All chocolate is produced from the seed of the cacao tree (Theobroma cacao L.). Theobroma cacao is a tropical fruit tree, endemic to the Amazonian basin in lowland rainforests and a member of the Malvaceae family. Within this single species, there are different varieties. Historically cacao has long been categorized into three varieties: Criollo, Trinitario, and Forestro. This classification is nowadays somewhat outdated. Molecular analysis of the genetic material has permitted to differentiate cacao into 10 major “genetic clusters’‘: Amelonado, Contamana, Criollo, Curaray, Guiana, Iquitos, Marañón, Nanay, Nacional, and Purús. Recently even more genetic groups from Bolivia, Peru and Columbia have been discovered and probably more will follow. In addition to these primary varieties of cacao, there is a wide range of cultivars and hybrids.
Variety plays a vital role in determining flavour and aroma. Understanding the genetics of cacao helps to trace the historic path of the cacao.