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A, B, C of Chocolate

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Cacao pods

Cacao pods (also known as cabosses). The dark pod is not yet ripe. Ripe pods turn bright colors, from yellow and orange to red, depending on the type of bean.  Photo by chocolatier Pierre Marcolini - Marcolini’s bars all have a very slight dark tone that persists throughout.

When I read this glossary of chocolate terms I just had to share it here with all the Chocolics amongst us (including Steve The Tortilla Guy).


The French term for rolling out gianduja or marzipan with a rolling pin. 


In English, the French Academy For Confectionary and Chocolate. An independent, non-profit body representing the chocolatiers and confectioners of France. Its aim is to promote quality products, to train and inform professionals and consumers and to provide information on chocolate products.


The flavors lingering on the palate after the chocolate has been consumed. Called the finish in the wine industry, this term is increasingly applied to chocolate. A good aftertaste should leave positive chocolate flavors in the mouth for two minutes or more. 


A process of neutralizing the acidity of cocoa with potassium carbonate. This also brings out more chocolate color, resulting in a darker cocoa. Also known as Dutch process or Dutching. Since the end of the 19th century, all commercial chocolate manufacturers have used this technique, which modifies the flavor and color of the cocoa. Cocoas and chocolates that are 100% natural will not be alkalized.


One of the finer subgroups of Forastero bean, delicate and mild-flavored (most forasteros are harsh and bitter). It is a hybrid of the Arriba or Nacional subspecies of Forastero bean.


Dark chocolate has been found to have a high level of antioxidants, specifically from its flavanol content. See Flavanol.


See Nacional Cacao.

BAKER’S CHOCOLATE or BAKING CHOCOLATE or BITTER CHOCOLATE or UNSWEETENED CHOCOLATE A solid, bitter chocolate made from pure chocolate liquor, i.e., the cacao content is 100% with no sugar added. Historically, its only purpose was for baking. While it sounds like a generic term, for chocolate used by bakers, the best-known brand is named for James Baker, an early manufacturer, and is now a trademark of Kraft Foods. There are other brands of baking chocolate; and today, the finest chocolate manufacturers are producing an unsweetened product, called 100% cacao content chocolate, that can be eaten as well. Some people who favor bittersweet chocolate enjoy the pureness of fine chocolate made with no sugar, as do diabetics who cannot have sugar. See also brut.Baker's Chocolate
Baker’s chocolate. Photo by Melody Lan.

NOTE: Greater Boston was the site of the first U.S. chocolate factories: in 1765 an Irish chocolate-maker, John Hannan, put up a mill on the site of an old powder mill in Milton and imported cocoa beans from the West Indies to produce cakes of ground cacao bean paste used to make drinking chocolate. Other ventures sprouted up in the area. In 1780, Harvard graduate, teacher, and medical student James Baker saw the possibilities of the chocolate business and went into it with great success, producing the now-famous BAKER’S brand of chocolate. For the complete story, visit the Dorchester Atheneum. The brand is now owned by Kraft.

A bain-marie, or “Mary’s bath,” is the French equivalent of a double boiler. It melts chocolate gently over warm water so the chocolate will not burn. The “bath” refers to the method of placing a pan of food in another pan with simmering water. The term was originally used in alchemy, and was named after Moses’s sister, who was an alchemist.


A ballotin is a box developed in Belgium with structured compartments designed to prevent the chocolates from crushing each other. Unlike boxes that hold chocolate in ridged paper cups, chocolates in ballotins cannot move from their designated compartments. Ballotins are of elegant design, befitting its contents. The ballotin was invented in 1912 by Louise Agostini, whose husband was a grandson of the founder of Neuhaus Chocolates.


A French term for a slim bar of chocolate, a specialty size differentiated from a regular eating bar, which is called a tablette.


Also called the grain, the seed of the cacao pod of the Theobroma cacao tree, beans are the source of all chocolate and cocoa. There are generally 20 to 40 flat, almond-shaped beans in a pod, depending on the species. When first picked, the beans have tropical flavors of lychee and pineapple; but in a few hours the sugars convert and they become bitter and inedible. Beans are then fermented, dried, roasted, ground and conched to create chocolate. All cacao is grown in tropical rainforests; almost all of these are in third world countries. Producers of chocolate purchase the beans through brokers who are on the ground in the countries of origin. Some cacao beans are purchased directly from small cooperatives of growers, others from individual farms, and in some countries, such as Ghana, the beans must be bought through a country's Cacao Board.


