Types of Cacao Beans

Types of Cacao Beans

It’s probably safe to say that there is nobody in this world who has never loved chocolate, at least at some point in their lives. (OK, maybe there are a few exceptions.) And, much like coffee beans, cacao beans also come in varied types. Here are some tidbits to feed your curious mind.

Just because there’s only one species of Theobroma cacao doesn’t mean there are no different types of cacao beans. However, even experts themselves can’t seem to agree on how many types of cacao beans there actually are, but let’s stick with four.

types of cacao beans

Theobroma cacao - one species, four types of cacao beans

Why in the world would you even care about this mumbo jumbo? Well, for starters, one word, flavor. Most of us are happily content with any chocolate in hand just as long as it’s good. True blue chocolate lovers, however, take pleasure in the subtle differences in aroma, taste, and texture between the different cacao bean varieties.

The first type of cacao beans is the Criollo. It was initially cultivated by the Mesoamericans and is generally considered to be the most excellent worldwide. It has a rich, intricate aroma, and a profound yet smooth flavor. Criollo beans require just a little fermentation and short roasting to draw out the flavors.

The second of the types of cacao beans is the Forastero. It was originally domesticated in the Amazon basin and is very resilient and fruitful. However, it requires a long period of both fermentation and roasting to bring out its flavors. About 80% of all chocolate produced is derived from Forastero.  But this particular variety has a bitter and plain flavor so it is usually mixed with Criollo and other chocolates to enhance its palatability.

The third one is the Trinitario variety.  This type originated in Trinidad, where it derived its name from. Trinitario is a crossbreed of Criollo and Forastero.  That is why its being a separate type is arguable. These beans need medium-length fermentation to elicit the best flavors, but a short fermentation can already create acceptable flavors, virtually as complex as that of Criollo beans.  The roasting time can also be either short or medium.

The last type is Nacional cacao.  It is extremely unusual and is considered a Forastero, so some people also refuse to consider this as a legitimate variety. It is mainly grown in western South America, particularly in Ecuador.

But whatever types of cacao beans you find, it’s still chocolate. And chocolate will always equal heaven, no argument there.

chocolate classes