Cocoa beans are the seeds inside the cocoa pods. In pre-Columbian civilisations, cacao beans constituted both a ritual beverage and a major currency system. The Aztec empire usually received a yearly tribute of 980 loads (xiquipil in Nahuatl) of cacao, in addition to other goods. Each load represented exactly 8000 beans. The buying power of quality beans was such that 80-100 beans could buy a new cloth mantle. In some areas, such as Yucatán, cacao beans were still used in place of small coins as late as the 1840s.
The world cocoa market distinguishes between two broad categories of cocoa beans: "fine or flavour" cocoa beans, and "bulk" or "ordinary" cocoa beans. As a generalisation, fine or flavour cocoa beans are produced from Criollo or Trinitario cocoa tree varieties, while bulk cocoa beans come from Forastero trees. There are, however, known exceptions to this generalisation. Nacional trees in Ecuador, considered to be Forastero-type trees, produce fine or flavour cocoa. On the other hand, Cameroon cocoa beans, produced by Trinitario-type trees and whose cocoa powder has a distinct and sought-after red colour, are classified as bulk cocoa.
Annex "C" of the International Cocoa Agreement provides the list of producing countries that are recognised as exporting either exclusively or partially fine or flavour cocoa. This annex was updated in May 2008, following a recommendation by the Panel of Fine or Flavour cocoa, which met in January 2008. The annex was updated again in March 2011, following a recommendation of the Panel after its September 2010 meeting.
Related Document: Fine or Flavour Panel Recommendations September 2010
International Cocoa Organization
1-19 New Oxford Street
London WC1A 1NU
Tel: +44 (0)20 7400 5050
Fax: +44 (0)20 7421 5500
The ICCO International Cocoa Agreement is available to download in Acrobat PDF format.
The procedures for becoming a member of the International Cocoa Organization are provided in Articles 52 to 57 of the International Cocoa Agreement, 2010.