Chocolate Glossary: Decoding the Language of Cocoa

Understanding chocolate can sometimes feel like learning a new language. With various terms, processes, and classifications, it’s essential to have a clear guide. Dive into our refined and concise glossary, designed to illuminate the world of chocolate from its origins to the finished product.

Antioxidants: Found naturally in plants, these substances shield cells from harm by unstable molecules known as “free radicals.” Antioxidant-rich foods like dark chocolate can help lower the risk of certain chronic diseases.

Baker’s Chocolate vs. Baking Chocolate: Despite the brand “Baker’s Chocolate” being a well-recognized name, baking chocolate is usually an unsweetened, solid chocolate derived entirely from chocolate liquor or pure cacao. It’s commonly used in baked goods.

Bean to Bar Chocolate: Refers to the procedure where chocolate producers buy dried cacao beans and produce chocolate from scratch. It includes roasting, cracking, winnowing, grinding, conching, tempering, and molding into bars.

Bloom: Chocolate can exhibit two types of “bloom” due to temperature changes:

Sugar Bloom: When chocolate is stored in damp, cold places, sugar surfaces causing white spots and a gritty texture.

Fat Bloom: Varying temperatures can cause cacao butter to re-solidify, producing a grayish-white layer on the chocolate.

Bittersweet Chocolate: This variant has less sugar and more cacao compared to semisweet chocolate. However, both types in the U.S. must have at least 35% chocolate liquor.

Cacao vs. Cocoa: “Cacao” is rooted in indigenous Mesoamerican languages. There’s a theory that “cocoa” was an English misspelling of “cacao.” Today, “cacao” often denotes the unprocessed version, whereas “cocoa” refers to the processed product.

Cacao Beans: These seeds come from the cacao pods of the Theobroma cacao tree and are the foundation for chocolate production.

Cacao Belt: A tropical region around the equator where cacao plants flourish.

Cacao Butter: Extracted from cacao nibs, this fat is vital for white chocolate and is renowned for its antioxidant properties.

Cacao Mass (or Chocolate Liquor): This is the product obtained from grinding cacao nibs, consisting of roughly equal parts cacao solids and cacao butter.

Chocolate Maker vs. Chocolatier: A chocolate maker produces chocolate from raw cacao beans, while a chocolatier crafts chocolates and confections using pre-made chocolate.

Conching: A pivotal chocolate-making process where the product is refined to develop its aroma, taste, and smoothness.

Dark Chocolate: Primarily made of cacao beans and sugar, this variety is known for its health benefits.

Direct Trade: Represents a direct relationship between chocolate companies and the farmers or cooperatives supplying the cacao beans.

Fair Trade Certified: This certification aims to provide a fair wage to cacao farmers and tackle challenges in the chocolate industry, like deforestation and unethical labour practices.

Fermentation: An essential stage post-harvest, where cacao beans are fermented to develop flavour before drying.

Grand Cru: Borrowed from the wine domain, this term signifies chocolate made from beans cultivated in a specific region, emphasizing the unique taste influenced by that area.

Lecithin: Used in many chocolates, this emulsifier aids in achieving the desired chocolate consistency.

Melanger: A device used for grinding cacao nibs into a smooth paste known as chocolate liquor. This process also integrates sugar into the mixture. After this step, the chocolate undergoes conching.

Milk Chocolate: A type of chocolate comprising cacao, sugar, and milk. Some variants may contain vanilla and lecithin. In the U.S., to be classified as milk chocolate, it must contain at least 10% chocolate liquor and 12% milk solids.

Roasting: An essential step in the bean-to-bar chocolate-making process. Once cacao beans are harvested, fermented, and dried, they undergo roasting. This step amplifies the inherent flavours and aromas of chocolate. The specifics of roasting, like duration and temperature, depend on the type of bean and the chocolatier’s preference.

Semisweet Chocolate: A chocolate variant with relatively higher sugar content than bittersweet chocolate. However, both must contain at least 35% chocolate liquor in the U.S. The term used on packaging depends on the manufacturer.

Single Estate (or Single Plantation or Estate-Grown): Denotes chocolate made exclusively from cacao beans harvested from a particular estate or plantation. This designation accentuates the unique flavours of that specific locale.

Single-Origin: Chocolate derived from cacao beans of a specific farm, valley, region, or even country. Such chocolate underscores the unique flavours of a particular region, although the exact boundaries of “single-origin” can vary.

Sustainable: Refers to chocolate made adhering to ethical and eco-friendly practices. Sustainable chocolate emphasizes fair wages, good working conditions, and eco-friendly farming practices. The push for sustainability in chocolate has even led to innovations like Orijin, a digital platform aimed at ensuring complete transparency from cacao tree to the chocolate bar.

Tempering: A meticulous process of heating and cooling chocolate to stabilize the cacao butter crystals. Proper tempering results in glossy, smooth chocolate that breaks with a distinct snap.

Terroir: A term that embodies the complete natural environment in which cacao grows. Everything from the soil to the surrounding vegetation can influence the flavour of the cacao bean.

Theobroma Cacao: The scientific name for the cacao tree, which thrives in the “cacao belt,” an area 20 degrees on either side of the equator. The name translates to “food of the gods.”

Theobromine: A beneficial compound found in chocolate. Although related to caffeine, it doesn’t produce the same intensity of stimulation. Consuming theobromine can offer cognitive and mood-enhancing effects.

Tree to Bar: A chocolate-making process that begins at the tree level. Tree-to-bar chocolate makers are involved in every step, from tending the cacao trees to the final chocolate product.

Unsweetened Chocolate: Pure chocolate without any sugar. It’s inherently bitter but can have a range of intricate flavours if it’s of high quality.

White Chocolate: Contains cacao butter but lacks cacao solids, which gives chocolate its colour. It’s made up of sugar, cacao butter, milk solids, and usually vanilla. While it doesn’t offer the health benefits of dark chocolate, it’s still a delightful treat.

Winnowing: A process that follows roasting, where the outer shells of cacao beans are cracked and separated to retrieve the inner cacao nibs.

Xocoatl (or Xocolatl): An ancient term believed to denote cacao, translating to “bitter water.” Some scholars dispute this etymology, suggesting “chicolatl” or “beaten drink” as the original term.


What are the 6 types of chocolate?

There are six main types of chocolate: dark, milk, white, unsweetened, bittersweet, and semisweet. Each type varies in cacao content, sweetness, and additional ingredients.

What is the term used for chocolate?

The term “chocolate” is derived from the Nahuatl word “xocolātl,” which means “bitter water.” It refers to the traditional drink made from cacao beans.

What are chocolate pieces called?

Chocolate pieces are commonly referred to as “chocolate chips.” They are small chunks of chocolate used in baking and for snacking.

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