Of the three styles of bonbons—Belgian, French and Swiss—Belgian chocolates are characterized by a slightly larger size, a thicker chocolate shell and a heavier and sweeter ganache. Belgian chocolates are made in molds, accounting for the thicker shell. The technique of molding was created by Belgian chocolatier Jean Neuhaus in 1912, who developed a process to pour couverture into molds creating a hard shell, enabling softer, more liquid fillings like cremes, to be used. Prior to then, firm centers like caramels, jellies and thick ganaches were hand-dipped into the couverture. Some Belgian chocolatiers also use cookie pieces when creating certain chocolates. (Pierre Marcolini, who is also a patissier, does some wonderful pieces with cookies; although Marcolini, a Belgian, actually makes French-style chocolates).


Another word for baker’s chocolate or unsweetened chocolate.


Sweetened dark chocolate containing at least 35% chocolate liquor, in addition to sugar and cocoa butter. The darkest eating chocolate with the most intense cacao flavor. it can also be used for baking. When expressed as a percentage of cacao in a bar, bittersweet chocolates have 70% or more.  Common percentages on bars are 70%, 73%, 85% and 99%. Percentages are based on the manufacturer’s preference and formula or “recipe.”

CluizelThis tasting disk from Michel
is 99% cacao—almost
pure chocolate, with only 1% sugar. BLENDED BAR

A chocolate bar made of beans representing any combination of bean varieties, growing regions, and harvest years. The opposite of a blended bar is a Single Origin Bar, where all of the beans come from the same area; or a Grand Cru Bar, where all of the beans come from the same plantation or estate. Blended bars are sometimes called “house bars” because they are blended to a consistent recipe year after year to represent the house style of the producer.


The process that takes place with chocolate that is not single bean, e.g. 100% Porcelana—i.e., most chocolate. After roasting and before grinding, the crushed cacao beans are blended in a formula or “recipe” determined by the master blender, to determine the flavor of the finished chocolate. Since even beans from the same region can vary in flavor from harvest to harvest—acidic, fruity, earthy, sweet, bitter, spicy, woody etc.—the blending process, along with the flavoring process, produces a consistent “house style.”


There are two kinds of bloom that form on the surface of chocolate: Both are temperature-related and both make the chocolate look suspect and unappetizing. With fat bloom or cocoa butter bloom, the chocolate loses its gloss: A powdery grayish-white or tan film forms on the surface. This is due to improper storage, poorly tempering, lack of tempering, or changes in temperature. Heating chocolate above 70°F, as well as repetitive heating and cooling, will cause microscopic cocoa butter particles to join together, leaving particles of sugar and cocoa uncoated. The bloom is the cocoa butter that has separated and risen to the surface. In some cases the chocolate may become soft or crumbly. While bloom diminishes the appearance of the chocolate, it does not alter the taste and is not harmful. Chocolate with fat bloom can be eaten although it may taste drier. Fat bloom can be avoided by storing chocolate a constant temperature. Sugar bloom is caused by condensation, due to excessive moisture. The moisture combines with the sugar in the chocolate to create a syrup. Large sugar crystals remain on the surface of the chocolate when the moisture evaporates. See Sugar Bloom for more information.


French for “good, good,” a hard shell of chocolate filled with a variety of centers. The full French term is bonbon de chocolat (or chocolats fourrés assortis for assorted filled chocolates). It is referred to as praline in Belgian; while in France, a praline is a caramelized almond. To add to the confusion, the word truffle, which refers to balls of ganache rolled in cocoa powder or other coatings, is used by some to describe hard shells filled with ganache. Unfortunately, there is no governing body to standardize terminology; so consumers need to read the fine print to understand what they are buying. See the larger discussions under praline and truffle below.

CluizelAssorted bonbons from
Michel Cluizel.BOUCHON

A bouchon (BOO-shone) French for cork, is a molded, cork-shaped chocolate. It can be solid or filled.


A dense, chewy bar style of cookie, first made in chocolate but now made in a variety of flavors including white chocolate (blondie) and butterscotch. Originating in the mid to late 1800’s, the first known published recipe for chocolate brownies appeared in 1897 in a Sears Roebuck catalog.


