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.