Cacao [ka KOW] n. the seeds and the tree, Theobroma cacao, from which cocoa, cocoa butter, and chocolate are made.
The word cacao is thought to come from the Aztec word cacahuatl, which means "bitter water." Its Western scientific designation, however, means "food of the gods." Cacao's journey from cacahuatl to Theobroma has been long and studded with history.
Today, the word cacao is usually used to refer to the bean or plant itself, instead of the end result - chocolate, or cocoa. This helps differentiate between the tree, the pods, and the beans themselves - which are all very different from the final sophisticated product we know as chocolate.
What makes this tree so special, and how do we get such a precious commodity as chocolate from these tropical fruits? More pictures of cocoa pods below (the insides may surprise you!)...