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  • Asian Cocoa

COCOA in CEYLON: a short History by Tilman Frasch

Updated: Apr 20, 2023

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Cacao and chocolate were two of the most prominent global products and commodities of the nineteenth century. Cacao trees were disseminated from their original habitat South America to Africa, South and Southeast Asia as well as the Pacific Islands throughout the nineteenth century, and at the end of the century, chocolate began its march around the world. In both cases, the island of Ceylon appears to have played a crucial part, first as an early mainstay and relay station of cacao cultivation in Asia, and thereafter as the home of one of the earliest chocolate factories in Asia. But although cacao trees formed a notable part of the plantation economy of the island, the history of the plant on the island is still beset with mysteries, which this article will address. In its first section, the article attempts to shed more light on the coming and dissemination of cacao in colonial Ceylon as well as discuss when and how the plants reached the country. The second section shifts the focus on chocolate and investigates the island's role in the production and selling of chocolate in the East, which includes a look at the technological implications that the production and sale of this luxury commodity brought about.

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