What is Criollo Cacao?
Criollo is the most rare and exotic tasting cacao when looking at the three main cocoa bean varieties. It accounts for 2% of global cacao supply. Criollo is considered the very first heirloom variety of cacao fruit and it is suspected it first grew in Amazonas Peru.
This is actually a hybrid bean strain, a result of the cross pollination of Criollo and Forastero. Some may claim that due to that fact, it’s a “best-of-both-worlds” kind of cacao, and they can argue their point: Trinitario combines some of the hearty and resistant properties of Forastero with some of Criollo’s flavor. However, it requires a certain climate and elevation for proper cultivation, and so it only accounts for 10-13% of global cocoa production. Chocolate made from this type is often fruity and mild acidity.
Commonly referred to as “bulk cocoa”, Forastero actually accounts for 80-85% of the world’s cocoa production capacity, and is the one that you’ll be most likely to find at any given large supermarket. It has become the world’s most widely grown cacao fruit due to its unique robust properties that make it more hearty and capable to withstand greater weather variation like lack of rainfall that can plague cocoa growing regions during this time of climate change. This cacao can be traditional fudgey tasting or wet and fruity. A lot of this depends on how the cacao is handled and fermented.
What Makes Criollo So Special?
The main reason why Criollo is so rare is the fact that it’s very difficult to cultivate: Criollo beans are susceptible to harsh weather conditions. Raw Criollo beans are also delicate and floral in smell and flavor, attracting all sorts of pollinators which include some not so favorable pests and bugs. Amazonian moths are attracted to the Criollo floral fragrance and they can ruin an entire chocolate plantations. On top of all that, Criollo cacao fruit don’t produce as many cocoa beans as the other varieties – the low yields aren’t particularly enticing for farmers who want to sell their cocoa beans in bulk and are paid per pound.
The factors that make Criollo cacao so vulnerable to environmental hazards are also what makes Criollo so awesome. There is a very mild bitterness to its flavor, with the fruity notes being forward and a touch of nut like nuances. The aroma of Criollo beans is slightly acidic, sweet and nutty.
If you consider yourself to be a true chocolate enthusiast and have not yet experienced the incredible flavor of organic Criollo chocolate please try out our Organic Criollo Cacao Unsweetened Chocolate Wafers. You'll be surprised.