Trinitario chocolate is made from Trinitario cocoa. There are three broad groups of cocoa used in the world, and Trinitario is one of them. In order to understand what makes local Trinitario so special, you need to know about the other varieties first.
Criollo means “native” or ‘first grown’ in Spanish and is originally from South and Central America. It can typically have red or yellow coloured pods, but some can also be green or white (Porcelana type). The pods tends to have distinct pointed tips and the outer surface can be quite bumpy. The beans are perhaps the most fascinating out of all the cocoa types: they are beautifully plump and range from light purple to pure white. Generally their flavour is considered to be of finer quality than either Trinitario or Forastero because the beans lack the purple pigments that are responsible for the astringent flavour. Fermented and dried Criollo beans are not at all strong in cocoa flavour, but the chocolate made from them tends to remind many of various fruits and spices. Some notable Criollo chocolates feature notes of caramel, nuts, vanilla and tobacco. The “chocolate” note is usually less present in the flavour, featuring these secondary lighter notes of longer duration. Criollo was historically most popular but is considered quite scarce now in the modern market due to difficulties in growing and keeping the trees healthy – especially outside of their native growing regions in Mesoamerica.
This particular group of cocoa types is so named because it means “stranger” or “outsider” and considered “exotic” in Spanish. Forastero cocoa is originally from the Amazon and predominantly cultivated in Brazil, West Africa and Southeast Asia. This group represents >80% of cocoa production in the world. The pods tend to be smoother-skinned that the Criollo type and are more rounded in shape. They too can have pod colours of red and yellow, as well as purple or orange. The beans tend to be very dark purple in colour, are flatter than Criollo beans and can be quite bitter. The flavour is a full-bodied cocoa that we readily identify as being chocolatey. It however generally lacks the fancier delicate extra notes found in either Criollo or Trinitario types.
Widely renowned as the world’s finest cocoa hybrid, Trinitario has its delightful origins right here in Trinidad. Many kinds of Trinitario exist but there seems to be something particularly fascinating about the Trinidad Trinitario types. There are currently 11 commercial varieties grown here in T&T, however, on many very old estates where full replanting has not occurred, we can find old trees of the early Imperial College Selection (ICS) varieties that represent some of the best early (aka ancient!) Trinitario material known. The Trinitario group represents a unique hybrid collection of types that arose in Trinidad [from crossings between mixed Criollo and mixed Forastero types] in the late 18th century following the devastation of the existing Criollo material in the 1720s. Trinitarios display a fabulous range of traits from both parental groups : the pods are not as bumpy as that of Criollo, the beans tends to be less plump than Criollo, and they can exhibit a range of colours from light purple to medium purple. The flavour profiles also reflect a range of characteristics from both parent types. They have good basal cocoa flavour with a delightful range of flavour profiles from fruity to floral. This group really took the best qualities from each parent plant, and has given the world a fabulous hybrid with the yummy chocolate flavour we know and love, mixed in with exciting extra notes that beg to reveal themselves to your discerning taste buds!
Motilal, Lambert and Sreenivasan, Thayil (2012). Revisiting 1727: Crop failure leads to the Birth of Trinitario Cacao
Motilal, Lambert (2009). The relic Criollo cacao in Belize – genetic diversity and relationship with Trinitario and other cacao clones held in the International Cocoa Genebank, Trinidad