Also called the grain, the seed of the cacao pod of the Theobroma cacao tree, beans are the source of all chocolate and cocoa. There are generally 20 to 40 flat, almond-shaped beans in a pod, depending on the species. When first picked, the beans have tropical flavors of lychee and pineapple; but in a few hours the sugars convert and they become bitter and inedible. Beans are then fermented, dried, roasted, ground and conched to create chocolate. All cacao is grown in tropical rainforests; almost all of these are in third world countries. Producers of chocolate purchase the beans through brokers who are on the ground in the countries of origin. Some cacao beans are purchased directly from small cooperatives of growers, others from individual farms, and in some countries, such as Ghana, the beans must be bought through a country’s Cacao Board.

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