All chocolate products start with the cocoa tree, which originated in the upper Amazon basin. In the wild, it grows to 50 feet tall as an "understory" tree in the shade of towering 200-foot-tall hardwoods and other trees.
They're very picky about where they live. Cocoa trees require constant warmth and rainfall to thrive. They need to be shaded from the strong tropical sun and sheltered from the wind. Cocoa trees grow only in tropical regions of Africa, Asia, South America and Central America, within about 15 degrees of the equator.
Cocoa trees grow best in the shade of other trees. When very young, they require deep shade. As they mature, they require more filtered sunlight. Farmers plant a shade umbrella of taller trees such as breadfruit, Para rubber, laurel and various legumes to shelter their cocoa trees. Shade-grown cocoa trees can produce fruit for 75 to 100 years or more.