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How the Cacao Tree Got Its Name

More history is written on the cacao tree than any other American plant making the journey to the Old World. The seed of the cacao tree was extremely valuable as a food, trade item and as a religious symbol causing the extensive writing that we have to show the history of chocolate.

htm Thousand of years before the Spanish Conquest of Mexico and Central America, extensive documentation was made of the cacao tree including its spiritual use as a form of human blood; of course it was under the name given to it by the peoples indigenous to those countries.

htm The name (Theobroma cacao) was actually given to the plant in 1753 by Carl von Linne, who was a Swedish scientist. The binomial system we now use to classify all living things was created by this scientist, his system replaced the more complicated Latin sentences used to describe things. He gave the cacao or “chocolate tree” the first part of its name “Theobroma” because it actually means “food of the gods.” Von Linne was known to be a lover of chocolate, but he felt the word cacao was archaic so he put it at the end as the actual name of the tree. Because binomial names are rarely used in everyday language, the tree and all of its products before processing became known as “cacao”. In 1828 the Dutchman Coenraad Van Houten gave the newest product, the defatted powder he invented the name “Cocoa.” This is the name the New York Commodities Market uses to indicate the unprocessed seeds, which only adds to the confusion of the Cacao trees name. After processing, the seeds, whether in a solid or liquid form, are called “chocolate” or “cocoa” in British English.

To add even more confusion, we need to make sure we do not confuse the products which come from the coconut palm and are often referred to as “coco”. Thank you,


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