The forastero bean is the most commonly grown across the globe. It is most likely native to the Amazon basin, and the African cocoa crop is almost entirely of forastero variety. They are significantly hardier, and offer a more classic chocolate flavor, although do not consist of the secondary flavors which some more uncommon beans have to offer.
Trinitario beans are a natural hybrid of forastero and criollo beans. Originating in Trinidad, a criollo crop was merged with a criollo crop, yielding this cross-breed variety.
Chocolate is rooted, literally, from Theobroma trees. These can grow anywhere from 15-26 feet tall, and the term actually translates to ‘Food of the Gods.’ The larger fruit is defined as the cocoa pod, which contains the cocoa beans on the interior. The three primary cocoa bean varieties are Forastero, Trinitario, and Criollo.
The criollo bean is the ‘sought out’ variety for connoisseurs, which is the rarest and most expensive cocoa on the market. This bean is native to Central America, the Caribbean islands, and the northern tier of South American states. The purity is up for debate however, as numerous populations have been exposed to genetic influences among other varieties. These beans are particularly harder to grow, and environmental threats they are now facing produce lower and lower yields per tree. The flavor is delicate yet complex, less of a ‘classic’ chocolate flavor, but rich in its secondary notes, which often are similar to other crops grown in the areas.
Nearly all cocoa over the past six decades is of forastero, or lower-grade trinitario varieties.
California Academy of Sciences. (2005). Chocolate: The Exhibition.