An FDA classification of chocolate that does not contain any sugar, though it may contain flavoring like vanilla. This pure chocolate was initially intended intended for cooking but today fine 100% cacao chocolate is enjoyed by many. See baker’s chocolate.


The natural fat in milk from which butter is made; it is separable from the milk by churning. There is no butterfat in cocoa butter, which is a vegetable product. The French word for butterfat is graisse butyrique.


Clarified butter, used instead of more expensive cocoa butter in some chocolate formulations to create a smoother texture and mouthfeel.


The pod-like fruit of the cacao tree (see photos, top left and right), which flowers almost year-round, with one or two major flowering periods during the 10th to the 12th year in the life of the tree. Cocoa pods have differing shapes and sizes based on the variety of cacao, but can be likened in size to small pineapples.


The system of saving the rainforest by cutting down just a few of the tall rainforest trees, and planting the mid-height cacao trees underneath. While this results in lower yields than clearing the rainforest and planting on open land, it results in less disease and less attack by insects than planting in open land.

The seeds, or beans, are located inside the white, pulpy fruit. Photo of Criollo cabosses by Darius Martin. CACAHUATL

In the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs, the word for the cacao bean and the drink it produced. Pronounced cah-cah-WA-tay, it is derived from the Mayan word, xocoatl. See also Kakawa.
From The True History of Chocolate, by Sophie Coe & Michael Coe

(1) The name of both the tree native to Amazon forests (Theobroma cacao L.) and the unprocessed seeds (beans) from which chocolate is made. Americans refer to the bean as cocoa. The word cacao comes from the Olmec, a highly cultured civilization that preceded the Maya in the southern Gulf of Mexico area from 1,500 and 500 B.C.E. Cacao is divided by quality: either flavor or fine, or special or sweet cacao, and bulk cacao.The first group includes Criollo, Trinitario and Arriba or Nacional beans. The Arriba or Nacional bean is a unique Forastero, the only flavor Forastero, and is found only in Ecuador. The latter group comprises the Forastero cacaos. Each group has many hybrids and clones: There are more than 12,500 identified cacao clones. Legend tells us that the the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl bestowed cacao beans on mankind via his messenger Cacaoti, for whom cacao is named. (2) From the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Standards of Identity refers to the bean, which is the source of the cacao components of chocolate liquor, cocoa butter and cocoa powder. Many people incorrectly refer to this as the cocoa bean or the chocolate bean. In the U.K., the term “cocoa” is preferred.


See nib. Other terms used to identify the nib include amande de cacao, amandes décortiquées, cacao en grains and grain de cacao.


The percentage of cacao or chocolate liquor in the processed chocolate. In general, the higher the cacao content, the lower the amount of sugar used in making the chocolate; and the more intense the chocolate flavor. For people who like the flavor of pure cacao, fine bars of 100% cacao content, containing no sugar, are delicious to eat and also can be eaten by those who need to restrict sugar from their diets. A higher percentage is not an indication of higher quality, only of higher concentration of whatever quality of cacao was used to begin with.


U.S. cacao standards require milk chocolate to contain at least 10% chocolate liquor. Semisweet or bittersweet chocolate must contain at least 35% chocolate liquor. The higher the percentage of cacao, the more intense the chocolate flavor.


The French word to indicate a bean-to-bar chocolate producer.


Chocolate does contain caffeine, but only a small amount. A one-ounce serving of chocolate has about as much caffeine as a cup of decaffeinated coffee (6mg), so chocolate can be consumed anytime during the day or night or by most people on caffeine-restricted diets. The caffeine content of chocolate compares to these common foods as follows:

Bittersweet chocolate1 ounce 5-10 mg Milk chocolate1 ounce 5 mg Cocoa6 ounces prepared10 mg Coffee8 ounces100-150 mg Cola12 ounce can50 mg Tea8 ounces35 mg CARRAQUE

Solid milk or dark chocolate pieces, which are sometimes topped with raisins, almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts.

Valrhona SquareCARRÉ

The French word for square. A small tasting square of chocolate, generally five to 10 grams. See also Napolitain. You can buy a tin of 36 squares, half Valrhona’s 64% semisweet grand cru Manjari, half 40% grand cru milk chocolate Jivara.


