Chocolate’s Family Tree
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Visitors to a cacao grove might struggle to see how the huge red and yellow pods hanging from the canopy come to be transformed into a glossy, rich slab of chocolate. Some may think that it is the addition of sugar or milk that is responsible for an irresistible end product, but in fact, the cacao tree is where distinctive, quality chocolates get their edge. It is essential that chocolate suppliers understand the diversity of cacao trees and the distinguishing qualities of each species. The selections offered by most suppliers reflect the three species of cacao tree that chocolate manufacturers prefer.

The Forastero Tree

A native of the Amazon rainforest, the Forastero cacao tree can now be found as far afield as Indonesia and West Africa. The Forastero is vigorous and high-yielding, which perhaps explains why it is so popular among cacao growers—about 85% of the world’s cocoa comes from Forastero cacao trees.

Cacao from the Forastero tree tends to be sharp or bitter, and is therefore largely used for mixing cocoas. However, a close relative of the Forastero, the Amenolado, is known for a slightly milder and lighter flavour. Italian chocolate manufacturer Venchi uses the Amenolado variety to great advantage in its products, which is available at select chocolate suppliers.

The Criollo Tree

The Criollo tree is far less obliging than the Forastero—its small yields and difficulty to cultivate means the Criollo tree supplies only about 3% of the world’s chocolate—but produces chocolate of superior quality. Criollo cacao beans are delicate and aromatic in taste and aroma, and very low in bitterness.

Native to Central and South America as well as the Caribbean, the Criollo tree’s name comes from the Spanish word for “Creole.” The Criollo tree’s rarity and fragility means its cacao is something of a luxury—some consider the Criollo the “prince of cocoas.” You can indulge in this favourite of chocolate suppliers with products like Willie’s Indonesian Gold bars and Becks Criollo drinking chocolate.

The Trinitario Tree

The result of cross-pollination, the Trinitario cacao tree is a hybrid of the Forastero and the Criollo that achieves something of a middle ground between its parents. Hardy and productive like the Forastero, but refined in flavour like the Criollo, the Trinitario is believed to have come into existence in Trinidad. It now accounts for about 12% of the world’s cocoa production. Its flavour can be difficult to pinpoint due to varying proportions of Forastero and Criollo in its cacao heritage.

Conclusion

Chocolate suppliers understand how important it is to know their product through and through. If you’re in search of products made from a specific species of cacao tree, a supplier familiar with the Forastero, Criollo, and Trinitario trees can assist you in making a selection. After all, the chocolate doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Angelina Moufftard works for HF Chocolates, high quality chocolate suppliers to the retail trade and others who wish to purchase wholesale quantities of chocolate and confectionery. Renowned since 1957, we've sourced the best suppliers from France, Spain, Germany, Holland, Belgium, the USA and UK. Our great tasting and beautifully packaged products also represent excellent value for money.


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