Cocoa Varieties

Cacao vs Cocoa

Cacao is the bean that chocolate is made from. The term cacao is referred to the tree and the raw and unrefined bean. The term cocoa is reserved for the bean after it has been roasted and processed into the various chocolate products we know as cocoa liquor, cocoa powder, and cocoa butter.

madagascarcacao_edited.jpg
 

Types of Cacao (Cocoa Beans)

There are about 20 known varieties of the cacao tree but hundreds of hybrids. For chocolate making, there are 4 types of cacao trees that are cultivated.

hawaiipod.jpg

Forastero ("Foreign")

  • discovered in the Amazon jungle primarily cultivated in Africa but also in some parts of Central and South America

  • the tree grows fast and has a high yield and is very resistant to disease

  • considered "bulk" cocoa: it is used as a base to be blended with superior types of cacao such as the criollo, nacional and trinitario

criollopod2.jpg

Criollo ("of the New World")

  • found in Central America and some parts of the Caribbean

  • about 7%f the world's production is criollo.

  • low yields, fragile, difficult to cultivate

  • the most rare and sought after of all the cacao varieties as it produces "very fine" grade chocolate sought after by high end chocolatiers to produce artisan chocolate.

cacaomexico.jpg

Nacional also known as "Arriba Nacional Cacao" is a form of criollo

  • mostly cultivated in South America west of the Andes.

  • fragile and is prone to disease and difficult to grow

  • sweet floral aroma and very little bitterness

  • It is creamy and strong

  • mostly cultivated in South America west of the Andes.

  • fragile and is prone to disease and difficult to grow

  • sweet floral aroma and very little bitterness

  • It is creamy and strong

trinitario.jpg

Trinitario ("from Trinidad")

  • accidental cross-fertilization of criollo and forastero cacao trees in Trinidad around 1730

  • hybrid combining the superior taste of the criollo bean with the resilience of the forastero bean

  • cinnamon spiciness

  • Central and South America and Asia

 

Cacao (Cocoa Bean)

From these main 4 types of trees, there are 2 main categories of cacao (or cocoa beans).

cocoapodivorycoast.jpg

Bulk Beans -  Forastero

- represents ~90% of all commercial cacao

- West African country of Côte d'Ivoire is the largest producer of cacao

- Ghana is second largest producer

Flavor Beans - Criollo, Trinitario, Nacional

- represents ~5-10% of all commercial cocoa
- found in Ecuador, Colombia, Indonesia, Venezuela, Papua New Guinea, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Costa Rica, Grenada and some Caribbean and Latin American countries.

criollopod2.jpg
 

Taste the Difference

Theobroma_cacao,_2015-03-13,_Phipps_Conservatory,_02.jpg

Conditions that Affects the Taste of the Cocoa Bean

The flavor of the cocoa bean is dependent on a variety of factors:

  • type or variety

  • soil

  • temperature

  • sunshine

  • rainfall

  • process of how the beans are dried and fermented

  • process from roasting bean to cooking the beans