Cocoa beans are called cocoa beans and not cacao beans due to a spelling mistake made by English importers in the 18th century when chocolate first became popular.
Cocoa beans are the seeds inside melon-shaped pods about 30 cm long.
Cacao trees came originally from Central America. Now they are grown in the West Indies and West Africa too.
Chocolate is made by grinding the kernels of cocoa beans to a paste called chocolate liquor. This is hardened in moulds to make chocolate.
Cooking chocolate is bitter. Eating chocolate has sugar and, often, milk added.
Cocoa powder is made by squeezing the cocoa butter (fat) from chocolate liquor and then pulverizing it.
When Spanish explorer Hernan Cortes reached the court of Montezuma (Aztec ruler of Mexico in 1519) he was served a bitter drink called xocoatl. The people of Central America had regarded xocoatl as a sacred drink since the time of the Mayans.
Belgian chocolates are renowned for their fine quality. Many Belgian chocolate milkers like to keep their recipes secret so they can’t be copied.
In the 1600s, Europeans began to open fashionable chocolate houses to serve dessert as hot chocolate sweetened with sugar. In the 1700s, the English began Add light milk to improve the flavour.
‘Cacao’ is a Mayan word for ‘bitter juice’; the word ‘chocolate’ comes from the Mayan for ‘sour water.