The cocoa bean is the dried and fully fermented fatty seed of Theobroma cacao, from which cocoa solids and cocoa butter can be extracted. They are the basis of chocolate. The cacao tree is native to the Americas and may have originated in the foothills of the Andes, in the Amazon and Orinoco basins of South America.
Cacao nibs are the resulting pieces of cacao bean roasted, cracked and deshelled. They contain high amounts of theobromine and most nibs are ground, using various methods, into a thick, creamy paste, known as a cocoa paste. This "liquor" is then further processed into chocolate by mixing in (more) cocoa butter and sugar (and sometimes vanilla and lecithin as an emulsifier), and then refined and tempered. In general, cocoa is considered to be a rich source of antioxidants such as procyanidins and flavanoids, which may impart antiaging properties as well as beneficial effects on cardiovascular health. The stimulant activity of cocoa comes from the compound theobromine. It contains high levels of potassium, magnesium, iron and B6. Good levels of protein and dietary fibre.