Like superb wine and premium olive oils, fine chocolates all carry a signature flavor. Their distinctive tastes start with the original ingredient: the cacao bean. Wine grapes vary by varietal, region of origin, harvesting methods and weather. So, too, do cacao beans.
Sommeliers study a wine's taste, smell and visual cues to identify its region, grape, barrel wood and year. Similarly, sophisticated connoisseurs of chocolate can identify country of origin, cacao tree type and processing methods; and can detect whether a chocolate comprises beans from a single estate ("terroir") or blends.
Cacao trees come in three varieties: the Criollo, the Trinitario and the Forastero. Grown mainly in Central America, the Criollo represents only 1% of world production. Some exceptionally rare Criollo is harvested only by dugout canoe deep in the Amazon rainforest. Its cacao is fine and sweet, with complex flavor notes.
The Forastero, grown largely in West Africa and South America, comprises 80 percent of world production and has a strong, bitter taste.
The Trinitario, a flavorful bean that contains qualities of both trees, is grown throughout the world, producing five percent of world cacao output.
Visit our chocolate imports department to experience the surprising complexity of flavor in fine chocolates in their pure state