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Singapore’s Amazing Cacao Story – The Chocolate Space @ Gardens by the Bay

Since its opening on 29 June, therekhas been an exciting host of activities at Gardens by the Bay, including open-air concerts by Jason Mraz and Corinne May. Gardens by the Bay is part of an effort to transform Singapore from a “Garden City” to “City in a Garden” – a move towards developing Singapore towards being a liveable and sustainable urban city, and developing ourselves as an eco-tourism destination.

The Chocolate Space was thrilled to be involved at the Gardens by the Bay in its first few opening weeks! We were delighted to find two cacao trees planted in the Heritage Gardens – a collection of four themed gardens, based on our four ethnic cultures. Taking you on a historical journey of Singapore’s past and our developmente2C the Heritage Gardens comprises the Indian Garden, Chinese Garden, Malay Garden and Colonial Garden.

We were excited to share with Singaporeans and tourists alike the “Singapore’s Amazing Cacao Story” at the Colonial Gardens. The Colonial Gardens is a reflection of how Singapore developed as an important trading port in the Malacca Straits, which has shaped Singapore’s history and economy today. Many important produce and plant sapplines such as rubber, coffee, nutmeg passed through our shores enroute to the rest of Southeast Asia. Cacao and cacao saplings were some of these produce that passed through our shores.

Did you know that Singapore played a pivotal role in the movement of cacao from Africa and Latin America into the rest of Southeast Asia in the 1800s? Two prominent Singapore residents had a big role to play in this.

Captain William G. Scott, which Scotts Road was named after, was a prominent Singapore resident in the 1800s. William used to own plantations where Scotts Road now stands. As an entrepreneur and keen horticulturalist, William believed in bringing into Singapore all sorts of plants to experiment what could be grown in the Southeast Asia climate. Cacao was one of the plants that he brought into Singapore to experiment with. His plantation at Claymore was the third largest in Singapore. Aside from cacao, it also boasted of sea-cotton, arrowroot, betelnut, rambutan, chiku, mangosteens and durians.

Jose d’Almeida was the other Singapore cacao pioneer in the 1800s. A doctor by profession, Jose soon became one of Singapore’s leading merchants. Like William, Jose was also an avid horticulturalist and also experimented with sugar, coffee, coconut and cocoa cultivation in Singapore. There is also a street named after Jose near the Raffles Place MRT station simply called d’Almeida Street.

Unfortunately, cacao plants did not grow well in Singapore because of our soil conditions. Nonetheless, these cacao plants that were first brought into Singapore, were transferred to the rest of the Southeast Asia countries, which led to cacao crop cultivation in our region. Today, countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam have several cacao plantations.