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Precolonial mayas of central america described cocoa, the main ingredient of chocolate, cocoa butter, and cocoa powder, as the “food of the gods.” But since the early to mid-19th century, when Europeans developed milk chocolate and solid chocolate, cocoa has certainly become a culinary delight for humans. Cacao (Theobroma cacao) is the tree that produces the cocoa beans from which cocoa is derived. The crop's origin is the Amazon Basin, and today 75 percent of cacao is cultivated in broadly similar humid lowland tropical forest environments, within 8 degrees of the equator.

Sweeping Changes in Production

The history of cacao production for markets is a history of remarkable changes—socioeconomic, cultural, and ecological. Globally, cacao production levels tell a story of change that shows a historical trend of ...

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