This page has information about growing cocoa at home in the Northern Territory (NT).


About cocoa

Name: theobroma cacao (sterculiaceae), cocoa.

Origin: South America.

Distribution: grown commercially in Brazil, northern South America, Central America, the Caribbean, West Africa, Southeast Asia, India and tropical Australia.

Australian distribution: cocoa is grown near Darwin in the NT, in North Queensland and in north-west Western Australia.


Cocoa is an evergreen tree that grows up to 10m tall. 

Leaves are light green or red when young and turn dark green when mature. 

The fruit pods can vary in length, from 10cm to 30cm, and in shape, from cylindrical to spherical. 

New pods can be light green or red. 

Preferred climate and soil

The cocoa tree is best suited to a warm and humid climate. It does not tolerate cold, frost or dry periods of more than five weeks. 

It needs free-draining soil with a pH of 5.5 to 7.5. It prefers rich soils with lots of organic matter and fertiliser.


There are many varieties of cocoa trees. There is an Australian breeding program. 


Cocoa needs a warm, humid climate with plenty of shade and irrigation during dry periods. 

You can plant cocoa from a seed but will get better results from seedlings or grafted trees that have been in pots.

Cocoa needs to be planted under shade that can be removed as the tree matures. You should prune your cocoa trees to control growth and encourage more fruit.

Pests and diseases

There are several pests and diseases that affect this crop, like capsids, cocoa pod borer, mealy bugs, black pod root and tree canker.

You will need to look after your trees to reduce crop loss and damage. 

Fruit season

Mature cocoa trees bear fruit year round, with one major harvest per year.


Cocoa can be harvested just as the pods change from green to yellow, or from red to orange or crimson. The pods should be removed from the tree with a knife. 


Fresh cocoa beans do not store well. You should split the pods and ferment the beans within a few days of harvest.

Once the beans are fermented and dried they should be stored in a cool, dry place. 


The beans can be used to make cocoa butter, cocoa powder or cocoa liquor. These are all ingredients in chocolate. 

Cocoa butter is also used in moisturising creams and soaps.

Last updated: 26 February 2016

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