The food product made from the roasted seeds (beans) of the cacao tree. The hulled meat of the bean, the nib, is ground and processed, into various forms for eating and drinking. For thousands of years, chocolate was only a beverage, xocoatl: it has only been eaten in solid form since 1847.  Eating chocolate (candy) is generally mixed with sugar, vanilla, and sometimes other flavorings and generally lecithin as an emulsifier; milk chocolate also contains milk. Quality manufacturers may also add cocoa butter for extra richness and mouthfeel. Chocolate for cooking is left unsweetened and generally unflavored. Quality eating chocolate is further divided as follows:

 Cacao Content* Bars Most Often Found† Milk Chocolate30% - 49% 33%, 43% Semisweet Chocolate 50% - 69%50%, 60%, 65% Bittersweet Chocolate 70% - 100% 70%, 75%, 80%, 85%, 99%, 100% Plus:  White Chocolate

0% Cacao but at least 33% cocoa butter

Not Applicable

Chocolate - Milk,Dark,White*The cacao referred to here is the chocolate liquor. See definition below.

† When manufacturers designate cacao content on their bars. Each manufacturer will produce a different mix of bars, based on their interests and production methods.

Photo courtesy of Jacques Torres.

The most likely scenario for the development of the word chocolate is that the Spaniards combined the Maya word chocol, meaning “hot,” and the Aztec atl, meaning “water,” to produce chocolatl. The proper pronunciation of tl is “te.” It is surmised that the Spaniards created this word, instead of using the Aztec word cacahuatl, because “caca” in Spanish is a vulgar word for feces. The True History of Chocolate authors Sophie Coe and Michael Coe suggest that the Spaniards substituted the Maya chocol because they were uncomfortable with a a thick, dark-brown drink that began with “caca.”


For 90% of its history, from about 1500 B.C. when it was made as a drink by the Olmecs in Mesoamerica, chocolate was only a beverage. Solid chocolate was not created until 1847. Then, Arthur Fry, the great-grandson of the founder of Joseph Fry & Company, then managing the family business, discovered a way to mix some of the cocoa butter back into the “Dutched” chocolate (cocoa powder). He added sugar, creating a paste that he molded into the world’s first chocolate bar, which was called chocolate for eating to distinguish it from drinking chocolate. It was rough and gritty, not the smooth, velvety bar we enjoy today. It took another 32 years for Rodolphe Lindt to invent the conching machine to improve the texture of chocolate.


Miniature drops of chocolate used in baking which keep their shape in the finished product. Chocolate chips also are used in ice cream, for decorative purposes on various sweets, and for snacking. Chocolate chips are made in milk, semisweet, and white chocolate; and can be found in “kiss” shapes as well as oblong chunks. Chips are made by mass producers as well as by the finest chocolate houses.

Schokinag Chocolate ChipsPhoto courtesy of Schokinag.

Chocolate chips can be melted for recipes requiring melted chocolate, but they contain less cocoa butter than regular chocolate, so they may not produce the same results. Chips are also made in non-chocolate flavors such as butterscotch, coffee, mint and peanut butter.


An alcoholic cordial with chocolate flavoring like crème de cacao, which can be drunk as a liqueur or as an ingredient in a cocktail.  Not to be confused with chocolate liquor.


(1) A misleading but basic term, chocolate liquor is a thick, gritty, dark brown paste—a solid mass that contains no alcohol (the term refers to the “essence”—see below). It only turns liquid when it is heated. It is obtained by grinding the nibs, or meat, of the cacao beans. Chocolate liquor is about half cocoa butter and half cocoa solids (which are what is left when the bean is pulverized and the impurities are removed). While technically not yet chocolate, chocolate liquor is the “essence” of chocolate, the pure ground product of the roasted cacao beans, the base for (and main ingredient in) all chocolate products. (2) From the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Standards of Identity: Chocolate liquor is produced by grinding the cacao bean nib (or center) to a smooth, liquid state. In the U.S., chocolate liquor is also called chocolate, unsweetened chocolate, baking chocolate, or bitter chocolate. In Canada and Europe, other names include cocoa (cacao) mass and cocoa liquor.


See Mexican Chocolate.


Milk that has had sugar and chocolate added for flavoring. Chocolate milk is available in whole, low fat and nonfat (skim) milk.


