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Early writers such as Morris (6) identified two broad botanical groups (Criollo and Forastero) in the species T. cacao which are still valid today. Later another group was added (7), which is a cross between the other two and is called Trinitario. The characteristics of these groups are shown in Table 2.2 and in Fig. 2.3. The Criollo types ferment quickly and in earlier times were considered to have a highly regarded, but usually weak, chocolate flavour. These types were probably domesticated by the Mayas and Criollo pods appear in their early stone reliefs, perhaps even as early as the 6th century. They have been found in diverse locations; as far apart as Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Veracruz in Mexico. The other main group is the Forasteros of which the Amelonados are the most extensively planted, being established in a large (though decreasing) percentage of both Brazilian (State of Bahia) and West African cocoa areas. The planting material for the State of Bahia originated from the lower Amazon in about 1700, while that of West Africa came from Bahia after establishment in Principe in about 1822. There is great uniformity amongst much of the cocoa produced in West Africa, partially because the original planting material had this common origin.

Table 2.2 Some distinctive characters of Criollo, Forastero and Trinitario types. Characteristics

Pod husk


Colour Beans


'fine or flavour'

Soft, crinkly

Red occurs

Average no. per pod

Colour of cotyledons Agronomic

Tree vigour

Pest and disease susceptibility Quality

Fermentation needs

Flavour Fat content

Bean size (g/100 beans)

Percentage of world production, 1996/97

Source: after Toxopeus (9).

1 Some typical values from Crespo (8).

2 Mostly Cameroon, PNG.

20 to 30

White, ivory or very pale purple Low

Susceptible 1 day maximum

Forastero 'bulk'

Hard, smooth Green


Mostly hard Variable

30 or more 30 or more

Pale to deep purple Variable; white beans rarely

Weak chocolate; mild and nutty

Low High

85 94

Vigorous Moderate

Normally 5 days Good chocolate

Intermediate Intermediate

4 to 5 days

Good chocolate; full cocoa



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Page 18

Criollo Forastero

Examples of (a) Criollo and (b) Forastero (Amelonado) cocoa pods. After Cuatrecasas (10).

Examples of (a) Criollo and (b) Forastero (Amelonado) cocoa pods. After Cuatrecasas (10).

The natural habitat of the genus Theobroma is the lower storey of the evergreen tropical rain forest, where rainfall and shade is heavy, temperature is fairly uniform and there is constant relative humidity through the year. This indicates a latitude range for successful cultivation of cocoa (T. cacao) from about 10° above to about 10° below the Equator, though growing has been successful in India at 14°N and attempted in Sao Paulo State, Brazil at 24°S. The need for an amount of overhead shade for cocoa (usually a dappled shade is to be recommended) at least in its earliest years is a major constraint, limiting both the locations where cocoa can be grown as well as the systems to be adopted for successful establishment.

A mature cocoa tree has a deep tap-root with an extensive system of lateral feeder roots and so grows best in deep soils. As the trees develop, the foliage and branches of neighbouring cocoa trees will grow together to form an integrated canopy vital for high yields, as the canopy has to trap the maximum amount of light energy. Cocoa has a requirement for large amounts of biochemical energy for the conversion of the carbohydrates produced by photosynthesis into fat which is accumulated in the developing beans; cocoa beans contain a little over 50% cocoa butter (also called cocoa fat). The cocoa tree can easily grow to a height of over 15 m if allowed to do so unchecked, but under the more intensive cultivation systems this is prevented by careful pruning to keep the plants to heights of 2.53.0 m. A stylized transverse section of an ideal cocoa farm is shown in Fig. 2.4.

The fruit of the cocoa tree is a pod, which arises from flower cushions directly on the trunk/branches. Flowering is profuse: a tree may produce 50 000, though less than 5% will be set as pods. Pollination is undertaken by a myriad of minute flying insects, which breed in rotting vegetation and require cool, moist and damp conditions to survive. The cocoa pods, containing 3040 or so seeds, take some 5

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