According to an Aztec legend, the Cacao plant was given to humans by the god Quetzalcoatl as a way of alleviating their toil. The great Swedish naturalist Linneo thus classified it as Theobroma Cacao: food of the gods.
In more recent times – 20 years ago – during construction of a new road in the city of Santa Ana, a number of stone objects were unearthed. The French-Ecuadorian study of Professor Francisco Valdez was consequently started, a study which has changed what we know of the history of Cacao. The site is on the banks of the Valladolid river, in the South–East of the Canton Palanda, in the heart of Chinchipe. Remains have been found of the Mayo-Chinchipe-Marañón culture which have been Carbon-14 dated to around 5300 years ago. In March 2003, the team commenced investigations at the Santa Ana-Florida site, discovering that it was an important ceremonial centre with a temple and a series of underground burial chambers. The early use and domestication of Cacao in Santa Ana-La Florida has emerged from studies conducted at the University of Calgary (Canada) on microscopic remnants trapped inside numerous ceramic pots.
Other important information has been provided with the DNA mapping of Theobroma Cacao. The first in-depth genetic studies of cacao have been conducted. One of the most important is that of Juan C. Motamayor, “Geographic and Genetic Population Differentiation of the Amazonian Chocolate Tree (Theobroma Cacao)”, which has identified different genetic varieties in Ecuador, in addition to the more well-known Nacional. The study has shown the great number of different genetic varieties in the Amazon Basin, further reinforcing the idea that Theobroma Cacao originated from this area, and was only subsequently taken to Central America. The greater the geographic concentration of plant species in an area, the greater the possibility that this area is the point of origin of the species itself. The Amazon Basin contains some of the most biologically diverse communities of the plant ever found: there can be as many as three hundred species in one hectare.
In the next few years studies will continue to give us more information on this precious plant which, although originating in South America, is now grown throughout the entire tropical belt. Cacao, just like a real explorer, has reached the most faraway lands: from Africa to Vietnam, to Papua New Guinea.
And so we follow it on this sensory adventure, aiming to offer you the best of its organoleptic heritage.