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Varieties of cocoa

The cocoa tree is grown for its beans, from which cocoa and cocoa butter are extracted to manufacture various products, of which the best-known is chocolate in its various forms; but also by-products to be used in the manufacture of beauty products, lipstick and so on.

The tree belongs to the genus Theobroma, part of the family Sterculiaceae. More than 22 species are listed, but only one, the Theobroma cacao or 'food of the gods', is produced for commercial use. Ideally it grows in tropical regions, along a band located 20° to the north and south of the equator.

The three main varieties of the cocoa tree are ForasteroCriollo and Trinitario.

Its fruit, the cocoa bean, is quoted on the New York and in London ICE Futures.



  • approximately 95 % of the world's production
  • Considered an ordinary cocoa, called 'bulk cocoa' or 'consumer cocoa' *
  • originally from Amazonia but mainly grown in West Africa and Brazil.

*Exception: In Ecuador, the Forastero is grown under the designation Nacional and is considered a fine or aromatic cocoa.

The hardiest.




  • Less than 1 % of the world's production
  • Considered a fine or aromatic cocoa *
  • Indigenous to Venezuela, grown in Latin America (the Caribbean, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru).

The finest and most aromatic, mild and slightly bitter.




  • Approximately 5% of the world's production
  • Considered as a fine flavour cocoa
  • A hybrid of the latter 2 varieties which appeared in the 18th century on the island of Trinidad to compensate for major hurricane damage to the more fragile Criollo trees. Grown in Trinidad, Venezuela, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, East Timor, Java and Madagascar.

* Exception: In Cameroon, cocoa from the Trinitario variety of trees is considered an ordinary 'bulk' or 'consumer' cocoa

Fine flavours, but less intense than the Criollo variety


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