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Chocolate (help·info) (see below for etymology) describes a number of raw and processed foods that originate from the tropical cacao tree. It is a common ingredient in many kinds of sweets, chocolate candy, ice creams, cookies, cakes, pies, and desserts. It is one of the most popular flavours in the world.
Chocolate is made from the fermented, roasted, and ground beans taken from the pod of the tropical cacao tree Theobroma cacao, which was native to South America but now cultivated throughout the tropics, which has an intensely flavoured bitter taste. The resulting products are known as "chocolate" or, in some parts of the world, cocoa.
The bean products are known under different names in different parts of the world. In the American chocolate industry:
Cocoa is the solids of the cacao bean. Cocoa butter is the fat component
Chocolate is a combination of the solids and the fat. It is the solid and the fat combination, sweetened with sugar and other ingredients, that is made into chocolate bars and which is commonly referred to as chocolate by the public. It can also be made into beverages (called cocoa and hot chocolate). The first cocoas were made by the Aztecs and the Mayas and later the Europeans.
Chocolate is often produced as small moulded forms in the shape of animals, people, or inanimate objects to celebrate festivals worldwide. For example, moulds of rabbits or eggs for Easter, coins or Saint Nicholas (Santa Claus) for Christmas, and hearts for Valentine's Day.