Cocoa beans are sourced from cocoa trees. The cocoa tree usually bears two harvests of cocoa pods each year. These pods are around 20cm in length and weigh around 500 grams. The pods ripen to a rich, golden orange colour. Inside of each cocoa pod are between 20-40 purple, 2cm long cocoa beans that are covered in white pulp.
There are three different types of cocoa – Forastero and Criollo, as well as Trinitario, a cross between the two. Within these types there are also several varieties.
Forastero: This type produces the greater part of all cocoa grown. This type of tree is hardy and vigorous, therefore producing beans with the strongest flavour. It has a smooth yellow pod and pale purple beans. This variety of cocoa beans is mainly grown in West Africa and Brazil.
Criollo: Criollo cocoa trees are not as hardy as Farastero beans and produce softer red pods, containing 20-30 white, ivory or very pale purple beans. It has a mild or weak chocolate flavour and is mainly grown in Indonesia, Central and South America.
Trinitario: These beans are not found in the wild as they are refined hybrids of the other two types. They are mostly hard pods that contain 30 or more beans that vary in colour, though white beans are rare. Trinitario trees are mainly grown in the Caribbean, but are also grown in Cameroon and Papua New Guinea.
These are the three main types of cocoa beans found worldwide that are used to produce chocolate.