A mixture of chocolate and corn syrup that creates a malleable product, similar to marzipan. It is used in decoration to create flowers, leaves, ribbons, and other decor for desserts. The paste, which can be made with dark, milk, or white chocolate, is thinly rolled out, cut, and shaped.

Chocolate MilkPhoto courtesy of Midwest Dairy Association.CHOCOLATES

A distinction is made between chocolate, the general food product made from cacao beans, and chocolates, which refers to confections made from chocolate: bonbons, pralines, truffles,  etc. While “chocolates” is also the plural form of “chocolate,” simple grammar rules should make this distinction clear. In 1912, the Belgian chocolatier Jean Neuhaus invented the first hard chocolate shell, which he called called couverture, enabling fillings of any kind and consistency—cream, soft caramel, light ganache, liqueurs, etc. Previously, only relatively solid centers like caramels and nut pastes could be enrobed in chocolate—anything less solid would have leaked out. However, this engendered layers of confusion regarding filled chocolates: Neuhaus called his chocolates pralines (creating a dual meaning and confusion with the French caramelized almond pralines, made since 1636). Other chocolatiers referred to them as truffles (creating a dual meaning and confusion with the French balls of ganache, covered in cocoa; sometimes, the shells are filled with ganache, sometimes with creme, whipped cream, fruit purée, liqueur, nut paste, etc.).


A liquid form of chocolate, chocolate syrup is a beverage mixer, a sweet topping and a cooking and baking ingredient. Made in dark and white chocolate, syrups are commonly used to make chocolate milk and shakes, top ice cream sundaes and cakes, and to decorate dessert plates. Chocolate syrup is made from chocolate based foods with sweeteners added. Quality chocolate syrup has a rich chocolate flavor from the cocoa powder or chocolate from which it is made, but many syrups are artificially flavored. Vegetable oils are used to make syrup (replacing the cocoa butter of chocolate), plus sugar, any other flavorings (mint, orange, or raspberry, e.g.) and stabilizers for easy flow.


This word has three definitions. First, it signifies a candy maker who specializes in the creation of fine chocolate confections using artisanal techniques.  It also refers to the shop of that person. The title is also given to individuals who hold various positions in chocolate production facilities, e.g., who evaluate beans or supervise roasting, conching, and blending. These chocolatiers adjust the blends, roasting times and other factors to ensure a final formula that conforms with the house style.


Fine chocolate.


A single origin growing area in the Venezuelan state of Aragua, producing some of the finest beans beans in the world. While much of the crop is Criollo, only the upper part of the Chuao plantation is planted with 100% Criollo beans. The rest is a hybrid of Criollo blanco and Amelonado, a species of Forastero—a cross-breeding technique that has yielded a hardier and more productive plant. An assertive and powerful cacao that has intense flavor, with notes of blueberries, plums, molasses, and traces of vanilla. The chocolate is slightly tart with a lingering intensity, and the finish is clean, long, and strong. With just one taste, it is easy to understand why this chocolate is so highly prized.


cacao beansCocoa is a misspelling of cacao that appeared on a ship’s manifest in the 18th century and led to the replacement of the original word with the erroneous one. The “beans” are the seeds from the pod, or fruit, of the Theobroma cacao tree. At the center of the bean is the nib, from which chocolate is made. There are three species of bean—Criollo, Forastero, and Trinitario—and many subspecies. More than 13,000 clones of cacao have been classified.


(1) Cocoa is a hot beverage made from cocoa powder, generally served sweetened. It is the evolution of the original chocolate, which was a spiced, cold drink of the Maya and Aztecs (and still made by their descendants in Mexico today) brought to Spain by the Conquistadors. While the Maya used honey as a sweetener in their cacahuatl, the Aztecs drank their xocoatl unsweetened. Some people also refer to cocoa powder as cocoa; but the word alone refers to the beverage. See Cocoa Powder , Dutched, and Natural Process Cocoa. (2) From the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Standards of Identity: Cocoa or cocoa powder is the product made by removing part of the fat (i.e., cocoa butter) from the cocoa bean and grinding the remaining material to a powder. Under U.S. regulations, “cocoa” and “cocoa powder” can be used synonymously. 

