From ancient times, Venezuela has enjoyed the multiple uses of cocoa, from eating the fruit pulp or drinking it as a bitter drink to the transformation of the fruit into a chocolate bar. ‘Cacao’ is a fruit which grows amid the forests in the shades of trees and currently, it is estimated that there are around 22 species of Theobroma - its scientific term- but only the species which possesses the right qualities to be used in chocolate and cocoa butter production is known as Theobroma Cacao L.
Venezuela grows three distinctive cocoa types and each of them has got different colours, sizes and even striking differences between the flower and the seeds which bear the fruit. Each cocoa type is unique and that is why it is important to know their features in order to identify and use them accordingly. The first botanist who worked categorising Venezuelan cocoa was Sir Daniel Morris and he named the two types he identified based on indigenous names: Criollo and Forastero cocoa. Later on in 1964 a further classification was identified:
- Criollo: T. cacao — subspecies cacao covering cocoa from Central and South America;
- Forastero: T. cacao — subspecies sphaerocarpum covering the ‘Angoleta’, ‘Cundeamor’, ‘Amelonado’ and ‘Calabacillo’ types;
- Trinitario: T. cacao cacao + T. cacao sphaerocarpum (hybrid) — Deltano cacao.
Cacao Criollo (also known as the Queen of Cacao)
This is the earliest variety known to date, and it is believed it was first cultivated 2.000 years ago. It is a sensitive variety, difficult to grow, prone to diseases and bears fewer fruits than the other types. It is classified as "Fine grade” by cocoa experts and said to be the best in the world. However, it only represents 5%-10% of the world’s production and it is believed to have originated in the region of Sur del Lago in Venezuela. It's grown in Mexico, Central America, Venezuela, Madagascar and Indonesia.
Appearance: criollo pods are generally yellow or red; they are deeply grooved and warty, but in order to identify the real type, they must be opened and checked the beans inside. The beans are big, round and white. The most refined bonbons are made with this cocoa type as well as artisan chocolate and they’re acknowledge worldwide by the best chocolatiers.
Flavour: it has sweet and fruity aroma, it nearly has no bitterness and has a delicate, well-balanced and exquisite taste.
From this variety we find Porcelana Cocoa variety, which comes from the rare Criollo cacao tree and is only grown in Venezuela. Porcelana is an extremely rare cacao bean, familiar to experts for its exceptional aromatic qualities. Only one in a thousand flowers survives and develops into a pod containing pure pearly-white beans producing chocolate without the slightest hint of bitterness and it is a sought after cocoa by the best chocolate experts.
It is believed to have originated in the upper Amazon region (Ecuador and Venezuela). As opposed to the Criollo type, it has a robust and high yield and is very resistant to disease. Moreover, it is the most widely grown cocoa variety, particularly in African countries such as Ghana, São Tomé and Príncipe and the Ivory Coast. It represents more than 85% the world’s production.
Appearance: the pods of this cocoa are rounded, yellow and grooved on the surface, but in order in order to identify its type, the pod must be opened and checked the beans on the inside. The beans have a flat shape and tinged with purple tones.
Flavour: Forasteros are less aromatic but have got a fruity and bitter taste. Due to its full flavour, this cocoa is mainly used for blending with other types.
This cocoa type results from the combination (hybrid) between forastero and criollo varieties. As a hybrid, it combines features of both forasteros and criollos. It has a greater resistance to disease and is classified as fine grade. It is cultivated in Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Venezuela, Cameroon and Papua New Guinea. It represents 10%-15% of the world’s production.
Appearance: These pods can be yellow or red and as with the other varieties, it is very difficult to determine its type by looking only at the pod’s surface, that is why it is essential to cut the pod and look at the beans on the inside. the beans can be either round or flat.
Flavour: Trinitarios can boast a wide range of flavours. They can be fruity with a slight acid aroma and they can also be spicy and sharp.
As part of our charitable work, at Giveafew we want to help Venezuelan cocoa farmers promote Venezuelan cocoa in order to improve their livelihoods, especially because they grow 3 distinctive varieties including the world’s best cocoa: Porcelana Cocoa, which is sought after by the best chocolate companies around the world. With all these wonderful crops which grow naturally in Venezuelan forests, it is only fair that the world should be able to get hold of it!