Eek! Seriously the person who invents a machine to slow down time will make an insane amount of money. Part I of my chocolate posts was published on March 16 and I had meant to follow up with this one a fortnight later. Before I know it is half way through May! At this rate I better start planning for Christmas.
So back to chocolate. Part I on this went through basic chocolate labelling and some brands that are readily available in New Zealand. This post will cover the basics of chocolate production and the cacao beans. Hopefully it will help you understand on a second level the differences in chocolate that is available to you.
The cacao plant - Like most plants the cacao plant is broken up into several subspecies. These are, Criollo, Forastero and Trinitario.
The Criollo bean represents 5% of the total crop produced. The chocolate made from this bean is expensive and DELICIOUS. It is native to South America and is very temperature sensitive. It grows very close to the equator and is incredibly sensitive to its surroundings making it quite temperamental. It has a lower yield than other cacao plants as well. These factors combined mean that it is not suited to the large scale commercial use that big chocolate companies require. It is generally grown and processed by smaller boutique companies and comes with a higher price tag.
My Criollo recommendation: If you ever get the chance to try Amedei's 'Chuao' go for it. They are a small Italian chocolate house. The beans for their Chuao come from a small island off the coast of Venezuela. The Chuao has notes of 'cigars and raspberries'
The Forastero is most likely native to a similiar region in South America. It is however a very hardy plant and thus easier to introduce to other areas. The African crop is entirely Forastero. It has high yield with easy care making it the most suitable for large scale commercial use. It can withstand a wider range of temperatures and so can grow in a wider variety of places, not just right on the equator. The majority of chocolate that you eat is Forestero.
The Trinitario bean is a natural hybrid of the Criollo and Forastero plant. It is not as widespread as the Forastero but is easier to produce the the Criollo. Within the Trinitario there is both high and low grade plants with each going to respectively produce boutique and larger scale chocolates.