The Jaguar Tree (Theobroma bicolor Bonpl.)

Johanna Kufer and Cameron L. Mcneil

in Chocolate in Mesoamerica

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print April 2009 | ISBN: 9780813029535
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780813039503 | DOI:
The Jaguar Tree (Theobroma bicolor Bonpl.)

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This chapter discusses Theobroma bicolour Bonpl., which is one of the most important species of the genus Theobrama aside from the culturally significant Theobroma cacao L. Since prehistoric times, Theobroma bicolour Bonpl. has been used for food as well as ritual purposes. This species, which is commonly referred to as pataxte or balamte, has been frequently referred to as “wild cacao” although it is not the closest relative of the T.cacao. When the Europeans first arrived in Mexico, they found that T. bicolor was commonly sold in the markets yet they were less appreciated than the popular T.cacao. Although they were less appreciated, evidence has proved that at some point in the history of the Mesoamericans, the less appreciated T. bicolor held and continues to hold a special niche in ritual life, sometimes overlapping with and disparate from T.cacao. T. bicolor is morphologically similar to T.cacao, and the use of the cacao word for the both species indicates that little attention is given to the differences between their uses, especially of the T. bicolor. This chapter reviews the botanical differences between the two species, focusing on the traits of T. bicolor that makes it appealing for ritual and comestible use. The chapter also discusses the archaeological evidence for ancient uses of the pataxte specie as well as the post-Contact uses, both profane and sacred, of the T. bicolor.

Keywords: Theobroma bicolour Bonpl; Theobrama; pataxte; balamte; wild cacao; T. bicolour; botanical differences; ritual use

Chapter.  4811 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Prehistoric Archaeology

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