. The fruits of the cocoa tree are oval-shaped pods, 8 to 14 inches long, ranging in color from yellow or green to red or violet. The football-shaped pods grow directly from the trunk and main branches of the tree - not from stems like apples, oranges and other familiar fruits. It takes 5-6 months for the pods to grow and ripen. Unlike trees in the Northern Hemisphere, where fruit ripens at the same time every year, cocoa flowers and fruit can grow side by side on the same tree. On small family farms around the world, cocoa farmers harvest the ripe pods by hand, just as they've done for more than a thousand years.

Raw cocoa beans are fermented for about five days. The seeds undergo biochemical changes during this time. During fermentation, flavor develops, bitterness subsides, and the seeds turn a rich shade of brown.

Climatic and site requirements place cocoa in the tropical regions of the world generally within 15o of the equator. This region is predominantly underdeveloped and highly populated, and cocoa production has evolved with access to cheap and plentiful labour. Irrigation is rarely used and planting has been restricted to regions with reliable, year round rainfall.

Cocoa is usually grown under remnant forest, planted shade trees or intercropped with other commercial crops that protect the cocoa. In Malaysia and Indonesia, cocoa is also grown in full sun, although shade is used during establishment. The height of cocoa is kept to about 3-5 m to make management and harvesting easier. Average yields are low, about 1 tonne/ha or less of dry beans. Harvesting has a high labour demand for a relatively short and often unpredictable season. After harvest, beans are fermented and dried by growers or at a central fermentary and then traded.

About 70% of world production is grown by smallholders on a low input, low output basis. Typically, family or village labour is used at relatively little cost, trees can be individually managed and the quality of bean fermentation is usually assured. As a rule of thumb, one labourer is required per 2.5 ha of established cocoa in traditional production systems.

Remaining production is on plantations from about 20 ha and upwards. Only recently have plantation companies running large-scale operations grown cocoa. Cocoa does not offer the advantages of other crops grown under estate style management systems. It does not require substantial capital expenditure on processing equipment and industrialised fermentation has generally compromised quality. Also, labour productivity on plantations is critical to profitability but there has been no determined effort to mechanise cultural practices. To be competitive with smallholders, plantation cocoa must achieve higher average yields and this requires higher levels of inputs for sustainability.

Environmental requirements

The ideal range of temperatures for cocoa is minimums of 18-21oC and maximums of 30-32oC. Commercial cocoa production is limited to where the average minimum in the coldest months is greater than about 13oC. If the absolute minimum temperature falls below 10oC for several consecutive nights, the yield is likely to be reduced. Defoliation and dieback occurs between 4-8oC.

Although cocoa will grow above 32oC, the upper temperature limit is not well defined and shade cover will influence maximum temperatures in the cocoa anyway. High temperatures may affect bean characteristics and yield.


The distribution of annual rainfall for regions in which cocoa is grown is 1,250-3,000 mm per year. The rainfall must be well distributed and any dry period should be no longer than 3 months. Annual rainfall greater than 2,500 mm may result in a higher incidence of fungal diseases. Irrigation is rarely used and information on growing cocoa under irrigation is limited.


Cocoa is grown on a wide range of soil types but soils with moderate to high fertility are favoured since fertiliser inputs under traditional production systems are low. The main requirements are:

1.5 m depth of free draining soil
good moisture holding capacity
pH range from 4.5 to 7.0 preferably close to 6.5


Attempts to establish cocoa without shade often fail and one of the main causes is wind damage. Cocoa prefers calm conditions and persistent moderate wind can cause problems during establishment. Young vigorous plants can be bent over and new leaves can be broken at the axils.

Cocoa is not generally grown in areas prone to cyclones so its vulnerability to strong winds is not well known. However, it is supposed that it would suffer less damage than many tropical tree fruit crops, due to its relatively small stature and higher density planting. Fallen trees are capable of recovering as they can regrow from a basal shoot.

How cocoa is grown?

