A small Cacao tree usually 4–8 m tall and grow rarely up to 20 m. After 2-3 years the tree produces many cauliflorous flowers and fruits develop after about 5 years. The fruits grow for 150-180 days, contain 30-40 seeds surrounded with mucilaginous pulp, and produce 10-35 cm long pods with recalcitrant seeds. A good tree produces up to 40 pods a year.
There are three main varieties of cacao trees. The most common is Forastero, which accounts 90% of the world's cacao beans production. Rarest and most prized are the beans of the Criollo variety. Their aroma and delicacy make them sought after by the world's best chocolate makers. Finally, there is the Trinitario variety of cacao, which is a hybrid cross between Criollo and Forastero.
Cacao seeds are the source of commercial cocoa, chocolate, and cocoa butter. The Fermented seeds are roasted, cracked and ground to give a powdery mass from which fat is expressed. In the preparation of chocolate, this mass is mixed with sugar, flavoring, and extra cocoa fat. Milk chocolate incorporates milk as well. Cocoa butter is used in confections and in manufacture of tobacco, soap, and cosmetics.
Cocoa butter has been described as the world's most expensive fat, used rather extensively in the emollient "bullets" used for hemorrhoids.
Theobroma cacao, is native to South America. Cocoa cultivation began by Mayan tribes in Central America, since 1500 BC. Mayas and Aztec attributed divine origin to cocoa tree (brought by god Quetzacoatl). The precious cocoa beans were used as a currency. The sacred beverage called "chocolatl" was consumed from golden cups.
Cocoa butter is applied to wrinkles in the hope of correcting them.
(a split open Cocoa bean)