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Theobroma cacao (cocoa tree)

Cocoa tree is the source of one of the world's most delicious and familiar products... chocolate.
Theobroma cacao

Fruits of Theobroma cacao

Species information

Scientific name: 

Theobroma cacao L.

Common name: 

cocoa, cocoa tree, chocolate tree, cacao tree, food of the Gods.

Conservation status: 

Not of conservation concern.


Evergreen tropical rainforest.

Key Uses: 

Food, medicinal, cosmetics, peat mulch alternative.


Genus: Theobroma

About this species

The edible properties of Theobroma cacao were discovered over 2,000 years ago by the local people of Central America living deep in the tropical rainforests. In the year 2008-2009 world cocoa production was 3,515,000 tonnes. This is equivalent to the weight of a line of double-decker buses stretching more than three times the length of Britain!

The scientific name Theobroma cacao was given to the species by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1753, when he published it in his famous book Species Plantarum. Theobroma means 'food of the gods' in Latin, and cacao is derived from the Nahuatl (Aztec language) word xocolatl, from xococ (bitter) and atl (water).

Chocolate is more than just a delicacy; evidence suggests that eating between 46 and 105g chocolate a day can have a moderate effect on lowering blood pressure. Cocoa has been used for an array of medicinal purposes. Unfermented cocoa seeds and the seed coat are used to treat a variety of ailments, including diabetes, digestive and chest complaints. Cocoa powder, prepared from fermented cocoa seeds, is used to prevent heart disease. Cocoa butter is taken to lower cholesterol levels, although its efficacy is unclear.

It is also used widely in foods and pharmaceutical preparations, as well as being used as a rich moisturiser for the skin.


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