Cocoas for sale at Fort-de-France marketCocoa (Nahuatl cacahuatl) is a fruit but also a powder obtained after roasting and grinding the kernels of fermented cocoa beans produced by cocoa.

The first cocoa tree on the island was discovered around 1655 in a forest area. So it was included in the native trees of the West Indies. In 1684, a Jew named Benjamin Dacosta made the first test of a regular cocoa plantation in Martinique. Therefore the use of chocolate spread rapidly in France, and cocoa production secured a valuable resource to the settlers too little favored by fortune to undertake the expensive cultivation of cane and sugar extraction.

Besides, wetlands some valleys where transportation is difficult not to agree on these farms, as they lend themselves easily to the cocoa harvest. Martinique is therefore one of the first centers of cocoa production, but in 1727 a storm sabotaged cocoa plantations. The coffee that has just been introduced to the island was a solution for the settler's ruin. Then, cocoa has become a subculture in Martinique. Since the mid-19th century, Martinican cocoa is not intended for export. It is mostly used by local food industries.


Cocoa treeThere are different varieties of cocoa:

  • The forastero (80-90% of world production), is more rustic, originating in Amazonia but mainly grown in Africa, Brazil and Ecuador.
  • The criollo (1-5% of world production), a native of Venezuela, grown in Latin America (Caribbean, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia), and the finest aromatic, sweet and slightly bitter.
  • The trinitario (10-20% of world production), from the intersection of the previous two, appeared in the eighteenth century on the island of Trinidad to compensate for losses caused by hurricanes in the cultures of criollo, more fragile. Grown in Spanish America, Trinidad, and Africa, mainly in Cameroon and Asia, but with less intense flavors for the criollo.
  • The nacional, forastero product in Ecuador, with aromas thinner than the current Forastero.

It is the forastero that is found mainly in Martinique, the criollo also exists but is rarer.

The cocoa tree is a tree that is 10 to 15 meters high, usually cut to 6 or 8 meters cauliflorous and evergreen. It blooms for 3 years and gives flowers, fruit and leaves throughout the year. It reaches its full potential 6-7 years after planting and lives up to 40 years. Its flowers are about one centimeter and only about 500 of them bear fruit. The tree can produce up to 100,000 white flowers or slightly pink.

Health benefits

Cocoa and seedsCocoa butter provides vitamin E and polyphenols. These are powerful antioxidants, the effect is much greater than vitamins C and E. These magic molecules defend our body against oxidants such as solar radiation, pollutants and alcohol... that promote cellular aging.

Caution! Cocoa is harmful to dogs and some animals! It can cause theobromine 21 poisoning.


Cocoa powder and seedsIn Martinique, cocoa is used in factories to design chocolate desserts or chocolate drinks (eg Elot chocolate, the chocolate Lauzea). Stick cocoa Gwo kako is prepared from fermented beans, dried and roasted. This 100% cocoa is grated and melted in water or milk. It also serves to prepare punches and cocoa liquor.

Cocoa can be eaten raw. To do this, you have to break the thick and hard yellow or orange peel, giving it a yank on something solid. Then the white pulp present in seeds (20 to 40 beans) is eaten raw. To learn more about the relationship and the history between cocoa and Martinique, please go to Musée du Café et du Cacao at Trois-Ilets.