Cacao fruit look like elongated melons and each fruit pod contains 30-40 cacao beans. The fruit grows on trees called Theobroma cocoa.
Cocoa is a sensitive tree and grows best in a jungle climate on the equator.
When a tree is about 4 years old, it starts to bear small white or pink orchid type flowers, directly on the stem, which grow into cacao pods. Each tree produces around 30-40 fruits per year.
The beans, when removed from the pods, are fermented with flesh still on them (called wet-mass), essential to develop their flavour. This process takes a few days, after which the cocoa is dried, packaged and often shipped off to Western countries.
A small, but increasing percentage of beans are processed and made into cacao or chocolate at their place of origin.
Amsterdam is the largest trans-shipment port of cocoa beans in the world - 650 tonnes - 14% of the world's cocoa passes through Amsterdam and the Netherlands is a major cocoa processor, specializing in semi-finished products such as powder, butter and cacao liquor.