Once only native to the lowland rainforests of the Amazon and Orinoco River basins in South America, demand for cocoa beans has spread cacao trees throughout tropical climates around the globe.
Today, you can find cacao trees in the New World tropics, West Africa, and tropical Asia. But West Africa serves as the main source of cacao trees and cocoa beans for the entire world.
Growing to an average height of between 6 and 8 meters (roughly 20 to 26 feet,) cacao trees prefer warm environments, with average temperatures between 20º Celcius (68º Fahrenheit) and 28º Celcius (82º Fahrenheit) with plenty of moisture.
Despite the tree’s height, it has very shallow roots.
Strong winds can easily blow them over and too much rain can lead to root rot. They’re also at risk for fungal and viral infections that can quickly take over and destroy their pods.
Add in the fact that bugs such as mealybugs, cocoa pod borers, and thrips love cocoa beans just as much as we do, and you have a tree that can be very high maintenance!
While cacao trees still grow in the wild, most of them reside on small farms which are meticulously monitored. This helps to to keep the trees healthy, happy, and producing plenty of cocoa beans.