The seeds, or beans, produced by the cacao tree, which grows near the equator, are the basic ingredient in making chocolate.
The beans are produced in the pods of the tree. When these pods are ripe, they are cut open and the beans, about the size of lima beans, are removed and piled on the ground to dry in the sun.
Once dried, the cacao beans are shipped to manufacturing plants where they are cleaned, roasted to bring out their natural flavor, and shelled.
The shelled beans, now called nibs, are then ground up into a powder. As a result of the heat of the grinding, the fat of the bean, called cocoa butter, is released and mixes with the powdered nibs to produce chocolate liquor, a rich, dark liquid with a strong odor. This chocolate liquor is manufactured into the chocolate used for baking and for cocoa.
Blending milk and sugar with this chocolate makes milk chocolate.
The ancient Aztec Indians of Mexico used cacao beans as money!