Where was Cacao first domesticated? and does it even matter?

In Mexico they claim cacao was first domesticated there, so they say in Guatemala, Venezuela, Peru and Ecuador. Ecuador was the biggest exporter of cacao beans back in the 17th century when Europe went crazy for it. Now the Ivory Coast and other places in West Africa are the #1 exporters.

Myths from ancient civilizations in Central America talk about Cacao being a gift from the gods, hence its scientific name Theobroma - food of the gods. You can read one of Cacao creation stories here. The word cacao derives from the Mayan work Ka'kau, Mother Cacao Tree then “chocolate” stems from “chocol’ha”, the drink, and the verb “chokola’j”, “to drink chocol’ha together”. Later on from the Aztec whose language is called Nahualt came the word KaKahuatl which became "cacaoatl" in Spanish. As from the Inca and pre-Inca of South America there seems to be no survival record of cacao stories. Yet newer genomic research in Ecuador found the oldest remains of the use of cacao in this area. You can read all about it here these remains are 500 to 1000 years older than those found in Central America. 

Aztec Sculpture National Anthropology and History Museum of MexicoAztec Sculpture National Anthropology and History Museum of Mexico

There is a creation story that I resonate with, maybe it came as a dream. Ten thousand years ago beings from another galaxy came to Earth and showed our ancestors, of what we now call the Amazon basin, that by crossing two wild trees, their modern names being Theobroma Pentagona and Theobroma Leiocarpa, a new tree, whose scientific name is Theobrama Cacao, will be born. A tree whose fruit is design to heal humanity, to open our hearts, bring us joy and riches to all. Indigenous myths tell that when humanity is most threatened Cacao will come from the jungle and help us heal our hearts. 

My knowledge of cacao was firstly experiential. As a kid, warm cacao drinks were served at home daily, then my first experience of Cacao in ceremony came in 2012. What I knew about cacao was what I felt; heart opening, emotional release. She is a loving plant spirit manifested as a fruit to assist humanity, its power being in its heart expanding, emotional healing properties as well as its many nutritional components. 

Aztec woman Getty Images- De Agostini Picture LibraryAztec woman Getty Images- De Agostini Picture Library

I feel to question, do the origins of cacao really matter? Perhaps what really matters is the healing it brings, the community it helps create, the sustenance it gives, the families it helps to nourish and the land it helps to protect. Cacao trees face life threatening pests and diseases, the farmers work hard to help the cacao trees survive and to make ends meet. So the origins of its domestication is maybe not as important, as to know where the cacao and chocolate products that we buy now, come from, who and what we are supporting with our purchases. Just like any other thing that we consume, the way that is produced, and gets to us, is as important as what we are consuming itself. 

Maybe this is what truly matters, not who were the first to use cacao in ceremony, or where was the tree first domesticated, but how is it cultivated and used now? Are the trees grown in jungle like farms, surrounded by many plants and animals? Are the farmers paid fairly for their hard work and dedication? Are the pods harvested at the right time, and its processing into cacao products done with respect and care? What is the story of the producers we buy cacao and chocolate from? What is our intention for consuming it, and can we do it with respect, reverence and bring joy to us and community whilst doing so? 

cacaoamor_deya_cacao_pods cacaoamor_ceremony


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