Where does
Chocolate come From?
Raw Cacao

Raw Cacao

Where does chocolate come from - pure natural healthy chocolate?  Read on to learn about chocolate benefits - raw cacao in its finest form.

On this page I will share with you;

  • what do the terms chocolate, cocoa and cacao refer to
  • health benefits and cautions
  • where does chocolate come from
  • pictures in it's natural state
  • healthy recipes and ideas for use

Nadia holding Raw Cacao Beans

What's in a Name?

Chocolate, Cocoa or Cacao.  Which is which and what is what???

On this page, unless otherwise stated, I will be using all 3 terms interchangeably to refer to healthy, unprocessed and raw chocolate. 

The latin name for cacao is theobroma cacao which translates as the 'foods of the gods'.

Nowadays the term cacao (ka-kow) has come to be known as the raw and unheated beans.

When shopping for cocoa products, if the term cacao is used it most likely means the raw product.  If the term cocoa is used it most likely means there has been some heat processing involved. 

If the term chocolate is used there could be heat processing and a variety of other ingredients added.  For example a 'chocolate bar' bought at a candy shop could have very little to no actual cacao in it and be full of chemicals and artificial sweeteners. 

It is very important to always read ingredients and know what you are buying and eating.

Long ago I would ask myself, 'where does chocolate come from?'.  Back then I didn't really know the answer and was prey to buying all sorts of unhealthy and overly processed chocolate products. 

Now I know better...

Now, I use only raw cacao as this is such an ancient magical food in its raw state.

Why Raw Cacao?

You may not only want to know 'where does chocolate come from?' but also, 'why would I want to use raw cacao?'

The benefits of chocolate (raw cacao) are many. 

This is an ancient food that has been revered through the ages as a precious resource.  In ancient times cacao beans were actually used as currency! .. that is how precious they have always been.

Nowadays, the chocolate flavour exists in many things.  Humans have always been attracted to chocolate and companies out there will take advantage of this ancient attraction by giving us many cheap chocolate flavored food products of which most have no nutrition or real goodness in them at all.

This has given chocolate a bad name but it need not be this way.  Look for and obtain only pure raw cacao and you can still benefit from the ancient wisdom and nutrition of this food.

Raw cocoa benefits include;

  • energy giving
  • high in antioxidants
  • aphrodisiac
  • rich in phenols that help to lower blood pressure and arterial clogging
  • mood enhancer
  • nourishing to the heart chakra (can help with broken heartedness, grief, loss, etc.)
  • great source of magnesium
  • laxative properties
  • appetite suppressant

Like anything - know how much is good for you and do not overdo your intake.


Cacao contains theobromine which can be very stimulating and each person will have a different sensitivity to this. 

I am very sensitive and therefore I know that if I eat cacao late in the day there is a good chance I will be up all night.

If cacao is overdone it can be very taxing on the adrenals leading to fatigue.

Treat this food with respect for its properties and eat it with respect for your own system.  Get to know it, learn how it feels for you and develop a relationship with chocolate that is beneficial to your unique system.

Where does Chocolate come From?

Cocoa trees grow in the tropics.

I was recently in Trinidad which is a beautiful island country in the Caribbean just north of the equator and very close to Venezuela.  Cocoa production has been happening in Trinidad for generations and generations as far back as 1678.

All of the pictures on this page are from the cocoa growing in Trinidad.  This is the Criollo and Trinitario types of cacao - some of the best in the world!!!

So, where does chocolate come from?  It comes from the cocoa beans that are inside the cocoa pods that grow on the cocoa trees in the tropics.

Cacao Trees
Cacao Forest
Cacao Pod

The above pictures show the cacao pods growing on the tree.  As you can see one tree can produce several pods.  Inside each pod there are anywhere from 20-50 cacao beans surrounded by a sweet white pulp.

Cacao trees will bear their fruit all throughout the year.  As I was walking through this cacao forest I saw pods at all different stages of growth from tiny buds to ready to harvest.

Cocoa trees like to grow in the shade so amongst the cocoa trees there are also very tall trees like the pomerak tree that will provide shade.

It is like walking through an enchanted forest, under the canopy of tall shade giving trees, breathing in the cool refreshing air and seeing magical looking chocolate pods in every direction!

Nadia holding Cacao Pod
Cacao being sold Streetside
Cacao Pod

The size of the cacao pods is about 20 cm long and shaped somewhat like an American football.

You can see raw cacao pods for sale by a street vendor in the top right picture (next to the bananas).

The ripe cacao pods can be orange, yellow or reddish in colour.

Cacao Pod with Pulp
Cacao Pod with Pulp
Cacao Pod and Pulp
Cacao Pod, Pulp and Bean

When the cacao pod is broken open the beans surrounded by a white pulp are revealed.

This white pulp is deliciously sweet and a little tangy.  It was a treat while walking through this forest to suck the scrumptious white pulp from the beans. 

As you can see from the bottom left picture, when you bite through the white pulp you will find the dark cocoa bean.  This dark bean has quite a bitter taste. 

I quite enjoyed eating the white pulp and bean, the whole thing together, right from the pod as we were walking amongst trees.  I found the sweetness of the white pulp combined with the bitterness of the cacao bean to be quite divine!  No one else I know eats the beans like this - I may be the only one that enjoys them in this way!

Cacao Sweat Box

The next step of learning 'where does chocolate come from' is to learn about the sweat box pictured above.

The beans that come out of the pod surrounded by their sweet pulp are then placed in this simple box to 'sweat'.  Here the pulp will drain off and absorb into the cacao bean in a fermentation process that takes place.

This process is important to improve the flavour of the bean and therefore the overall quality of the taste.

Once this is completed (after a couple of days or so) the beans are then put under the sun to dry;

Cacao Beans Drying in the Sun
Cacao Beans drying in the Sun
Cacao Beans drying in the Sun

While drying under the hot tropical sun, it is important to turn and rake the beans so they can dry evenly.

This drying and turning process is also integral to creating a good overall taste to the bean.

Once dry, the thin outer shell can be removed to reveal the dark, beautiful cacao bean within.

Sun Dried Cacao Beans
Cacao Pod, Pulp and Beans
Cacao Beans and Nibs

Clockwise from top;

  • cacao beans that have been sweated and sun dried
  • cacao pod broken open, pulp surrounding beans and sun-dried beans
  • cacao nibs, shelled.  There is a thin skin that comes off to reveal this dark bitter cacao bean.

It is the cacao beans/nibs pictured in the bottom picture that is then used to make the chocolate that we all enjoy.

It is these nibs that I use as a raw ingredient in many of my healthy chocolate recipes.

So where does chocolate come from that I buy?  When in the tropics I source everything locally, otherwise I recommend these links;

Along with cacao nibs/beans, I will also use raw cacao butter and cacao powder which comes from processing the fat out of the bean.


For some wonderful recipes using raw chocolate visit the following pages;

I have many other delicious and healthy chocolate recipes still to add - subscribe to our site to know when anything new is added.

'Where does chocolate come from?' is a question that many people may have not stopped to ponder.  But such an ancient food deserves to be recognized from its true and pure origins. 

I hope this page has given you an introduction into the nature and origin of this truly unique, magical, ancient and precious food.


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