Cocoa beans come from the cacao tree. The cocoa belt is found exclusively around the equator, with most cocoa trees growing within 10° of the equator. Cacao trees need a humid climate with a lot of rain. They grow best in the partial shade of large rainforest trees. The cacao tree is an evergreen that grows to be 5-8 meters tall. The fruit, which is called a pod, grows directly from the trunk and can reach 10–30cm in length. The pods ripen into a variety of colours such as red, yellow and purple.
Each pod contains 20–60 cocoa beans, enclosed by a sweet pulp. Because cacao trees tolerate the shade of taller rainforest trees, the rainforest does not need to be destroyed to grow cocoa. Each tree produces only 50–60 pods a year, yielding 7-9 kg of beans. A single pod can contain 20–40 beans, and it takes around 400 beans to make only half a kilogram of chocolate!
And now, let us follow the production of a chocolate bar from the bean to our taste buds.