All chocolate is made from the fruit of the cacao tree, theobroma cacao. The cacao tree flourishes in deep tropical regions near the equator, spanning the globe. Cacao is a sensitive, demanding and renewable agricultural product. Young trees need protection from direct sun and wind—seedlings are planted and nurtured under the canopy of shade trees or palms, such as banana, mango, avocado and coconut, which also provide economic diversity for the producer.
There are many varieties of cacao but only four are cultivated: Forastero, Criollo, Trinitario and Nacional.
Tiny and delicate, cacao flowers grow in clusters directly from the tree trunk and body of leading branches. When in bloom, the tree is covered with thousands of blossoms.