Cocoa as a raw material
The greatest bean in the world.
Cacao trees provide the most important ingredient needed for chocolate: the cocoa beans. Without those, there would simply be no chocolate.
Cacao trees thrive around the equator, in Africa, Asia and South or Central America. The main countries growing them are the Ivory Coast, Indonesia and Brazil.
A basic distinction is made between bulk cocoa varieties and the rare fine or flavour cocoas. The widest range of cacao varieties is found in South and Central America, the home of the cacao plant. In African countries, the main type to thrive is what is known as “bulk cocoa”.
Criollo and Forastero are the two forefathers of today's cacao varieties: all the other cacaos, such as the Trinitario, come from these two varieties being crossed. However, as there are hardly any “pure-bred” cacao varieties left today, they are instead named according to the area or country where they are grown, as with wines.
Criollo is the fine or flavour cocoa which was already grown in pre-Columbian times. It is native to what is now Venezuela. It is given the name Criollo – “fine one” – because of its unusually good taste. With their low acid content and lack of bitterness, its seeds are especially rich in aroma. As well as pure Criollo varieties, there are also “modern” ones which are a cross between Criollo and Forastero or Trinitario.
One thing all Criollo trees have in common is their sensitivity and susceptibility to disease, which is why the global yield of fine or flavour cocoa only makes up about 5% of the total. The fine or flavour (premium) cocoa varieties used for RITTER SPORT come from Papua New Guinea, Madagascar and Ecuador.
As the Forastero, unlike the Criollo, came from the rainforests of the Amazon, it was called Forastero – “stranger”. Today it is mainly cultivated in West Africa. Its beans have a strong cocoa taste, with a sometimes bitter or rather sour accent.
Thanks to its resistance to pests and disease, and higher yields, this variety does full credit to its description as a “bulk cocoa”, making up 95% of all cocoa beans harvested globally. However, there is also one Forastero variety whose fine character puts it among the fine or flavour cocoas: the Ecuadorian Cacao Nacional, with its subspecies Arriba and Esmeralda. For our chocolate, we use a full three Forastero varieties: a mild, full-bodied and especially fruity cocoa from Ghana, a mild cocoa from Nigeria and a slightly more bitter variety from the Ivory Coast.
This cacao variety originates on the island of Trinidad, giving it its name. In 1727 a natural disaster destroyed large parts of the cacao plantation. Trinitario was created by crossing the surviving Criollos with imported Forasteros.
This variety combines the hardiness of bulk cocoa with the aromas of fine or flavour cocoa. Its pleasant, aromatic taste means that it generally counts as fine or flavour cocoa.
Today, Trinidad is home to the most complete gene database for the cacao tree in the world, the International Cocoa Genebank. Classification, research and cultivation work is constantly being carried out there to make cacao trees more resistant and to improve bean taste.