Chocolate and cocoa are made from the “beans” or seeds of several small trees, natives of tropical America, of which Theobroma cacao (L.) is by far the most important. Cocoa beans were highly esteemed by the aborigines, especially the Aztecs of Mexico and Peru, who prepared from them beverages and foods. They were brought to the notice of Europeans by Cortez and other explorers, but were not extensively imported into Europe until the seventeenth century, about the time tea and coffee were introduced from the East. At present the world's supply comes chiefly from Venezuela, Guiana, Ecuador, Brazil, Trinidad, Cuba, Mexico, and other regions bordering on the Gulf of Mexico, being gathered in these regions from trees both wild and cultivated; and also to some extent from Java, Ceylon, Africa, and other parts of the Old World, where the tree has been successfully cultivated.
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