Cacao has a history reaching back some 4,000 years in South and North America where it has been cultivated by many different indigenous cultures. From the Olmecs to Mayans and Aztecs, cacao was revered within various traditions as a divine gift and even used as a form of currency. While the word "cacao" originates from the Mayan term "kakaw", the word "chocolate" is derived from the Nahuatl term "xocóatl". Though these terms resemble one another phonetically, xocóatl (meaning "bitter water") was an Aztec drink made from cacao nibs and spices which does not compare to modern-day chocolate. Rather, this bitter drink was offered by the Aztec emperor Montezuma to the Spanish conquistador Cortés, who in turn introduced cacao to the Spanish court. Spanish and Italian makers of the drink adapted the recipe by adding significant amounts of sugar, which gave rise to what is nowadays known as "chocolate".
The scientific name for the plant, Theobroma cacao, reflects cacao's image as a divine gift and means "food of the gods". The special phytochemicals within cacao, known as theobromin, are alkaloids with stimulating properties and a molecular structure similar to caffeine. In its raw, unroasted state, cacao is rich in a range of other compounds including polyphenols, vitamins, and minerals.
Cacao nibs are small pieces of dried, broken cacao beans with a bitter and intensely dark chocolate taste. Our cacao nibs are made from a blend of the less bitter and aromatic criollo variety and the slightly more bitter trinitario variety. The nibs can be enjoyed as a raw snack, roasted, or brewed into a form of xocóatl.