Some products in the U.S. use the term “% cocoa” interchangeably with “% cacao.” The “% cocoa” on these products really is intended to refer to the total content of ingredients from cacao, not just the amount of cocoa powder. Because this use of the term “% cocoa” may create confusion for consumers, the Chocolate Manufacturers Association encourages the use of the term “% cacao.”

The difference between cocoa and hot chocolate: Cocoa is made from cocoa powder, hot chocolate is made from shaved chocolate. Hot chocolate is richer because chocolate contains the cocoa butter that was removed during the processing of cocoa (and finer chocolate has extra cocoa butter added on top of that). However, you can add a teaspoon or more of unsalted butter to a cup of cocoa to compensate. Some people also add the butter to hot chocolate, for an even richer experience—it’s better than making the beverage with half and half or cream.


The band 20° north and south of the Equator where the Theobroma cacao tree grows. From its origins in Brazil and Central America, it now grows in Ghana, the Cote d’Ivoire, Madagascar, Grenada, Java, Sri Lanka, and Sumatra, in addition to Venezuela, Ecuador, and Mexico.


(1) The natural vegetable fat present in the cacao bean (beans contain approximately 52% cocoa butter by weight). Cocoa butter is a yellowish-white fat, solid at room temperature. It is squeezed from the hot chocolate liquor by high pressure (hydraulic press). After the beans are roasted and finely ground, they are hot from grinding and liquid due to their natural high fat content.

This hot cocoa liquor is pressed through fine screens that permit the run-off of the cocoa butter. Most producers then deodorize the fat to

Cocoa ButterVirgin cocoa butter is not deodorized, keeping the delicious chocolate aroma with its natural characteristics. Normally hard at room temperature, it melts at body temperature. This cocoa butter, which is kosher-parve, is available from

eliminate bitterness and the cocoa butter is added back into the chocolate, where it adds smoothness and mouthfeel—it is responsible for the “melt in your mouth” quality of chocolate. (While cocoa powder, i.e. drinking chocolate, is made by removing some of the cocoa butter, eating chocolate is made by adding it back in. Besides enhancing the flavor, the added cocoa butter serves to make the chocolate more pliant.)

Cocoa butter is not a dairy product and does not contain cholesterol. Cocoa butter is to cocoa beans what olive oil is to olives. While technically classified as a saturated fat because of its chemical structure, it acts almost exactly the opposite in the human body. Composed mostly of stearic acid compounds, it is a healthy fat: it has a neutral effect on cholesterol levels and is not a source of trans fat. About 5% of cocoa butter is used for cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Cocoa butter is unique among vegetable fats because it is a solid at normal room temperature and melts at 89°F to 93°F, just below body temperature. It resists oxidation and rancidity and under normal storage conditions, it can be kept for years without spoiling.

(2) From the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Standards of Identity: Cocoa Butter is the fat naturally present in cacao beans that melts at body temperature and gives chocolate its unique mouth feel. The amount of cocoa butter in cacao beans typically ranges from 50% to 60%.


Same as press cake.


The percentage of a chocolate bar that is made from cocoa beans. This percentage can include the beans themselves, the nibs, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, and/or cocoa powder. If the cocoa content of a bar is 50%, then the remaining 50% is mostly sugar, with some lecithin as an emulsifier and vanilla for flavor. The higher the cocoa content, the darker the chocolate and the stronger the cocoa flavor (also, the higher the level of antioxidants and the more expensive to produce, because cocoa beans are 10 times costlier than sugar). See also Cocoa Solids Content.


After the beans are spread to dry, in some cacao-growing regions of Latin America women perform a ritual dance, shuffling through the beans to continually turn them. This helps the beans dry evenly. The cocoa dance is performed twice a year, after each harvest.


Same as chocolate liquor.


A finely pulverized powder made from the solid portion or  press cake that remains after the cocoa butter has been mechanically pressed under tremendous force from the chocolate liquor (i.e., defatted chocolate mass made from roasted cacao nibs). Cocoa powder is categorized by the amount of cocoa butter that remains after pressing. Cocoa products can range from 10% to 24% fat, depending on whether they’re beverage, breakfast, or cooking cocoa. The powdered product is made by pulverizing and sifting the press cake. The two main types of cocoa powder are natural cocoa powder, also known as natural process cocoa and non-alkalinized cocoa; and Dutch cocoa powder also known as Dutched, alkalinized, or Dutch processed cocoa powder.

