The cocoa bean, also called cacao bean, cocoa, and cacao, is the dried and fully fermented seed of Theobroma cacao, from which cocoa solids and, because of the seed’s fat, cocoa butter can be extracted. The beans are the basis of chocolate, and of such Mesoamerican foods as mole and tejate.
The three main varieties of cocoa plant are Forastero, Criollo, and Trinitario. The first is the most widely used, comprising 80-90% of the world production of cocoa. Cocoa beans of the Criollo variety are rarer and considered a delicacy. Criollo plantations have lower yields than those of Forastero, and also tend to be less resistant to several diseases that attack the cocoa plant, hence very few countries still produce it. One of the largest producers of Criollo beans is Venezuela (Chuao and Porcelana). Trinitario (from Trinidad) is a hybrid between Criollo and Forastero varieties. It is considered to be of much higher quality than Forastero, has higher yields, and is more resistant to disease than Criollo.