The famous Swedish botanist Linnaeus, who lived about 250 years ago, devoted his entire life to the world of plants. He introduced a systematic order of classifying the plants of the earth (known at that time).

In 1729 he wrote the first of his 180 books on plant life. The following year he began his lectures on the wonders of plants and flowers, and gave them Latin names. These names have remained as scientific names for the various kinds of trees and other plants.

When it came to giving a scientific name to the cacao tree which gives us the beans from which chocolate is made, Linnaeus called it "Theo-broma" -which in Latin means "Divine Food." It seems that Linnaeus was inspired by the words in Tehillim -the Psalms -which describe the Manna which G‑d fed the children of Israel when they wandered for 40 years in the desert, till they entered the Land of Israel, as follows:

"The Almighty commanded the clouds from above and opened the Gates of Heaven. He rained down Manna for them to eat... the food of angels the people ate" (Psalms 78:23- 25).

According to scientists, the original home of the cacao tree was in the tropical forests of the Amazon region in Brazil, or in the Orinoco region of Venezuela. Both are great and famous rivers in South America. Columbus, who discovered America, had the opportunity, during his 4th voyage to America, to get acquainted with the cacao beans, but he paid them no attention.

The credit for discovering the cacao tree for the European world goes to another Spanish traveler, the conqueror of Mexico -Hernando Cortes. He arrived in Mexico in the year 1519, supposedly with peaceful intentions to develop trade, etc., and was received with honor by Emperor Montezuma of the Aztecs (the local Indians). The Emperor was a great lover of a special drink, which he drank out of new, golden cups. Every time he emptied a cup, he threw it out, to show that he valued the drink more than gold.

The Emperor offered this drink to his Spanish visitor, who later reported that it had a spicy, bitter-sweet taste, which he liked very much indeed.

Hernando Cortes later took the Emperor captive and, gradually, conquered Mexico for the King of Spain. When he returned to Spain in 1528, Cortes brought a number of cacao beans to his King, and acquainted him with the wonderful chocolate drink.

Cortes, who loved money more than anything else, was greatly impressed by the fact that the cacao beans were used by the Aztecs as money. For a hundred cacao beans one could buy a slave. Seeing that this "money" literally grew on trees, he decided to plant this "money" tree in several tropical islands that he had captured: Trinidad and Haiti in Central America, and the island Fernando-Po, off the coast of West Africa. The cacao tree was transplanted from this island to the African continent -in four West African countries (Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon) which, today, hold first place in the cacao world trade.

Spain was the first country in Europe where hot cacao (cocoa) became a favorite drink -at first in aristocratic circles, and later, also, generally.

For about 100 years Spain had a monopoly in the trade of cacao beans, thanks to the plantations of Cortes.

In the meantime, however, this tasty beverage had begun to find its way also into other countries of Western Europe. They began to plant cacao trees in their own tropical colonies where the climate was suitable.

The British had their own plantations in the West Indies, after having captured certain Islands from Spain (in the 1600'5) like Trinidad, Jamaica, etc.

Around the year 1700 "Chocolate-Houses" began to compete with "Coffee-Houses" in London. A cup of hot chocolate was no more a Luxury-drink only for the rich, The "Industrial Revolution" and the invention of various machines which made mass production possible, made many products cheaper, and did the same for the chocolate industry,

The production of chocolate was now carried over from England to the, "New World" where in the year 1765, the first chocolate factory was founded in Massachusetts, then an English colony, still called today "New England,"

Since then, hot chocolate has become a favorite beverage also in North America,

The Dutch planted cacao plantations in their colonies in the Far East, on the islands of the East Indies (today's Indonesia). In time Amsterdam became the chief center in Europe for the import of cacao beans, Today, about 15% of the world's production of cacao beans passes through Amsterdam, Half of it is for their own production of chocolate, and the rest is for other countries in Europe.

In the year 1828, a Dutch chocolate manufacturer, Conrad Van Houtten, found a method of extracting the fat from the ground cacao beans, and turning it into "cocao-butter." Then he pressed out the liquid until hard pieces of cacao remained. This he ground into a powder, which dissolved easily in hot water, creating a good, smooth and tasty cocoa drink, or, by the addition of sugar - a sweet chocolate. However, the eating of hard chocolate only became popular about 20 years later, in 1847, when an English chocolate firm, Fry and Sons (which later joined the famous "Cadbury" firm) began to produce sweet, hard chocolate for eating (and not only chocolate powder for drinking) from ground cacao beans, mixed with the addition of cacao butter and sugar.

In 1875, a Swiss chocolate manufacturer developed a hard milk chocolate, using fresh milk. Since then various chocolate factories in different lands developed different kinds of chocolate -sweet, semi-sweet, bittersweet, with milk, without milk, with nuts, without nuts, with liqueur and without liqueur, and endless kinds of chocolate confections to satisfy every taste.

Various Kosher chocolates are also manufactured -milchik ("dairy") chocolate with "Cholov Yisroel," and pareve, so that Jewish children and adults can also enjoy a piece of chocolate from time to time, not forgetting to make a "brocho" (blessing) thanking HaShem "by whose word everything came into being." -And, surely, the blessing- which is "food" for the Soul -is recited with no less sweetness and joy than one feels when enjoying the wonderful taste of chocolate -which, after all, is only food for the body.