Cocoa powder is classified by fat content: Lowfat cocoa contains less than 10% cocoa butter, medium fat cocoa from 10% to 22%, and breakfast cocoa 22% or more. The percentage of cocoa butter can often be seen on the label.

Cocoa PowderCocoaHot chocolate from Pierre Marcolini.

Supermarket brands tend to contain 10% to 12%, while premium brands have 22 percent or more. The percentage of cocoa butter alone should not be used to pre-judge the quality of a brand of cocoa, as most of the flavor is due to the quality of the cocoa beans from which it was made. In baking, the percentage is insignificant since it is offset by the amount of butter added to the recipe. All things being equal, higher percentages of cocoa yield a richer and smoother cup of hot cocoa (hence the name “breakfast cocoa” for the highest-fat category). Some packages of cocoa powder have what appear to be fractions, e.g. 10/12 or 22/24, which indicate the percent of cocoa butter: 10/12 indicates 10% to 12%. Spices, herbs (e.g. mint), fruit and other flavors can be added to the cocoa powder.


Same as chocolate liquor.


The weight of the non-fat cocoa portion of the chocolate. This term is sometimes seen in the labeling of products, and is related to, but not the same as, the cocoa content.


See Confectionary Coating.


After the beans are ground into chocolate liquor or chocolate paste, the paste is refined through uninterrupted stirring, or conching, that smoothes the texture of the chocolate and enhances its flavor. This mechanical rolling and kneading process takes place in huge vats with rotating paddles or blades (the paddles are shaped like conches, giving the process its name). The technique was invented in 1879 in Switzerland by Rodolphe Lindt to make chocolate more blendable (the French word is lissage).

Photo courtesy of International Cocoa Organization.

The process breaks down the sugar crystals that are added to the chocolate, and blends in the sugar, vanilla, additional cocoa butter, powdered milk (for milk chocolate) according to the producer’s formula. The friction and aeration of the paste into a smooth mass also engenders chemical changes that develop and round out the flavor of the liquid chocolate, eliminate moisture and acidity, and flush out volatile flavors, unpleasant odors, and bitterness. Conching enables complete homogenization and emulsion of the cocoa butter into the cocoa paste, producing a velvety smooth chocolate with no grittiness. The chocolate then goes to the molding room, where the chocolate is tempered, poured into the molds, passed through a refrigerated tunnel and then unmolded. The invention of conching machine enabled “modern” chocolate as we know it: smooth, velvety, without graininess or bitterness. New technology can grind the chocolate particles very finely, which can reduce conching time. Fine chocolate is conched for at least a day, some for several days, depending on the bean and the producer’s preference.


Confectionary comes from the Latin noun “confect,” meaning that which is produced with skill. It is also the name given to the shop of a confectioner. Confections, or sweet preparations, have been made by confectioners since Babylonian times (the city of Babylon was founded in 4000 B.C.E.). Confiseur is the French word for confectioner. Confections include cake and pastry, candy, jams and preserves, and other sweets.


A chocolate-type product that substitutes vegetable oil for all or part of the cocoa butter. Along with sugar and cocoa powder, traditional chocolate production techniques are used to create a less expensive coating that does not require tempering, melts easily and hardens quickly. Confectionary coating is used to coat fruit and for other decorating purposes. Products made with confectionary coating will be designated “chocolate-flavored.” In milk chocolate-flavored coatings, whey powders, whey derivatives and dairy blends can be used instead of powdered milk.


The French word for confectioner. Like chocolatier, he term can refer to either a company or a person.


A leaf of the embryo of the cacao bean (or any seed plant). Also called seed leaf.


A purée of fruits or vegetables that is strained to create a thick sauce-like consistency. Fruit coulis is served with cakes, crêpes, French toast, ice cream, soufflés, and waffles. Bonbons can be filled with a coulis of passion fruit, raspberries, strawberries and other fruits, which provides a rush of fresh fruit flavor. In fruit creams, the coulis is mixed with cream to create a thicker, creamy center.


