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The Many Different Faces of Cacao

A Ripe Cacao Pod

A Ripe Cacao Pod

Anyone who has sampled cacao from different producers is often surprised at just how different one cacao bean can taste from another. Many people are even more surprised to learn that there are at least three different types of cacao beans grown worldwide: the Criollo, the Forastero, and the Trinitario. To even further complicate things, any number of factors can also create huge taste (and nutritional) differences between one crop and another: soil, water, climate, cultivation method, whether or not fertilizers are used, etc.

I was browsing some news articles this morning and came across an interesting story about some of these taste differences and particularly how the different varieties of cacao affect their taste.

  • Criollo. The Criollo variety of cacao bean is considered by many to be the most prized of all cacao beans, if not the most rare and difficult to come by (only about 10% of cacao worldwide is Criollo).
  • Forastero. The Forastero cacao bean is by far the most commonly grown bean in the world (about 80%) due to its hardiness and high yield. In many areas of the world, particularly west Africa, this is the only variety of cacao that is grown.
  • Trinitario. The Trinitario cacao bean is actually a hybrid of the Criollo and Forastero, and accounts for about 10% of the worldwide cacao crop. It is valued by farmers and cacao connoisseurs as having the delicate, not overly bitter flavor and aroma of the Criollo bean, while still being hardy enough for large-scale cultivation and disease resistance. Much of the world’s finest chocolate is Criollo, Trinitario, or a combination of the two.

The cacao beans sold on are all bought from a single, organic-only coop in the Dominican Republic. About 80% of their cacao crop is Trinitario beans and the other 20% is Criollo. Our beans are 100% raw, organic and fair trade certified. So, the next time you bite into a piece of chocolate, take a moment to consider just how complicated and amazing that little piece of candy really is!

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