Seedlings are generally used for planting. They are raised in nurseries where shade, wind protection, nutrition and irrigation are provided. Hybrid seeds are often sourced commercially but even with these the plants raised can be highly variable in growth and performance. Seed is collected from ripe pods and, if the fresh beans are planted immediately, at least 90% should germinate within 2 weeks. Planting of seed direct to the field is not practiced due to lack of irrigation and problems with weed and pest management.

Vegetative propagation is used where selected characteristics are desired. The trees raised are much more uniform in growth and performance than those raised from seed. Various techniques including, rooted cuttings, budding and grafting are used. Cocoa presents special problems for in-vitro propagation and reliable, economic methods for mass tissue culture propagation have not been developed.

Young cocoa plants may be field planted after 3-6 months. Establishment without shade is rarely successful so the shade must be well established prior to field planting. As well as sun protection, the shade reduces wind exposure and provides a better microclimate. Shade strategies include retaining remnant forest; planting temporary and permanent shade species and interplanting with species that also provide a commercial return. Shade removal is possible after 3-4 years. In many situations windbreaks will be beneficial or necessary.

Planting density depends on factors such as tree vigour, light interception and the farming system. It may range from 800-3,000 trees/ha with about 1,200 trees/ha being common in Malaysia under permanent shade.

About 200 kg N, 25 kg P, 300 kg K and 140 kg Ca are needed per ha to grow the trees prior to pod production. For each 1,000 kg of dry beans harvested, about 20 kg N, 4 kg P and 10 kg K is removed – if the pod husks are also removed from the field, the amount of K removed increases to about 50 kg.

Soil and leaf analyses can be used to determine the nutritional needs of cocoa. There are some problems with leaf analyses due to the difficulty in sampling leaves of the same age and the influence of shading on the nutrient composition of leaves. Visual symptoms of mineral deficiencies are well documented and can be used as a qualitative guide to fertiliser requirements.

Weed control is mainly an issue during establishment – traditionally young cocoa is weeded by manual slashing along the tree rows or around young plants. More recently, herbicides are also being used. When cocoa is mature and a complete canopy is formed, heavy shading and leaf mulch inhibits weed growth so that only occasional attention to removing woody weeds is required. Weeds will be an issue wherever the canopy allows light to penetrate or there are aisles provided for access.

Cocoa propagated from seed is pruned to develop the preferred structure shown in the picture. Pruning is mainly used to limit tree height. The first jorquette should be formed at 1.5-2 m. Further chupons are continually removed preventing subsequent jorquettes and restricting further vertical growth. Some pruning of fan branches may be required to maintain evenness in the structure and remove low hanging branches. The end result is the formation of a tree with the canopy at a convenient height for management. Vegetatively propagated plants have a different structure and will require different management. There is little evidence of the value of pruning strategies to promote high yields. Mechanical pruning (hedging) is not practiced.
Pests and diseases

High levels of yield loss to pests and disease is major problem for world cocoa production. The diseases of major economic significance are listed in the table below with an estimate of the annual production losses attributed to each – this list is not exhaustive and there may be others of lesser but still notable importance.

As a small tree native to the rainforest understory, cacao has adapted to its environment in many ways.

First, it requires strict climatic conditions to germinate, grow, flower, and produce pods. Second, its propagation depends upon the intervention of other rainforest mammals, birds, and insects.

Cacao’s biology makes it well-suited for survival in the wild, but more difficult to grow on sunny farms.

Cacao Tree Requirements
Cacao trees are quite picky about their environment. If any of the following requirements are not met, the cacao tree will stop bearing fruit:

65+degrees fahrenheit
80+ inches of rain/year
high humidity
Regular rainfall
Steady, warm temperatures
Constant, high humidity
Partial shade
Rich, well-drained soil
Canopy trees to protect plants from wind and moisture loss

In addition, the seeds themselves won’t germinate after planting if they’re exposed to low temperatures or low humidity.

Cacao Growth Stages
Like people, cacao trees go through different stages of life. Their needs for food and shelter change as they mature.

