Just like the many different types of chocolate, different types of cacao exist, offering a variety of tastes, aromas and cultivation methods. Each type of bean is unique to the region and climate it can grow in, creating several possible different chocolate tastes.
Eating Chocolate: Different Types of Cacao
Many different types of cacao exist, cultivated on plantations throughout the warmer regions of the world. The most common types are:
• Criollo: Known for its fruity and complex flavors, these beans are grown mainly in Latin America. The remaining Criollo growers are found in South and Central America. Venezuela is a hot spot for Criollo beans. Because of their scarcity and delicious taste, Criollo beans are considered a delicacy.
• Forastero: This bean accounts for nearly 90 percent of all cacao produced because it has a low acidity, clean chocolate flavor, consistent performance and disease resistance. As chocolate has grown in popularity, large producers have turned to Forastero beans. These beans are mostly cultivated in Africa but also in grown in parts of Central and South America.
• Nacional: This type of cacao is the most difficult to grow because it is prone to disease. The bean gives off an excellent aroma. This type is mostly grown in South America, west of the Andes.
• Trinitario: This bean is a crossbreed between Forastero and Criollo flavors, offering the rich aromas from Criollo beans but the disease resistance and high productivity of the Forastero variety. This variety is mostly grown in Central and South America.
Who Cultivates the Most Cacao Beans?
Cote d’Ivorie, of the Ivory Coast produced nearly 1.3 million tons of cocoa beans in 2009, making the country the world’s leader. Ecuador produces the most flavorful beans in the world–more than half the global supply of Trinitario and Criollo beans.
Other cacao production leaders include Ghana, Indonesia, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, the Dominican Republic, Brazil and Cameroon. Malaysia, Mexico, Madagascar, Samoa, Cuba and Grenada also manufacture beans.
Blending Beans: The Best Tastes for Enjoying Chocolate
A common practice when making chocolate in alcoholic beverages, for eating and other uses is to blend different varieties of beans to maximize flavor and production. Most chocolate bars and other products contain cocoa made from these mixtures, and cocoa producers like to play with combinations of beans to create unique flavors.