All About the Beans

There are three main varieties of the cacao plant: Forastero, Criollo and Trinitario.
The 3 Main Varieties


Criollo, an ancient and delicate variety, holds a revered status as the most sacred among cacao cultivars. Meanwhile, the abundant Forastero variety is renowned for its ease of cultivation. Originating from the lush Amazon jungle, both Criollo and Forastero stand as testament to the rich heritage of cacao cultivation.

In contrast, Trinitario traces its origins to the Caribbean islands, where it emerged as a hybrid of Criollo and Forastero. This rare strain embodies a unique blend of the delicate qualities of Criollo and the robustness of Forastero, adding another layer of diversity to the cacao landscape.

The rarest Cacao variety

Criollo Cacao

Criollo originates from the Amazon and is an exceptionally rare and precious cacao variety renowned for its delicate nature and susceptibility to disease. Due to these challenges, its cultivation was largely abandoned, and at one point, its low production nearly led to its extinction.

Today, Criollo plants account for less than 3% of the world's total cacao crop, highlighting their scarcity and esteemed status within the industry.

Characterised by long, ridged pods often displaying hues of red with yellowish streaks, Criollo captivates with its distinct flavor profile. Expect a deep, rich, and intense dark chocolate taste complemented by sharp, citrusy floral notes.

Due to its rarity and unparalleled flavor complexity, Criollo beans are hailed as the king of cacao beans. Renowned for their high theobromine content, superior nutritional profile, and exquisite taste and aroma, Criollo is highly sought after for ceremonial cacao. It holds a special place in history as the cacao of the Mayans and Aztecs, revered as the most sacred of all beans.

It's worth noting that while many sellers may label their products as Criollo, the truth is that they often comprise a blend of several native strains, rarely being 100% pure Criollo bean.

The most common variety

Forastero Cacao

Originating from the Peruvian Amazon Basin, Forastero cacao reigns supreme in commercial global cacao production, accounting for a staggering 80% of the world's crop.

This robust plant boasts high yields and ease of cultivation, making it the preferred choice for growers seeking efficiency. In fact, until the mid-20th century, the criollo crop was largely replaced by Forastero due to its practical advantages.

Forastero pods are characterised by their rounded shape, adorned with yellow skin and shallow ridges. When it comes to flavor, Forastero tends to be on the bitter side, boasting a high fat content.

In culinary terms, envision Forastero as your everyday tomato, while criollo is akin to the heirloom tomato savored at a top-tier restaurant.

The hybrid strain

Trinitario Cacao

In the 1700s, a new breed of cacao beans emerged from the Caribbean islands, known as Trinitario. While not as rare as Criollo, Trinitario beans still constitute less than 15% of the total cacao production worldwide.

The origin tale of Trinitario is one of resilience and adaptation. In the face of disease and catastrophe that nearly wiped out Criollo cacao plants, farmers in the Caribbean islands resorted to planting Forastero to fortify the surviving crops. From this strategic blending, a hybrid strain emerged, now celebrated as Trinitario.

This resilient hybrid swiftly spread from the Caribbean to South America during the 19th and 20th centuries, enriching the global cacao landscape.

Trinitario pods often boast a striking red hue, complemented by deep ridges, adding to their visual allure.

As the least pure strain, Trinitario offers a diverse range of flavor profiles, ranging from coffee-like notes to hints of toffee and nuts, captivating the palate with its versatility and complexity.