About Cocoa trees
There are 20 different species of cocoa tree, but only one species is used to make chocolate. The tree is called Theobroma cacao, named by a Swedish botanist Carl von Linne. Theobroma comes from Greek and the name translates to "food of the gods".
The cocoa tree needs a hot (25-30 C) and moist climate to grow. It's growth area is called the cocoa belt. It extends 10-15 degrees to north and south from the equator. The ideal growth height for the cocoa tree is 400-600 meters above sea. Cocoa trees like shady areas, in fact, getting shade is vital for them. Thick rain forests with high trees offer a perfect substrate for the trees.
The trees start to produce fruit at the age of 3-5. The cocoa fruit can take up to six months to ripen. Harvest usually takes place twice a year in October-November and in May-July. In the best growing places harvest goes on throughout the year. The cocoa fruit is handpicked and an experienced picker can gather 1500 fruits in one day.
Cocoa beans itself ripen inside the fruit. There are 25-75 beans in one fruit, depending on its weight. Inside the fruit, the cocoa beans are covered in white mass that has a high sugar concentration. Cocoa beans are categorized in three different cultivars; Criollo, Forastero and Trinitario. The original cultivars are Criollo and Forastero, which have been crossbred later to create Trinitario. Trinitario received it's name from the Trinidad's island, where it was grown for the first time.
Forastero is the most used bean in the production of chocolate, it's responsible of 85% of the production. Criollo on the other hand is the rarest kind of cacao bean. Many think it's the most sumptuous of them. Criollo's share of the production is 3 %. Trinitario is left with 12% of the overall production. Many chocolate experts use Trinitario- and Criollo-beans for their characteristic flavours.
Most chocolates are made of mixtures of these three bean varieties. The finest mixture, made of the beans picked by experts, is called Guanaja. However, chocolate makers around the globe compete with their specialties, chocolates made only of specific kinds of beans or beans from certain countries.
The best chocolates only use cocoa butter, but in cheaper products cocoa butter is replaced with other vegetable fats. Cocoa percentage tells how much cocoa paste and cocoa butter is in the product. High cocoa percentage is a sign of good quality, but not the only one. Cocoa beans and the process of manufacturing affect to the taste and quality of chocolate as well. To estimate the amount of cocoa paste in chocolate, which affects to the bitterness of chocolate, one has to look at the nutrition contents of the chocolate. The more fat the chocolate consists of, the less is the portion of cocoa paste.
Good quality dark chocolate consists of at least 50% of cocoa, but there are dark chocolates on the market containing less cocoa. Cocoa itself tastes bitter, thus the dark chocolates made almost only of cocoa paste taste strong and acerb.
In addition to the ingredients previously mentioned, milk chocolate contains milk or milk powder. The cocoa percentage of milk chocolate varies between 20-40%.
White chocolate doesn't contain any cocoa paste with cocoa powder. Consequently, some people don't agree white chocolate is chocolate at all. However, white chocolate does contain cocoa; cocoa butter. Besides cocoa butter, sugar and milk powder are used in the making of white chocolate. Cocoa percentage: about 15-25%