Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Amazing Cocoa Bean

While out to dinner with a good friend this past weekend, I learned something new about a food I am very familiar with; the cocoa bean. Turns out, the quality and taste of chocolate has everything to do with where the bean was grown. Just as grapes become Cabernets or Pinot Noirs depending on the conditions of the exact hillside on which they grow, the origin of a specific cocoa bean determines the type of chocolate it will become. I found all of this so interesting I thought it would be great to share it with my readers!

Both grapes and cocoa beans are greatly impacted by factors like climate and soil, as well as quantities of sunlight and rain. Cocoa beans are generally catagorized into three types: Forastero (accounting for 85% of the world's cocoa), Trinitario (about 10%), and Criollo (less than 5%). As with most things, the rarer the better, and Criollo beans are considered to make the finest, most expensive chocolate in the world.

Like wine connoisseurs, chocolate aficionados pay attention to aroma, taste and look. The flavor of Criollo is described as delicate yet complex, low in classic chocolate flavor, but rich in "secondary" notes of long duration, with a reddish coloring.

The largest areas of cocoa bean growth

Next time you bite into a piece of chocolate, take a moment to reflect on one of nature's great marvels: the amazing cocoa bean!

What is your favorite place to get chocolate? Please leave a comment.