Cocoa beans don’t grow in the United States, do they? After all, one normally associates them more with the tropics than the snow-choked plains of the US. In fact, this holds true for our country, too. Cocoa beans do indeed grow in the USA, but only in very limited areas. There is a narrow band known as the Cocoa Bet or the Chocolate Belt. That sounds more enticing that the Rust Belt or the Snow Belt! The Cocoa Belt essentially follows the tropics, extending twenty degrees north and south of the equator. Much like their parent trees, cocoa beans need constant warm temperatures in order to thrive - usually between 65 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit - along with high humidity and ample rainfall (40-100 inches annually). Cold, drought, and excessive wind are all detrimental to cocoa. So with this in mind, if you look at a map of the US you’ll see that nearly the entire country lies more than 30 degrees north of the equator, making cocoa’s survival on the mainland difficult to impossible.
There are exceptions, of course. Southern Florida and Hawaii come to mind. Hawaii sits just south of 20 degrees north latitude, neatly within the Cocoa Belt. In fact, there is a burgeoning chocolate industry happening in Hawaii today.
South Florida, unlike Hawaii, doesn’t have any commercial cocoa plantations. Because there are occasional cold spells that could kill the trees, farmers don’t take the risk of planting cocoa. The colder weather, combined with the tropical storms and hurricanes that frequently settle over the state, mean that commercial cocoa enterprises aren’t yet viable.
So now you have some good trivia information: if anyone claims that cocoa beans don’t grow in the United States, you can set the record straight! And if you want some good cocoa, come to our shop in downtown St Paul. We have the best quality products in town, and everything you find in our shop is handmade with love. We hope to see you soon!