What Is a Cocoa Tree? Meet the Raw Material of Chocolate!
What Is a Cocoa Tree? Where Does a Cocoa Tree Grow?
The beginning of the legendary adventure of chocolate that has been overlooked and little known; We would like to tell you about the cocoa tree. Let's consider the physical properties and history of this ancient and healing food such as olive oil, wine, bread, which has existed since the foundations of civilization, and witness the adventure of the "Cocoa Tree", the core of chocolate.
Cocoa Tree | What is Theobroma Cacao?
Loving plenty of precipitation, humidity and shade, the cocoa tree grows in tropical forests, under the shade of banana and similar broad-leaved trees, and mostly along riverbanks. The average height of the cocoa tree varies from 4 meters to 15 meters. Around 25 million acres of land worldwide is devoted to cocoa production, most of which takes place in West Africa. The practice of growing cocoa and processing it for food and drink began in Mexico around 1900 BC and has grown into a $100 billion industry today.
The Latin name for the cocoa tree is Theobroma Cacao, meaning "Food of the Gods". The reason why it is named "Food of the Gods" is that the ancient Latin American civilizations, who consumed the cocoa fruit for the first time, sanctified this fruit, thinking that it gave them superpowers. Apart from its delicious taste, when we take into account the numerous beneficial nutrients it contains and the benefits it provides to the human body, it becomes even more understandable why it is called Food of the Gods.
Where Does a Cocoa Tree Grow?
The cocoa tree grows in warm countries; South America and Africa. The homeland of the cocoa plant is the Northwest of South America, where the greatest diversity is found.
The main supplier of the chocolate industry is West Africa with a share of 80%. But Africa is not the homeland of cocoa. With the increase in the demand for chocolate in the European continent in the 1800s, the traders started cultivation by establishing cocoa tree plantations in African countries with favorable climates in order to avoid the trouble of transporting cocoa from Latin America to Europe.
There are three basic types of cocoa tree; Criollo, Forastero and Trinitario. These three varieties we have mentioned are the most well-known types of cocoa in the traditional sense. However, studies conducted in recent years reveal that there are dozens of different types of cocoa. Cocoa, which is genetically open to combining with different species that are not its own, contains many differences under these three roof varieties. It takes essences from the banana tree that grows next to it, the acidity rate differs from the type of soil, and it carries the unique breezes of the rains that grow it. This is exactly why cocoa, or chocolate, is a gourmet food with different taste notes.
Worldwide, 90% of cocoa trees are grown on small family farms of 2 to 5 hectares, while only 5% come from large plantations of 40 hectares or larger. Cocoa production provides a livelihood for 40 to 50 million farmers, rural workers and their families in the Global South. In Ivory Coast and Ghana, 90% of farmers rely on cocoa as their sole source of income.
How Many Years Does a Cocoa Tree Grow?
The cocoa tree blooms non-stop all year round and unlike the others, it is one of the rare trees that has both flowers and fruits on it at the same time. Cocoa tree flowers grow directly above the trunk of the cocoa tree, not on the branch or elsewhere on the tree. An average of 100,000 cocoa tree flowers grow on a single tree annually, but only 0.1% of them become fruit. It takes 5-8 months for cocoa tree flowers to turn into fruit and mature. The ripe fruit takes the form of a thin elongated ellipse (the ripe cocoa fruit is called Cocoa Pod, Cocoa Capsule in English). The size of the fruit varies from 10 to 40 cm.
How to Grow a Cocoa Tree?
Growing cacao is a full-blown work as the care and harvesting of cacao beans requires intense and constant attention. To make only half a kilo of chocolate, you need to use a whole year's crop of a cocoa tree. In such a difficult profession, the issue of whether these workers, who make their living entirely from cocoa fruit, earn what they deserve or not, is one of the most important issues in the sector. On the other hand, the method of harvesting the cocoa tree is also very important for the growth of cocoa trees on the same soil in the future. Incorrect harvests undermine soil fertility and jeopardize the sustainability of cocoa for future generations. Timely harvest ensures the tree to live for many years and bear fruit.
We hope that global companies understand that, for the continuation of cocoa products, which are highly nutritious and enjoyed by everyone, they need to support the farmers who grow the cocoa tree and trade cocoa fairly.
Does Cocoa Tree Grow in Turkey?
The cocoa tree is a tree that grows in a tropical climate and the most favorable temperature is between 18-32 degrees. Of course, in addition to these temperatures, humidity, latitude and altitude are also important for the growth of the cocoa tree. It grows productively between 10 degrees north and 10 degrees south latitudes, under the protection of plants such as cocoa tree, banana and palm tree. It neither likes excessive sun nor excessive wind.
Since there are no suitable climatic conditions for the cocoa tree to grow, cocoa trees cannot grow in Turkey as in many parts of the world.