Cocoa is a tree and there are many types of cocoa trees and cocoa beans. However, most beans belong to one of three categories. These categories are criollo, trinitario and forastero.
The majority of cocoa beans in the world, about 90% of them, belong to the forastero category. They are also known as basic or bulk cocoa beans. This type of bean comes from South America but today it is present in all parts of the world where cocoa trees grow, especially in western Africa. These beans and trees are easier to grow than other types of cocoa trees because they are more tolerant to climate variations and resistant to various diseases, including fungus. This type of bean is dark. The chocolate made of forastero beans has deep full flavour. While these beans can serve as a source for good chocolate, they lack the subtle flavours that come from using criollo cocoa beans.
Criollo beans are known as “fine and flavour” type of beans. They are called this way because of their complex fruity flavour. These beans are also typically not bitter. Criollo beans are much more expensive than forastero beans because criollo trees are very delicate and susceptible to fungus and other diseases, which makes them very hard to grow and care for. Less than 2% of the world supply of cocoa beans today consists of criollo beans. Criollo trees mostly grow in South American, Central America, the Caribbean and Indonesia.
Finally, there are trinitario beans. These beans are somewhere in the middle between forastero beans and criollo beans because they have features of both forastero and criollo. They have a fine flavour, but it is less fruity compared to criollo beans. The trees are easier to grow and care for than criollo trees.
Trinitario trees come from the island of Trinidad, hence their name. About 5% of the world’s chocolate comes from trinitario beans.