The cacao tree (Theobroma cacao) is native to tropical America and grows to approximately 30 feet tall. It begins to bear fruit in its fourth year. The ripe, dark reddish-brown pods yield 20-50 seeds, which are known as cocoa beans.
It is to the Aztecs that we owe our knowledge of the marvellous Cacao tree. They roasted the beans from the trees in pots and crushed them between stones to form a paste. This paste was then diluted with water and spiced with annatto, anise seeds, red peppers and cinnamon. The mixture was beaten and stirred slowly over a fire until it became a bubbling liquid.