In addition, environmental conditions can vary between cacao farms and rainforests. The result is that wild cacao and domesticated cacao may grow and produce pods at different rates.

In the wild, new cacao trees sprout when birds or other animals feasting on the pod’s sweet pulp discard the bitter seeds. Unlike many other plants, the cacao tree has no way to release its own seeds and must rely on animals to do the work.

Delicate seedlings are easily sunburned, and so they must have direct cover from larger “mother” trees in the rainforest canopy.

On farms, growers generally sow seedlings in a nursery. The small trees are planted in fiber baskets or plastic bags beneath shady covering, such as a sheltering layer of palm fronds that have been stretched over a frame.

In a month or so, the seedlings will be big enough to be transplanted beneath the protective branches of taller trees like bananas or coconuts.

Mature Cacao:
In the wild, cacao trees grow up to 30 feet tall. They always grow beneath the much taller rainforest canopy. Cacao trees finally begin to flower and produce pods when they’re about five years old.

Most wild cacao trees are no longer productive after age 25, though they can live much longer.

On farms, most growers prune back cacao trees to about 15 feet tall, which makes them easier to harvest and improves their yield. With intensive care, these trees can sometimes be coaxed to blossom in their third year—and that means faster income for the farmer.

To give it an even better (yet short-lived) boost, farmers often grow cacao in full sun. The extra sun increases output temporarily, but most cacao trees grown this way may not produce pods for as long as wild cacao trees. Plus, trees that have no shade cover tend to be more susceptible to disease.

Parts of the Tree
Cacao originated in both South and Central American rainforests, where it has developed special interdependent relationships with rainforest animals and insects.

All parts of the plant are uniquely engineered to help cacao survive and thrive in its habitat.

The Leaves
When cacao leaves fall, they mix with the leaves of other plants and decay on the forest floor. Fungi and other organisms decompose this debris, replenishing essential nutrients in the soil and fertilizing the tree.

In addition, the decaying leaves also provide the perfect breeding ground for midges, the little insects that pollinate cacao flowers.

The Flowers
Cacao trees flower continuously once they reach maturity. The delicate, waxy pink or white five-petaled blossoms are found in small clusters on the trunks and lower branches of the tree. This phenomenon is called cauliflory, and is quite different from other trees that produce their flowers and fruit only on the tips of the smallest branches.

Because these flowers are so tiny, only small, gnat-like midges can work their way through a cacao blossom’s complicated parts.

The Roots
Cacao roots soak up rainfall and nutrients from the soil and leaf litter. Stretching across the thin forest floor, these roots also anchor the cacao tree and help prevent soil erosion. Cacao’s root system is shallow, however, and relies heavily on the decaying cover of leaf litter to remain healthy. Most of the nutrients in rainforest soils can be found in the topmost layer of decaying vegetation.

The Cherelles
Cherelles are small pods that die on the tree before they mature. Even though few flowers are pollinated, the tree will still produce more fruit than it can healthfully support.

The tree then naturally “weeds out” some of these energy-draining youngsters, which blacken and shrivel during their early stages of growth. These sticky cherelles contribute to leaf litter and provide nice, juicy homes for the midge population.

The Pods
Successfully pollinated flowers mature into ribbed, oval fruit. In fact, you’ll see both flowers and pods together on the same tree throughout the year. It takes about five months for the pods to ripen fully. However, even a healthy mature pod will eventually rot on the tree unless an animal or a farmer plucks it.

The Pulp
The cacao tree has no way to spread its own seed. The pods’ skins are so thick that they do not open naturally to release their seeds. Instead, pods rely on the lure of their sweet pulp to attract help. Birds and mammals looking for a quick meal pierce the pod’s tough hide to get at the delicious pulp inside.

The Seeds
A variety of chemicals, including caffeine and theobromine, give the seeds a bitter flavor. When monkeys or other animals break open the pods to reach the delicious pulp, they spit out the bitter-tasting seeds. Without this protective adaptation, cacao seeds would never hit the forest floor and sprout into new trees.

