Do you know what it is?
—Article updated December, 2014—
The Spaniards brought cacao trees (the source of chocolates) from Mexico to the Philippines towards the end of the 17th century.
Today, you can still find cacao trees growing in the backyard of Filipino homes — or in the case of the picture below, right next to a home, so you can climb out the window to the tree to pick your cacao pods…or escape out of the house to the street.
Here is a photo I took of cacao seeds drying by the side of the road. The size and shape are like almonds.
After drying, the seeds are ground up and pounded with wet sugar (and in earlier times, grounded with toasted rice flour or Philippine pili nuts). The paste is rolled and formed into tablets that are easier to store and dissolve for later use.
And in parts of the Philippines, if you do not have a cacao tree on your property or do not want to mess with opening up the pods and drying seeds, you can go to the market to buy the quantity you need.
Can you imagine buying cacao seeds like this here in the U.S.? And roasting your own seeds to make home-made chocolate? Actually, that may be fun for true chocoholics….
Chocolate is native to Central America and was introduced to Spain in the early 16th century, in Italy and England in the 17th century and in Germany in the 18th century
These days, about 70% of cocoa produced in the world come from African countries and human rights issues continue to plague cacao plantations. Big chocolate producers must lead in changing these conditions by creating and enforcing policies that address how cocoa farms run (see the documentary The Dark Side of Chocolate).
Large scale chocolate production is dominated by
- USA-based companies Mars, Hershey and Mondelēz International Inc (Cadbury brand)
- Switzerland-based Nestle and Chocoladenfabriken Lindt & Sprüngli AG
- Japan-based Meiji Holdings and Ezaki Glico Co Ltd
Above data source: International Cocoa Organization
Although most cocoa is produced in Africa, only 1% of chocolate is actually made there. The company Madecasse is doing something different and creating a whole new category of chocolates…actually growing / sourcing AND making chocolate bars in the country of Madagascar. Their chocolate products are sold internationally and through their website.
As always, a blog post leads me to learn more! Although I started this post when I learned about the most craved food in the world — and wanting to share my cacao seed photos and information on why cacao trees grow in the Philippines — the next time I have a chocolate bar craving, I’ll definitely consider where and how the cacao is sourced.
I’m happy to see that Costco is making a statement about their chocolate source for their Kirkland brand. On their box of 70% Chocolate Truffles, a statement about their cocoa starts with:
…Costco is proud to support a cocoa program that improves crops, helps farmers and reduces the environmental impact of farm operations. Our goal is to procure cocoa beans that are traceable, of high quality, and grown in a socially and environmentally responsible manner.
And since Costco is the 2nd largest retailer in the U.S. (after Wal-Mart) and the 3rd largest retailer in the WORLD, their cocoa sourcing policies will certainly make an impact for cacao farmers.
Related LolaKo.com post:
Champorado origins – a chocolate rice porridge and favorite Filipino breakfast