Who and where was cocoa first discovered?
The story of cocoa started over 3000 years ago, while there are images on Mayan pottery dating back to 1000BC. Cocoa was first discovered in Mexico by the Olmecs who are known to be the first people to cultivate Cocoa; and they lived in central America near the equator and the gulf of Mexico in (1500- 400BC). They were the first human to consume chocolate in form of a drink, they crushed the cocoa beans mixed them with water and added spices, chilies and herbs. They started cultivating cocoa in the equatorial Mexico. Over the time the Mayans 600BC and Aztecs 400AD developed successful methods for cultivating cocoa as well, they also used cacao beans as currency. (www.worldagroforestrycentre.org/treesandmarkets/.../history)
How did it spread around the world?
In 1502, on his fourth and last voyage to the New World, Christopher Columbus came upon a canoe that was transporting agricultural products, including cacao beans. He seized the contents of the canoe and brought cacao back to Spain. Chocolate did not become popular for many years in Europe, but decades later, the Spaniards added sugar to the cacao, and the rest, as they say, is history. Chocolate soon became the preferred drink of the royal courts in Europe. The belief was that chocolate could cure any illness, the Spanish friars began to grow cacao in Ecuador around 1635. The French introduced cacao to Martinique and St Lucia, the Dominican Republic, and Brazil in the mid to late 1600’s. England started growing it in Jamaica and the Dutch in Curaçao. All of this effort just to meet the ever growing demand for the affluent in Europe. When demand exploded again in the 1800’s even more had to be cultivated. Cacao from Brazil was taken to Principe and Sao Tomé, islands off the coast of West Africa around 1830. From there, it spread to Nigeria and Ghana. Today, the largest cacao producing country is Ivory Coast, Africa.
Cocoa production is not ethical, there has been a problem with child labour and slave labour in cacao producing countries. In the west Africa cocoa is a commodity crop grown primarily for export, today farmers barely make a living selling the beans and often resort to the use of child labour in order to keep their prices competitive. The children of west Africa are surrounded by intense poverty and most begin working at a young age to help support their family. In recent years cases have been documented in which children and adults on cocoa farms were retained against their will and forced to work. “The lack of a fair and stable price for cocoa farmers is a root cause of the exploitative labour problem. Farmers typically receive only a very small proportion of the final retail price for their cocoa, which means they are forced to produce it below the fair cost of production. It’s these conditions that often lead farmers to use child labour.…