Couverture (COO-ver-tyoor, French for covering or coating, from couvrir, “to cover”) chocolate is professional-quality coating chocolate made with better beans, ground to a finer particle size and with a higher cocoa butter content than chocolate bars for eating, giving it a different texture and consistency. The bars come in kilo (2.2 pound) to 10 pound blocks. Some companies make smaller blocks and “wafers,” discs smaller than a quarter, for the home baker and chocolatier. Couverture is used as covering for candies or other confections. It has been tempered to form a thin, smooth, shiny coating on hand-dipped candies. The extra cocoa butter, generally Couverture36%-39%, makes it easier to work with and allows for a thinner coating shell than non-couverture chocolate. Some chocolatiers use more than one, based on their feeling that different chocolates pair better with different items—some for filled chocolates, e.g., and others to enrobe nuts, fruit peel, yet another for their plain bars. Each chocolate producer makes a variety of couvertures in dark, milk and white. Some chocolatiers use the straight product, others might blend different beans or percentages. Still others might have the chocolate producer mix a special blend “recipe” according to the chocolatier’s own specifications (e.g., more cocoa butter for a smoother mouthfeel). Always ask chocolatiers which couverture they use. It gives the chocolate its defining taste. By understanding, e.g., that you like Couverture A and don’t like Couverture B as much, you will understand your tastes and profiles in chocolate. (It’s like knowing that, e.g., you like French Burgundies far better than Oregon Pinot Noirs.) With most chocolatiers, the brand of couverture isn’t a secret—they’re proud of their choice(s) and want you to be an educated consumer. And, understanding your preferences lets you make more informed choices the next time you purchase chocolate. If you know you love chocolate made with Valrhona couverture, e.g., the next time you see a Guittard chocolate bar you can buy it with impunity. Or, the next time you encounter a new chocolatier and find that he or she uses Guittard couverture, you have a good chance of really enjoying those chocolates. 


Criollo is a flavor cacao, and one of the three primary varietals of cacao bean and the finest of the beans in terms of the flavor and aroma of the processed cacao. Criollo means “Creole” (“native”) in Spanish. It originated in Mexico, Central America, and Venezuela. At the time of Spanish exploration of the New World, it was the predominant type of cacao. Today Criollo cacao accounts for no more than 5% of the world cacao crop, and is used for the world’s finest chocolate. While some Criollos have been successfully transported to elsewhere, e.g. Java Whites, most grow in their place of origin, Venezuela and Colombia; with some in Comores and Madagascar. The beans used to grow in the Caribbean but proved too delicate to weather the hurricanes, and were replaced by Trinitarios. Due to their soft thin skin, fragility, susceptibility to disease and low productivity yields, Criollo’s existence is now in drastic decline and many varietals are threatened with extinction. The fresh beans are thick and have white or pink cotyledons, low acid levels and low bitterness. Once processed they produce a high quality, intensely aromatic, very flavored, smooth chocolate that is very low in acidity, with deep and delicate undertones of varying degrees. The rarest of the Criollo beans is Porcelana. (See Trinitario for photo of Criollo cabosse.) See Theobroma cacao for more information.


Cru is a word borrowed from the wine world, meaning terroir or the physical environment in which the plant is grown. In the cacao world it is used to indicate single varietals and/or areas that have specific plants. The names of the crus generally reflect countries and provinces where the cacao is grown, e.g., Valrhona’s Guanaja (an island off Honduras), Caraïbe (Caribbean), Manjari (Madagascar), and Jivara (South America). [Valrhona further creates bars from cacao grown on particular estates: Gran Couva (a plantation in Trinidad), Ampamakia (a plantation in northern Madagascar), Palmira (a plantation close to Lake Maracaïbo in western Venezuela). In some cases, producers have invented cru names, analogous to brand names. Examples of the latter are Domori’s Puertofino, Puertomar and Apurimac. Different producers can buy beans from the same place of origin but their chocolate will taste very different. There are different factors that contribute to the final product: the specific trees from which the beans came (i.e., the genetics of the cacao), how ripe the pods were at harvest, fermentation technique, optimal drying, and then, the particular “recipe” of the chocolatier, including roasting, refining, conching and blending.


Crumb is the mixture of milk, sugar, and chocolate liquor created in the manufacture of milk chocolate. It is a liquid mixture, not a dry crumb as the name might indicate.


After roasting, the beans are crushed into small particles. It is at this stage that blending occurs (except for single origin chocolate): the chocolatier blends cacao of different varieties and origins to make the house recipes.


A blend of different types of cacao beans.

Information from The Nibble

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