The tonka bean is the kernel of the fruit of Dipterix odorata, a tree native to the tropical forests of South America. It grows in the Amazon basin of Brazil and the Orinoco basin of Venezuela. The bean is called "CUMARU" in Brazil and "SARRAPIA" in Venezuela.
Venezuelan Tonka is harvested by Indian tribes (the Panares, Piaoras, etc.) or local villagers, especially in the region around the Caura River, a tributary of the Orinoco. Harvesting takes place in the forests, and the tree is not cultivated.
The fruits ripen in the winter and fall off the tree naturally. They are gathered from February to April and processed locally in the forest: the nut and its pulp are broken with a stone tool to recover the bean, which has brown skin and is ivory white inside.
The annual production of Tonka beans varies from 60 to 100 tons, depending on the year, and is heavily influenced by climatic variations.