Cacao Diseases and Pests
Each year, about one quarter of the world’s cacao is lost to pests and diseases. Viruses, fungal infections, and insects destroy about 500,000 seeds annually.

Types of Cacao
Cross-pollination in the wild—and human intervention that created hybrids to improve cacao’s yield and disease resistance—has resulted in different varieties of cacao.

Chocolate comes from three main types of cacao.
Rarely does a farmer grow just one type of cacao tree. In general, most plantations feature a combination of the following varieties:

forastero: Native to the upper Amazon region, forastero is now the most widely cultivated variety of cacao, particularly in Africa. It produces nearly 90% of the world’s chocolate.

criollo: The earliest known variety of cacao used to make chocolate, criollo was cultivated by the Maya. It’s still grown in Mexico, Central America, and South America (and also Indonesia). Because it produces fewer seeds, criollo is more difficult to grow than other varieties and is less commonly planted. However, its seeds do have a delicate flavor and aroma, which are considered topnotch by chocolate makers.

trinitario: As the name suggests, trinitario was developed in Trinidad, though it’s also grown in Cameroon and Papua New Guinea today. It’s a cross between forastero and criollo and combines their traits.

Domesticated cacao can suffer from disease.
Because they are grown together in large numbers and have a restricted genetic background, domesticated cacao trees tend to be more prone to disease and pests than their wild cacao counterparts.

As a result, scientists are exploring wild cacao varieties for new genetic strains that may increase the plant’s strength and resistance.

Cacao Farming

Sun Plantations
On sun plantations, farmers often plant only cacao. The practice of planting a single crop is called “monocropping.”

Often the cacao is shaded until it’s mature enough to flower. Then the farmers remove the shade trees and expose the cacao to the sun’s full strength.

Extra sun affects cacao production.
Cacao grown in full sun produces a greater yield than cacao grown under a shade canopy, but for a shorther period of time. Within 10 years or so most cacao trees grown in full sun will stop producing pods altogether.

Sun plantations affect both tree health and farmer income.
Growing cacao on open sun plantations requires removing it from its rainforest habitat. Sun-plantation farming can result in both ecological and financial losses including:

Pollinators: Midges, cacao’s rainforest pollinators, breed in the leaf litter on the rainforest floor and are less common in sunny, monocropped fields.

Natural pesticides and predators: Cacao trees on plantations are prone to pests and diseases. In the rainforest, a variety of plants, mammals, and insects provide a complex but natural system of pest management. This system disappears when cacao is taken out of its niche and grown in large numbers.

Income: To protect crops and keep cacao production high, many growers must rely on expensive chemical pesticides and fertilizers. In addition, farmers who practice monocropping and grow only cacao have no backup source of income if their crops are damaged by pests and diseases. And if the price of chocolate falls, farmers can suffer severe financial setbacks.

Cacao trees can be grown in different ways.
Here are two examples:

On sunny farms
In rainforest corridors

Sustainable Farms
Scientists, ecologists, grassroots organizations, cacao farmers, and chocolate industry representatives are seeking new solutions to the problems that cacao farmers face.

The plan is to develop agricultural systems that may better sustain the livelihoods of cacao farmers, improve the long-term viability of cacao trees, and safeguard the environment.

Sustainable cacao farms can help protect rainforest fragments.
Some recommendations emphasize a more naturalistic cultivation of cacao on small-scale farms that border threatened rainforests (rather than penetrate virgin rainforests). This practice is called "sustainable farming." Rainforest plants and animals may benefit from the protective buffer zones that these farms create against human encroachment.

Rainforests dwellers can benefit sustainable cacao farms.
Cacao grown on farms planted at the edge of healthy rainforests seems to benefit from the wealth of nearby pollinators and natural pesticides.

