The Cacao Bean

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

The cacao tree, named Theobroma cacao by Linnaeus—theobroma is Greek for “food of the gods”—is a broad-leaved evergreen that grows between 20° north and south of the equator, and reaches about 20 feet/7 m in height. It produces fruits in the form of fibrous pods from 6 to 10 inches/15–25 cm long, 3 or 4 inches/7.5–10 cm in diameter, and containing 20 to 40 seeds, or “beans,” each about an inch/2.5 cm long, embedded in a sweet-tart pulp.