• Once the flowers have been pollinated they produce large pods containing cacao (or ‘cocoa’) beans. When crushed the beans yield cocoa mass, the basis of chocolate.
  • Cocoa trees originate from South America's rainforests but today most of our cocoa is grown by about 2.5 million farmers, mainly on smallholdings in West Africa.
  • The UK chocolate industry supports schemes such as Fairtrade, improving livelihoods and protecting locals from global price fluctuations. Fairtrade also gives a premium that can be reinvested in business, social and environmental schemes.
  • Scientists are crossing West African cocoa trees with their wild South American ancestors to create disease-resistant trees, which will lead to fewer chemicals being used and less planting on new land.

Where it grows

Native to lowland tropical America but now widely cultivated in West Africa. Requires a shady location, humid climate with regular rainfall and good soil.

Common uses

Today chocolate is the 'sweet snack of the people' but many years ago, as a part of their rituals, Mayan and Aztec nobles drank their cocoa beans ground and brewed with chillies. This is where the Latin name Theobroma cacao, meaning 'food of the gods', comes from. When it first arrived in Spain in the 16th century some didn’t like it, one even proclaiming it ‘fit for pigs’. Sugar was added and it grew in popularity especially with the ladies of the Spanish court. Chocolate became a European luxury, with chocolate houses frequented by the elite springing up in the capital cities. Debates centred around its medical value, and whether it was it an aphrodisiac. Chocolate went on to be used as emergency rations for armies, navies and rescue teams, and eventually became a ‘luxury’ that everyone could enjoy.

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Molten Lava Chocolate Cake Recipe Ingredients 8 ounces seemswiet orbittersweet chocolate, chopped 4 large eggsbd pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chopped 4 tablespoons unbleached all purpose flourbd cup sugarbd teaspoon ground cinnamon Whipped cream for garnish (1 pint heavy cream, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla extract) Raspberries and mint leaves for garnish (optional) Directions Preheat the oven to 350b0F. Grease eight 4-ounce cake molds or ramekins. Over a double boiler, melt the chocolate and butter, stirring constantly. Once they are completely melted, set aside and cool. Combine the sugar and eggs and whisk until pale and fluffy. Stir the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture until completely blended. Whisk in the flour, nutmeg and cinnamon and mix well. Pour the batter into the cake molds and bake for 14 minutes at 350b0F. While the cakes are baking you can whip the cream. To one pint heavy cream add 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar as the cream begins to thicken, plus 1 teaspoon vanilla and a few grains salt. Unsweetened or barely-sweetened whipped cream is also delicious, so feel free to reduce the sugar or add none at all. Remove the lava cakes from the oven and cool for 2 minutes. Run a knife around the edges, invert the molds onto individual dessert plates, garnish with raspberries and mint leaves and serve immediately. We prefer to pass the whipped cream in a bowl so guests can help themselves to the amount they prefer.
Submitted by John on

Re Theoboma Cocoa Seeds

Dear Sirs, Please can you help. I am looking to buy seeds. Can you please tell me where in the uk I can buy these seeds from? Thank-you Mr Hugh Harrison
Submitted by Mr Hugh Harrison on

Cocoa pods

Is there anywhere, you can suggest, where I can buy a cocoa pod for a school project? Thanks
Submitted by Rob Downing on


eden project's picture
Hi Rob, if you contact us through the 'contact us' section on the website, we should be able to put you in the right direction.
Submitted by eden project on

buy cacao seeds

Hi. I.m also looking for cacao seeds to cultivate. If u know any source pls let me know Cheers
Submitted by gilli on


Man picking yellow cacao pod

Cocoa growing in our Rainforest Biome

See the bright yellow pods, and their delicious contents, in our rainforest.



  • Lobe: incomplete division in any plant organ (eg leaf).
  • Obovate: two-dimensionally egg-shaped with widest part at the apex.
  • Understorey: growing underneath the canopy layer.