Anyone ate chocolate and may imagine it in a form of a bar, a chocolate box and so on. But what anyone knows about the main ingredient in chocolate: cocoa? Cocoa is the name commonly used for the products made from the cacao tree, once the cacao pod is opened and the beans are fermented. There are three types of cacao grown commercially: Criollo, Forastero and Trinitario. Criollo cacao is considered of finest quality but it is low yielding and easy affected by diseases. It is estimated that around 10% of annual cacao harvest it is constitutes by Criollo crop, so just a small part. Forastero is better yielding and a hardier type but doesn’t have the flavor complexity of Criollo beans. Forastero represents most of the world’s cacao harvest, almost 70% of the annual production. Trinitario is a hybrid between Criollo and Forastero, a crop that have the advantages of both parent types and represents almost 20% of the world cacao harvest.
This generalization made about the flavor and quality of cacao beans is far from foolproof. A Forastero grown and fermented under ideal conditions may be superior to Criollo grown and fermented under poor conditions. Maybe a better way to look at world cacao crop is to divide between “bulk” cacao beans and “fine or flavor” cacao beans. “Bulk” represents around 95% of the harvest and “fine or flavor” makes up the rest of 5% of the crop. This ratio demonstrates that high quality cacao is such a small part of cacao harvest and why premium-quality cacao demands a high price. According to International Cocoa Organization, usually, a combination of criteria is used to assess the quality of fine or flavor cocoa. These include the genetic origin of planting material, morphological characteristics of the plant, flavor characteristics of the cocoa beans produced, chemical characteristics of the cocoa beans, color of the cocoa beans and nibs, degree of fermentation, drying, acidity, off-flavors, insect infestation and percentage of impurities.