The story of chocolate begins with a tree, a small tree of the tropical understory. In 1735 Linnaeus designated this tree Theobroma cacao, a scientific name that handily links two ancient cultures a world apart.
Theobroma, the genus name, is from the Greek and translates to “food of the gods,” a designation that chocolate-lovers would agree is befitting. Although Linnaeus was reputedly fond of chocolate, he would have been familiar with early Spanish writings describing the Mayan and Aztec beliefs that cacao was a gift from the gods.
Cacao is the Mayan root word retained by the Spanish colonizers of Mesoamerica to describe the tree and its products.