Exhibition Highlights

Where does chocolate come from? How is it made? And how has it sweet-talked its way into our hearts? Take a walk with us through the highlights of the exhibition Chocolate, at the San Diego Natural History Museum.

Tropical Rainforest

Enter the lush tropical rainforest and examine a replica of a cacao tree with its seed pods. Learn about the complex ecosystem that supports the healthy growth of the remarkable Theobroma cacao and the birds that make homes in its branches.

The Ancient Maya

See how sculpture, carved vessels, cacao seeds in dishes, and chemical residue in pots helped scientists trace the roots of chocolate to the ancient Maya.

The Aztec

Cacao was the key to the vast empire of the Aztec people—as a luxury drink for the elite, an offering to the gods, payment to rulers, and money in the marketplace. Find out what treasure Cortés discovered in the storerooms of Montezuma.

Chocolate Comes to Europe

The Spanish conquest of the Americas introduced chocolate to Europe. Learn what happened when chocolate first met sugar… and what really went on in the elite chocolate houses of Europe. Also, discover the human toll that was paid: enslaved peoples toiling on sugar and cacao plantations to meet the growing European demand.

Chocolate Manufacturing

Cacao seeds grow on trees, but chocolate bars have to be made, by hand or by machine. Take a look at the sweet side of the Industrial Revolution. 

Chocolate in the Global Market

Explore the relationship between growing, selling, and consuming cacao. Trace cacao's ups and downs in the world market, and check the stock ticker to see its price on the futures exchange today. 

Cacao Growers

Learn where and how cacao is grown today. See how it’s harvested, prepared, and shipped. Find out what farmers are doing to preserve their crops, their income, and the rainforest.

Chocolate Today

Chocolate means different things to different people. Find out how people cook with it, eat and drink it, and use it to celebrate holidays around the world. Learn about the myths and realities of chocolate’s effect on health.