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The Influence of Cocoa Bean Types on Chocolate Flavor

Fig 1. Cocoa pod with fresh cocoa beans.

Cocoa bean or cacao was officially classified in 1753 by Linnaeus as Theobroma cacao, “the food of the gods” [1]. The cacao tree, native to the rainforest of Central and South America, has four primary varieties: Forastero, Criollo, Trinitario, and Nacional. Each type possesses unique characteristics, shaping the intricate tapestry of flavors found in chocolate [2].

Fig 2. Different types of cocoa bean pod

Forastero Cocoa

Forastero is the most widely cultivated variety, comprising around 80% of the global cocoa production. It is known for its robust flavor profile, often featuring earthy, spicy, and sometimes astringent notes. The beans’ dark color and strong and basic flavor make them a popular choice for bulk chocolate production and form the backbone of many chocolate blends [3].

Criollo Cocoa

Criollo, often referred to as the “prince of cocoa”, stands out for its delicate flavor profile and aromatic qualities. Criollo beans have mildness, low bitterness, and complex notes. Chocolate from Criollo may have hints of fruit, floral tones, and subtle nuttiness. Criollo represents around 5% of all cocoa beans grown. It is particularly difficult to grow because they are vulnerable to environmental threats and produce a low yield of cocoa per tree [3].

Trinitario Cocoa

Trinitario is a natural hybrid of Criollo and Forastero. This hybrid has a versatile cocoa bean, inheriting the disease resistance of Forastero. This bean also has a wide range of flavor profiles, striking a balance between the subtlety of Criollo and the robustness of Forastero, which offers a harmonious blend of fruity, spicy, and chocolatey notes [4].


Nacional Cocoa

Nacional is a rare variety of cocoa bean found in Ecuador and Peru. It was recently rediscovered in the 21st century. Nacional flavor is often described as floral, and fruity, with a delicate chocolate taste. This flavor profile is highly valued by chocolatiers for creating high-quality chocolate [5].

PT Mitra Ayu is currently developing exciting Cocoa products. Stay tune for more interesting articles on Cocoa.

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[1] Rusconi, M. & Conti, A. 2010. Theobroma Cacao L., the food of the gods: A scientific approach beyond myths and claim. Pharmacological Research, 61, 5-13.

[2] Rousseau, D. 2007. Understanding and Controlling the Microstructure of Complex Foods. Woodhead Publishing

[3] Reyes, D. C. V., Campos, J. R., Arrazate, C. H. A., Gschaedler, A. 2023. Forastero and Criollo cocoa beans, differences on the profile of volatile and non-volatile compounds in the process from fermentation to liquor. Heliyon, 9(4), e15129.

[4] Yang, J. Y., Scascitelli, M., Molital, L. A., …, Cronk, Q. C. B. 2012. Complex origin of Trinitario-type Theobroma cacao (Malvaceae) from Trinidad and Tobago revealed using plastid genomics. Tree Genetics & Genomes.

[5] Fabricant, F. 2011, January 11. Rare Cacao Beans Discovered in Peru. New York Times.


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