Cocoa was first imported to Spain from South America by Hernando Cortez in 1528. In an unsuccessful attempt to satisfy the growing demands of the Spanish court, an early effort to expand cultivation of cocoa was made in the Caribbean. Finally, in 1635, cocoa was successfully cultivated in Ecuador by the Capuchin monastic order.
At the end of the 17th century, other European nations succeeded in establishing cocoa production in regions conducive to its cultivation throughout the Caribbean and South America: Curacao (Holland), Jamaica (Great Britain), Martinique and St Lucia, the Dominican Republic (known as Hispaniola in the 17th century), Brazil (Portugal), Guyana and Grenada (France).
During the 19th century, increasing demand for cocoa led to its introduction in Africa, including Principe, Sao Tome, Fernando Po, Nigeria and Ghana. Between 1925 and 1939, African production expanded to Cameroon, concurrent with its colonization.
Trinitario cocoa was also introduced to Sri Lanka (Ceylan) for the first time in 1834, then reintroduced in 1880. Subsequently, Cocoa was planted in Singapore, the Fijian and Samoan Islands, Tanzania, Madagascar and Java.
In Europe cocoa was originally consumed as a beverage. Innovations as a result of industrial development gradually reduced the costs of production and led to the development of solid chocolate on a wide scale. Chocolate steadily became more broadly available, and, by the end of the 19th century, was considered a basic food element of the average French family.
Growing Cocoa Tree's represents an important source of revenue for large numbers of small farm-owners. Most plantations are family farms of 2-10 hectares. This production is particularly significant in national economic terms because local demand for cocoa is relatively weak and therefore almost all production is for export. In Africa, cocoa beans are generally harvested in September and October, although the season can continue until January- March.
Latin America/Carribean: The original source of cocoa, Brazil, remained the largest producer throughout the 19th century. Although overtaken by West African countries in overall production, Brazil retains its place of primacy in Latin America (output of 163,000 tons of cocoa in 2002/2003).
As in Latin America, most Asian production occurs on larger, more industrialized farms.