Over the years the cocoa trees have merged and mingled in the process called cross-pollination and this has resulted in a diverse range of beans that have distinct characteristics.
These produce a diverse range of flavors and are used for different types of chocolate production. While there are dozens of varieties of cocoa trees used in cocoa production around the world, there are three main varieties that make up the majority of trees you’ll find on a cocoa farm. Below is a brief description of each of these three.
This variety is relatively easy to grow, so it’s a popular choice and is by far the most widely grown cocoa tree. In fact, over 90% of the world’s cocoa comes from Forastero trees.
This is the bees’ knees in cocoa terms and is known for its high quality beans. These trees don’t produce as many pods as the Forastero so it’s rarer. They are also prone to disease and take a bit more work to sustain. Chocolate connoisseurs would say it’s well worth the effort as the end result is discernibly better but obviously, this comes at a price. Criollo trees aren’t grown in many countries and Venezuela is one of the biggest growers.
This is pretty much a combination of Forastero and Criollo trees and, as you would expect, it combines the good bits of both, although it’s seeds are thought to be better quality than Forastero. It’s basically a good compromise between quantity and quality. The Trinitario is hardier than the Criollo and puts up more of a fight against diseases. To try and alleviate problems with disease and production, many plantations will have a variety of trees and even if they don’t, the trees themselves are rarely identical.