Farmers may profit from the arrangement, too.
Planting along the rainforest offers cacao farmers the opportunity to supplement their unpredictable income by implementing a practice called “intercropping.” This technique allows farmers to cultivate cacao alongside other canopy trees that produce valuable goods, such as rubber, Brazil nuts, and cashews. Plus, the farmer may also intermingle his cacao with other cash crops like mango, African plum, avocado, guava, cola, lime, and chile peppers.

Potential benefits of growing cacao on sustainable farms include:

Long-term income: Cacao trees grown alongside the rainforest may remain productive for much longer than their sun-plantation counterparts (which suffer more frequently from pests, diseases, and lack of shade).

Lower maintenance costs: Growing cacao along with other crops can potentially reduce the use and cost of pesticides, fungicides, and fertilizers.

Higher income: Organically grown cacao that is cultivated without chemicals can often fetch a higher price as this specialty market grows among consumers.

Income from product diversity: Crops like chile peppers, avocados, etc., can supplement incomes for farmers.

Chocolate’s Roots in Ancient Mesoamerica
We tend to think of chocolate as a sweet candy created during modern times. But actually, chocolate dates back to the ancient peoples of Mesoamerica who drank chocolate as a bitter beverage. For these people, chocolate wasn’t just a favorite food—it also played an important role in their religious and social lives.

The ancient Maya grew cacao and made it into a beverage.
The first people clearly known to have discovered the secret of cacao were the Classic Period Maya (250-900 C.E. [A.D.]). The Maya and their ancestors in Mesoamerica took the tree from the rainforest and grew it in their own backyards, where they harvested, fermented, roasted, and ground the seeds into a paste. When mixed with water, chile peppers, cornmeal, and other ingredients, this paste made a frothy, spicy chocolate drink.

The Aztecs adopted cacao.
By 1400, the Aztec empire dominated a sizeable segment of Mesoamerica. The Aztecs traded with Maya and other peoples for cacao and often required that citizens and conquered peoples pay their tribute in cacao seeds—a form of Aztec money. Like the earlier Maya, the Aztecs also consumed their bitter chocolate drink seasoned with spices—sugar was an agricultural product unavailable to the ancient Mesoamericans.

Drinking chocolate was an important part of Maya and Aztec life.
Many people in Classic Period Maya society could drink chocolate at least on occasion, although it was a particularly favored beverage for royalty. But in Aztec society, primarily rulers, priests, decorated soldiers, and honored merchants could partake of this sacred brew. Chocolate also played a special role in both Maya and Aztec royal and religious events. Priests presented cacao seeds as offerings to the gods and served chocolate drinks during sacred ceremonies. Before chocolate was a sweet candy, it was a spicy drink. Some of the earliest known chocolate drinkers were the ancient Maya and Aztecs of Mesoamerica. They ground cacao seeds into a paste that, when mixed with water, made a frothy, rather bitter beverage. Drinking chocolate was an important part of life for the Classic Period Maya and the Aztecs. Many anthropologists consider the ancient Maya to be the first people to have made chocolate. The first evidence of chocolae in glyphs and actual remains in ancient vessels come from the height of Mayan civilization, the Classic Period (250-900 C.E. [A.D.]). The Maya shared a common culture and traded with each other over long distances. Their territory covered the countries that we know today as southern Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and part of El Salvador.

Ancient Maya artifacts often show people collecting cacao for chocolate.
Archaeologists aren’t sure exactly how the Maya first learned the tasty secret of cacao—a tree that grew in the tropical rainforests of their homeland. But one thing is for sure: chocolate was a treasured Maya treat. Many Maya artifacts are painted with scenes of people pouring and enjoying chocolate.

The ancient Maya grew cacao in their own backyards.
In 1976, a bulldozer unearthed an ancient Maya village in El Salvador. There, archaeologists found the remains of cacao gardens near Maya homes. Many clay dishes also contained preserved cacao seeds. Apparently, the Maya people valued chocolate so much that they gathered cacao seeds from rainforest trees and planted cacao in household gardens.

