The civilized world only became aware of the existence of cocoa and chocolate after Christopher Columbus landed in America. Until then, it was the privilege of the Indians who lived in southern Mexico, Central America and the Amazon basin, where cocoa grew naturally through the forest.
Cacao is a tropical plant belonging to the family of Esterculiáceas, found in the Americas, both in terrasbaixas within the dark and humid forests under the protection of large trees, less commonly in lush forests, at variable altitudes between 0 and 1,000 meters from sea level.
The fruit of the cacao seeds are extracted, after undergoing fermentation, become almonds, which are used to produce cocoa powder and cocoa butter.
Cacao is native to the tropical regions of Central America.
Cocoa was considered by the Maya civilization as a spicy fruit, a food that should be eaten with "parsimony and elegance ", due to its bitter taste; and was given directly by the gods to men; and before Christopher Columbus, was consumed only by priests. And, Cocoa was used as a currency in trading. At that time, Portugal and Brazil used cocoa as a quazzi-currency for export for hundreds of years.
Cocoa is used in the production of chocolate, by grinding the dry bean. Other cocoa by-products include the pulp, juice, jam, fine spirits and ice cream.
Cocoa futures contracts are mainly traded by the London Mercantile Exchange (LIFFE), the Stock Exchange of New York Goods (NYMEX) and the Intercontinental Commodities Exchange (ICE).