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 generalization, fine or flavour cocoa beans are produced from Criollo or Trinitario cocoa tree varieties, while bulk (or ordinary) cocoa beans come from Forastero trees. There are, however, known exceptions to this generalization. Nacional trees in Ecuador, considered to be Forastero type trees, produce fine or flavour cocoa. On the other hand, cocoa beans from Cameroon, produced by Trinitario type trees and whose cocoa powder has a distinct and sought after red colour, have, so far, been classified as bulk cocoa beans. It should be noted that the difference between fine or flavour cocoa and bulk cocoa is in the flavour rather than in the other quality factors. Fine flavours include fruit (fresh and browned, mature fruits), floral, herbal, and wood notes, nut and caramelic notes as well as rich and balanced chocolate bases.
Usually, a combination of criteria is used to assess the quality of fine or flavour cocoa. These include the genetic origin of planting material, morphological characteristics of the plant, flavour characteristics of the cocoa beans produced, chemical characteristics of the cocoa beans, colour of the cocoa beans and nibs, degree of fermentation, drying, acidity, off-flavours, percentage of internal mould, insect infestation and percentage of impurities. However, the measurement of some of these criteria is subjective and does not establish objectively that the cocoa in question has the characteristics of fine or flavour cocoa.