The Maya of this period probably processed cacao much like we do today.
After gathering the cacao pods, people would have to ferment and dry the seeds found inside. Then, they would roast these seeds in a griddle held over a fire. Next, the shells would have to be removed and the seeds ground into a paste by crushing them with a small stone (called a mano [MAH no]) against a large stone surface (called a metate [meh TAH tay]).

Maya chocolate was a frothy, bitter drink.
The ancient Maya didn’t eat their chocolate; they drank it. First, they ground cacao seeds into a chocolate paste that they mixed with water, chile peppers, cornmeal, and other ingredients. Then, they poured this bitter concoction back and forth from cup to pot until it developed a thick foam on top. (Sugar wasn't available in Mesoamerica, so any sweetener probably came from a bit of honey or flower nectar.)

MAYA people of ALL RANKS drank chocolate for SOCIAL and RELIGIOUS reasons

Chocolate found favor with rich and poor alike.
Among the ancient Maya from the Classic Period, everyone—no matter their status—could occasionally enjoy a chocolate drink. But the wealthy drank their chocolate from elaborate vessels decorated by specially trained artists. In fact, the paintings on these vessels tell us much about chocolate’s place in Maya life. Some show images of kings, or even gods and animals, drinking chocolate.

Maya writing tells us much about chocolate’s use.
We know these containers held chocolate because the written symbols painted on them say so. These symbols, called "glyphs," are actually the Maya written language. The word for chocolate has its own special glyph. In addition, Maya historical documents typically contain both pictures and glyphs and reveal much about chocolate’s role in society.

Cacao and chocolate were used for ceremonial purposes.
A particular favorite of Maya kings and priests, chocolate played a special part in royal and religious events. Maya couples even drank chocolate as part of their betrothal and marriage ceremonies. The Maya believed that one of the most sacred offerings was that of blood. Images from ancient religious text sometimes show Maya priests dripping a blood offering onto cacao pods. By the 1400s, the Aztecs were gradually gaining control over a huge expanse of Mesoamerica. Their territory ranged all the way from northern Mexico to the Maya lands in Honduras. Cacao quickly became key to the Aztec’s vast trade empire—not only as a luxury drink, but also as money, offerings to the gods, and payment to rulers.


The Aztecs couldn’t grow cacao, so they traded for it.
The cacao tree will not flourish in the dry highlands of central Mexico, at one time the seat of the Aztec empire. So the Aztecs traded with the Maya and other peoples in order to receive a steady supply of seeds for chocolate. In Maya lands south of their own, Aztec traders filled woven backpacks with cacao. Then these men hauled their precious cargo on foot to the Aztec capital city, Tenochtitlan (ten noch teet LAN), today the site of Mexico City.

The Aztecs also demanded cacao as tribute.
Aztec rulers required ordinary citizens and conquered peoples to pay a tax, also called “tribute.” Because cacao was so valuable, conquered peoples who lived in cacao-growing areas paid tribute with cacao seeds. Cacao cups, ocelot skins, feathers, greenstone beads, and many other goods were just a few of the items people could use to pay tribute.

The Aztecs processed cacao into chocolate just like the ancient Maya.
To make the seeds lighter during transport, Aztec merchants most likely traded for cacao that had already been fermented and dried. Once these seeds were obtained, the Aztecs then roasted and ground the cacao using a griddle and a mano and metate, just like the Maya.

The Aztecs flavored their chocolate drink with a variety of seasonings.
Like the Maya, the Aztecs made their chocolate into a frothy, bitter beverage and mixed it with cornmeal, chile peppers, vanilla beans, and black pepper. Different ingredients changed the texture, flavor, color, and purpose of the brew. To turn the chocolate a deep, blood-red shade for ritual use, the Aztecs added achiote (ah chee OH tay), the seed of the annatto tree.

Only AZTEC NOBILITY, MERCHANTS, and PRIESTS drank chocolate, but EVERYONE used cacao seeds as MONEY

Drinking chocolate was a luxury few Aztecs could afford.
In the Aztec world, cacao seeds were worth a fortune—for paying tribute to rulers, for buying things in markets, and for making offerings to the gods. Only the Aztec elite (rulers, priests, decorated warriors, and honored merchants) held the social status and economic position to savor the drink.

