Cacao trees carry up to 70 fruits, each taking up to five months to reach full size and take another month to ripen. Each fruit holds 30 to 50 seeds, or “beans” that are covered with a sweet, white pulp and undergo a complex process of fermenting, drying, roasting, and grinding in order to become chocolate.
The three dominant varieties of the cacao plant are Forastero, Criollo, and Trinitario. The delicate Criollo is the rarest and most expensive on the market. The hearty Forastero is said to have the most classic “chocolate” flavor and represents about 85% of the world’s production. Following a near destruction of Trinidad’s Criollo plantations by a hurricane in 1727, Forastero seeds were cross fertilized to form Trinitario, which represents about 12% of the world’s chocolate production.