Cocoa beans, the basic ingredient of chocolate, are fatty seeds coming from cocoa fruits growing on cocoa trees which can be up to 15 metres tall in the wild. These trees can be found mainly in hot, rainy tropical areas with the elevation of around 500 metres.
Rugby ball shaped fruits grow right from the tree trunks and branches. They are harvested twice a year, always at the beginning and end of the rainy season. The harvested pods are cut off and opened, typically with a machete, covered with banana leaves and let ferment.
Taste of cocoa beans depends on a variety and place of growth. The three main varieties are:
Criollo is mostly grown in Central America and the fact that this variety is quite difficult to grow and its vulnerability make it one of the most expensive cocoa beans. Its fruity and spicy flavour is considered a delicacy.
Trinitario is a natural hybrid of Criollo and Forastero. Trinitario combines the best of the two other varieties: the hardiness and high yield of Forastero and the delicious taste of Criollo.
The taste of the individual varieties is also influenced by the place of their occurrence. For example, cocoa beans from Ecuador are distinctive for its touch of tropical fruit and coffee flavour is typical for beans coming from Dominican Republic.
As Top cocoa producing countries we can mention Ivory Coast, Indonesia, Ghana, Cameroon, Brazil and Ecuador.