Chocolate was the Aztec food of the gods.
According to one Aztec legend, the god Quetzalcoatl (ket sal koh AH tul) brought heavenly cacao to Earth. Eventually, Quetzalcoatl was cast out of paradise for the blasphemous act of giving this sacred drink to humans. (The gods felt that only they should have access to chocolate.) Priests often made offerings of cacao seeds to Quetzalcoatl and these other deities.

In Aztec markets, cacao seeds served as cash.
When Aztec people went shopping, they used cacao seeds to buy and sell everything from cooking pots to clothes and food. The seeds were valuable and easy to carry—like having a pocket full of coins. Cacao was valuable partly because the Aztecs couldn’t grow it themselves and had to import it from far away. And for this reason, cacao wasn’t for sale in markets—merchants kept the seeds locked up like money in a cash register.

(Message edited by duaut on October 04, 2004)

(Message edited by duaut on October 04, 2004)
Peyote Takes Care Of Those Who Take Care Of Peyote - The Duaut
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Natureboy (Natureboy)
Junior Member
Username: Natureboy

Post Number: 20
Registered: 08-2003
Posted on Sunday, December 26, 2004 - 02:07 am:Edit Post Quote Text Delete Post Print Post Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Oh My God,
Thank you so much for the research, I am sorry I didn't have the time to help out those who did recieve trees from me, but thankful that you put in the time. I hope all of your babies arte well. Have a great Yuletide season, Peace, Natureboy
My reality is my way to bring peace and beauty to all living things I cross paths with.
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Hidra (Hidra303)
Username: Hidra303

Post Number: 1891
Registered: 03-2003
Posted on Sunday, December 26, 2004 - 02:09 am:Edit Post Quote Text Delete Post Print Post Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)



archive material
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Sweetness (Sweetness)
Username: Sweetness

Post Number: 3947
Registered: 08-2003
Posted on Sunday, December 26, 2004 - 02:12 am:Edit Post Quote Text Delete Post Print Post Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

"Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting "...holy sh*t...what a ride!"
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Roo (Tehutiroo)
Intermediate Member
Username: Tehutiroo

Post Number: 69
Registered: 12-2004
Posted on Monday, December 27, 2004 - 02:50 am:Edit Post Quote Text Delete Post Print Post Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

"Sustainable Farms
Scientists, ecologists, grassroots organizations, cacao farmers, and chocolate industry representatives are seeking new solutions to the problems that cacao farmers face.

The plan is to develop agricultural systems that may better sustain the livelihoods of cacao farmers, improve the long-term viability of cacao trees, and safeguard the environment.

Sustainable cacao farms can help protect rainforest fragments.
Some recommendations emphasize a more naturalistic cultivation of cacao on small-scale farms that border threatened rainforests (rather than penetrate virgin rainforests). This practice is called "sustainable farming." Rainforest plants and animals may benefit from the protective buffer zones that these farms create against human encroachment.

Rainforests dwellers can benefit sustainable cacao farms.
Cacao grown on farms planted at the edge of healthy rainforests seems to benefit from the wealth of nearby pollinators and natural pesticides."

It sounds nice, but no one is doing it. ALL Cocoa production is done on established plantations or on "slash and burn" farms. Even the Cocoa used to make those Yuppie, "save the rain forest" candy bars is produced on normal plantations.

You did not mention how destructive Cocoa production is to the environment. I have seen entire rivers polluted with runoff from these plantations. The water weeds take over the river and cause the local area to flood. They use tons of herbicide to kill the weeds, which does further damage to the ecosystem.

I hope farmers begin to follow the practices described in this article. They make quite a bit of sense.

Great article! thanks for sharing.

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jasontokes (Jasontokes)
Senior Member
Username: Jasontokes

Post Number: 607
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Wednesday, January 19, 2005 - 01:20 am:Edit Post Quote Text Delete Post Print Post Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

chocolate plant ?

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