Varieties of Cocoa: where the taste of chocolate begins

Varieties of Cocoa: where the taste of chocolate begins

There are several factors that affect the quality of a chocolate. In addition to the added ingredients and the manufacturing process, the type of cocoa also plays a very important role in this story.

Do you know that each type of cocoa gives a different flavor to the chocolate? For this reason, some varieties are valued more than others.

Nowadays, there are studies that point to the existence of no less than 10 different genetic ramifications of Theobroma Cocoa. In this post, I will explain the three best known and some important subtypes.


Varieties of Cocoa: where the taste of chocolate begins

Photo by Taisiia Shestopal at Unsplash

It is the rarest and most appreciated variety (especially by chocolate connoisseurs). Chocolate made with Criollo cocoa – when done right – generally offers delicate flavors with floral, fruity and nutty tones and has a reddish color, very different from industrialized chocolates …

About 200 years ago, its large, wine-red fruits were quite common, but today they represent only about 1% of all cocoa in the world. Because it is more prone to disease, producers preferred to bet on another type: Forastero. Currently, Criollo plantations are in Venezuela and we can highlight three important subtypes: Ocumare 61, Chuao and Porcelain.


Varieties of Cocoa: where the taste of chocolate begins

Photo by Julia Androshchuk at Unsplash

Also known as bulk, which in Portuguese would be “by volume” or “in bulk”, is the most common and least appreciated variety. Generally, this type of cocoa gives chocolate a more bitter, earthy flavor. Because it is more resistant to disease and requires less care, this cocoa, originally from Amazon, was planted in many parts of the world – with emphasis on African plantations.

Today, its yellow and rounded fruits represent about 90% of the world’s plantations. Forastero cocoa is commonly used for commercial chocolates, especially those that carry a lot of sugar, an ingredient that helps to mask its bitter taste. Among the main subtypes, we can mention Cundeamor, Calabacillo and Amelonado – the latter grown in Brazil.

As every rule has exceptions, in the Ecuador there is a subtype of Forastero cocoa called Arriba, known for its delicate flavors and used in the production of fine chocolates.


Varieties of Cocoa: where the taste of chocolate begins

Photo by Tetiana Bykovets at Unsplash

Trinitario is the perfect marriage between the two varieties of cocoa. On the one hand, it is more resistant to diseases, such as Forastero, and on the other hand, it offers fine and delicate flavors, such as Criollo.

Its first fruits are believed to have been born on Trinidad Island (in Trinidad and Tobago). After natural disasters destroyed the Criollo plantations in 1727, producers planted Forastero cocoa at the site. But instead of trees growing from the latter, the genetics of the two varieties were mixed and gave rise to Trinitario. Its plantations can be found in countries like Sri Lanka, Cameroon, New Guinea, Hawaii and Venezuela.

Some well-known subtypes are Carenero and Caribbean River (both from Venezuelan soil). In Brazil, we also have Trinitarian cocoa plantations mainly in the Bahia region.

Not just any supermarket that sells chocolates of unique origin (made with just one variety of grain). Usually, you need to look in specialized stores or chocolate stores.

I love to taste bars with different types of cocoa and compare them. I think it’s a great exercise for train the taste. The cool thing is to write down which flavors you identified in each of them – for example, floral, fruity, earthy, tobacco, honey, etc. – and which one you like best. Try you too! The only risk is falling deeply in love with the most expensive chocolates – hehehe!

Sources: ICCO,, Ecole Chocolat, Barry Callebaut

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