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Similar to coffee or grapes, there are different varieties of cocoa trees. Each type possesses unique characteristics that determine the quality and depth of flavour, appearance and texture.
The world's most luxurious chocolate and indeed Demarquette's finest chocolates are made from Criollo cocoa. There are, however three main varieties that are used by chocolatiers and confectionery companies around the world:
The Criollo cocoa dominated the market until the middle of the eighteenth century but today only a few pure Criollo trees remain. They make up only up to 5% of the world production. Criollo is the rarest and most expensive cocoa on the market and is native to Central America, the Caribbean islands and the northern tier of South American states. The taste is moderately mild, slightly sour but not bitter and distinguished by very fine and delicate flavours.
Forastero is the most commonly grown bean most likely native to the Amazon basin. Around 80% of world production comes from the high yielding & significantly hardier Forastero bean, 45% of which is grown in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. Used in most mass produced confectionery and chocolate, the flavour is typically described as bitter and bland without much depth although initially strong in chocolate tones.
The Trinitario variety, with 10-15% of world production, is considered to belong to the Forastero family although it is a cross between Criollo and Forastero. The two varieties were first crossed in the eighteenth century in Trinidad and spread to Venezuela, Ecuador, Cameroon, Samoa, Sri Lanka, Java and Papua New Guinea. In terms of flavour the Trinitario is halfway between the two other categories in every respect and is well known for its strong aromatic tones.
The Cocoa Tree
The cacao tree itself, or Theobroma Cacao, is an evergreen broad leafed tree that grows in countries within 10oN and 10oS of the Equator where the climate is suitable for growing cocoa trees.
The natural habitat of the cocoa tree is in the lower storey of the evergreen rainforest. Particularly temperature and rainfall, play an important role in encouraging optimum growth although variations in the yield of cocoa trees from year to year are affected more by rainfall than by any other climatic factor.
A hot and humid atmosphere is essential for the optimum development of cocoa trees.
The cocoa tree will make optimum use of any light available and has been traditionally grown under shade. It's natural environment is the Amazonian forest which provides natural shade trees. Shading is indispensable in a cocoa tree's early years.