Also known as cocoa bean, cacao is the seed of the cacao fruit. Once dried, fermented, and often roasted, this seed is the basis for chocolate and cocoa butter.
The cacao fruit is encased in a rough, leathery rind and filled with a sweet pulp. Each fruit (or pod) contains up to 30-50 seeds. Cacao grows in hot and tropical climates and is native to the Amazon Basin of South America.
Most of the world's chocolate is cultivated in Africa, Indonesia, and South America, with a small percentage also cultivated in the Hawaiian Islands. In recent years, fair-trade cacao has been instituted and its demand is on the rise by chocolate companies and consumers worldwide.