Cacao trees naturally only grow within 20 degrees of either side of the equator because they need about 2000 millimeters of rainfall a year, and temperatures in the range of 21 to 32 °C. Cacao trees cannot tolerate a temperature lower than 15 °C.
The main varieties of cacao beans used in chocolate are criollo (also called Porcelana), arriba national, forastero, and trinitario.
Representing only five percent of all cocoa beans grown,criollo is the rarest and most expensive cocoa on the market partly because Criollos are particularly difficult to grow.
The flavor of criollo is described as delicate yet complex, low in classic chocolate flavor, but rich in "secondary" notes of long duration.
The most commonly grown bean is forastero and typically strong in classic "chocolate" flavor, but have a rather short duration and are unsupported by secondary flavors.
Trinitario is a natural hybrid of criollo and forastero.
Other very interesting but rare and almost extinguished varieties include arriba national, found in Ecuador. Arriba is much loved by chocolate connoisseur's because of its fine, floral taste notes.
What are factors affecting the taste of cocao?
Just like wine, chocolate reflects the distinct flavors of its region.
The kind of cacao beans grown, climate conditions, and how the beans are
dried and fermented vary from country to country.
All these factors play an important role in defining a bean’s flavor characteristics.
What’s the end result? A range of flavors to explore.
Consider: Beans from Trinidad have a cinnamon spiciness while those from Ecuador have a floral quality.
Beans from Jamaica even hint of pineapple.
Eating chocolate can be a never-ending flavor adventure