The cacao tree is small and comes from the forests of Central and South America.The cacao fruit is a huge berry called cacao pod, usually egg or melon-shaped, 5 to 12 inches long and 3 to 5 inches wide. The cacao pod contains 30 to 40 seeds. It takes 20 to 25 pods to get 2 pounds of cocoa. Once the tree reaches maturity, fruit pods will sprout from its trunk and branches. The golden-red to purple fruit pods turn brown at maturity, at which time they are split open and the insides scooped out. Each pod generally produces 20 to 40 almond-shaped cacao beans.
After the cacao beans are removed from the fruit, they undergo fermentation, a process that reduces their bitterness and helps develop their heady aroma. After they are dried the beans are ready to be cleaned, graded, packed, and shipped for processing into chocolate products.