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FOOD UNIVERSITY: The Mother Of All Cacao


Kakawa Cocoa Beans from Cocoa Puro.
Photo by Kent Lacin | Cocoa Puro.


With Mother’s Day little more than a week away, our friend Tom Pederson of Cocoa Puro, creator of the wonderful Kakawa Cocoa Beans, reminds us that “the mother of all cacao” came from the area of what is today the largest city in the Peruvian rainforest, Iquitos, with a population of 370,962. (Located on the Amazon River, it is also the most populous city in the world that cannot be reached by road.)

Researchers have determined that millions of years ago, one particular tree whose pods contained what we now call cacao beans is the actual mother tree responsible for all the cacao and chocolate in the world.

Cacao now grows worldwide in the “cacao belt,” 20 degrees north and south of the equator, in humid jungle lowlands. It can be found from South America to Madagascar.*

Amid the three categories of cacao beans—criollo, forastero and trinitario, a hybrid of the two—there are many thousands of clonal varieties because the trees crossbreed naturally. The pods range from elongated to squat, and yellow to yellow-green to orange to deep burgundy (see photos.)

If Mom is a chocolate lover, she’ll relish some Kakawa Cocoa Beans for Mother’s Day: fresh roasted whole cocoa beans enrobed in white chocolate, then milk chocolate, then dark chocolate and rolled in velvety cocoa powder.

*A comprehensive list of cacao-producing countries and cities includes Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Hawaii, Honduras, Jamaica, Java, Madagascar, Martinique, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Saint Vincent and Grenadine, Samoa, Santa Lucia, São Tomé and Principe, Sri Lanka, Surinam, Trinidad and Tobago, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Windward and Leeward Islands. Not all is top quality; only 5%-10% of the world’s cacao falls into this category.

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