|Theobroma cacao L|
The tree grows naturally at elevations of around 1,000 ft (300 m), requiring a humid climate with regular rainfall and good soil. The seeds, usually called "beans", come in a large fruit called a cacao pod that is ovoid, 15-30 cm long, and 8-10 cm wide. The pod contains 20 to 60 seeds in a white pulp. Some 300 seeds produce around 1 kg of cocoa paste. Each seed contains a significant amount of fat (40-50% as cacao butter).
There are three types of cacao beans used in chocolates. The most prized, rare, and expensive is the Criollo, the bean of the Maya. Only 10% of chocolate is made from the Criollo, which is less bitter and more aromatic than any other bean. The cacao bean in 80% of chocolate is the Forastero. Forastero trees are significantly hardier than Criollo trees, resulting in cheaper cacao beans. Trinatario, a hybrid of Criollo and Forastero, is used in about 10% of chocolate.
The English word cacao probably comes from the Yucatec Maya word cacau.