The genus Theobroma - "Manjar de los dioses" as the cocoa bean was known, originated millions of years ago in South America, east of the Andes.
Theobroma has been divided into twenty-two species of which T. cocoa is the most known. It is about the Mayans who have provided tangible evidence of cocoa as a domestic crop.
Archaeological evidence in Costa Rica indicates that cocoa is introduced by Mayan merchants as early as 400 BC. The Aztec culture, dominant in Mesoamerica from the 14th century until the conquest, put a lot of emphasis on cacao sanctity.
However, it was Hernán Cortés, leader of an expedition in 1519 to the Aztec empire, who returned to Spain in 1528 having the Aztec recipe (chocolate drink) with him.
The drink was received without enthusiasm initially and it was not until a little sugar was added that it became a popular drink in Spanish courts.
The cacao tree makes optimal use of all available light and has traditionally been cultivated under shade. Its natural environment is the Amazon rainforest whose trees provide a natural shade. Shading is essential in the first years of a cacao tree.