All About the Beans

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

Introduction

Criollo is an ancient, rare and delicate variety and is revered as the most sacred. The wonderful Forastero however is abundant and easier to cultivate. Both the Criollo and Forastero variety originated in the Amazon jungle

Trinitario originated in the Caribbean islands and is a hybrid of Criollo and Forastero and is another rare strain.

The rarest Cacao variety

Criollo Cacao

Criollo orignates from the Amazon and is a very rare and precious cacao that is difficult to cultivate and very susceptable to disease. Because of that its cultivation was mostly abandoned and at one point because of it's low production it almost became extinct.

Criollo plants now make up less than 3% of the total crop in the world.

Pods are long and ridged and are often red in colour with yellowish stips. The flavour is a deep, rich, intense dark chocolate with sharp, citrusy floral notes.

Due to the rarity and unique, complex flavour, Criollo beans are regarded as THE KING of cacao beans. Criollo is known as the finest bean for ceremonial cacao as the Theobromine is high and the beans are known for their higher nutritional content and wonderful taste and aroma, it is often very aromatic and has little bitterness.

Criollo is the cacao of the Mayans and Aztecs and is said to be the most sacred of all beans.

Be aware that Criollo also means “Native” so many sellers will say its Criollo, but the truth is the mix will be several native strains and rarely pure 100% Criollo bean.

The most common variety

Forastero Cacao

Forastero cacao originates from the Peruvian Amazon Basin and dominates in world cacao production at 80% of the world crop.

It’s a high yielding plant which is easy to cultivate which makes it an easy choice for growers. Up until the mid-20th century, growers replaced the criollo crop with forastero for this reason.

The Forrestero pods are rounded with yellow skin and shallow ridges. The flavour is often quite bitter and they have a high level of fat content.

Think of forastero as your regular home tomato, and the criollo as that heirloom tomato you eat in a top restaurant.

The hybrid strain

Trinitario Cacao

The 1700’s brought a new variety of cacao beans from the Caribbean islands,Trinitario. While Trinitario are not as rare as Criollo they still only make up less than 15% of the total cacao production.

The story behind Trinitario is disease and disaster eradicated almost all the Criollo cacao plants until farmers on the islands planted Forastero to strengthen what remained. A hybrid strain was created and is now known as Trinitario.

This hybrid strain spread from the Caribbean to South America in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Pods are often a beautiful red colour with deepish ridges.

The Trinitario being the least pure strain has a wide range of tastes and profiles such as coffee, toffee and nuts.