Chocolate Glossary

Artisan Chocolate – Artisan chocolate is used to describe chocolate made by small chocolate makers–artisans–who understand their craft intimately. Artisan chocolate must be made under the care and supervision of a knowledgeable chocolate maker (master chocolatier) who could be defined as an artisan. If there is no artisan at a company, then the chocolate cannot accurately be called artisanal.

Cacao – Refers to Theobroma cacao tree, and the fruits it produces, as well as their seeds. The fermented and dried cacao seeds are also often referred to as “cocoa” beans.

Chocolate Maker – Companies that produce chocolate in small batches from fermented and dried cocoa beans.

Chocolate Manufacturers – Large companies that produce a broad range of mass market and/or specialty chocolate from dried cocoa beans.

Chocolate Liquor – The term chocolate liquor has nothing to do with alcohol in any way but refers to the nibs being in the liquid state when they are ground.

Chocolate or Cocoa Percentage – The percentage of chocolate liquor + cocoa butter + cocoa powder in a chocolate has little bearing on the quality. For example, a 70% chocolate may range from excellent to terrible. The only specific thing that we can say about a 70% chocolate bar, with any certainty, is that it has about 30% sugar in the formulation.

Chocolatier – This term refers to a person that uses fine chocolate to create unique chocolate products and confectionery.

Cocoa Butter – Cocoa butter is rare among vegetable fats because it is mostly solid at room temperature, though it starts to noticeably soften and melt at just a few degrees beneath body temperature, leading to its unique melting mouthfeel. These interesting qualities are due to the fact that cocoa butter is polymorphic, with about six, somewhat overlapping, crystallization and melting ranges. Cocoa butter is also rare in that it resists rancidity, and can be stored for much longer periods of time than most vegetable fats without perish. Additional uses include pharmaceutical and cosmetic purposes.

Cocoa Butter Percentage – Mass market chocolates often have much lower cocoa butter percentages than fine chocolate because cocoa butter is an expensive ingredient. Higher percentages of cocoa butter in fine chocolate provide a positive impact on flavor and mouthfeel.

Cocoa Nibs – The broken pieces of the fermented, dried, and usually roasted, cocoa bean, after the shell–actually the thin seed coat of the cocoa bean–has been removed via a process called winnowing. Cocoa nibs may be eaten out of hand, or ground into chocolate liquor, which itself may be used for chocolate making or pressing to extract the fat of the cocoa bean, called cocoa butter.

Cocoa Powder – Cocoa powder, though lower in cocoa butter than the initial chocolate liquor from which it is made, has from 10-22% cocoa butter content. More flavorful fine cocoa powder will generally have a higher cocoa butter percentage.

Couverture – Couverture chocolate is the name given to high-quality chocolate that contains extra cocoa butter (32–39%). Couverture is made with care from cacao beans that are fermented and dried then roasted, refined and conched for the overall flavor and texture of the chocolate. Couverture is generally used by chocolatiers to coat ganache or in molded chocolate bonbons, though it may also be molded into bar form, or used in cooking and baking.

Dark Chocolate – Dark chocolate is chocolate without milk solids added. The basic ingredients in dark chocolate are cacao beans, sugar, an emulsifier, such as lecithin, to preserve texture and flavorings such as vanilla. Dark chocolate is often distinguished by the percentage of cocoa solids in the bar. The cocoa content of commercial dark chocolate bars can range from 30% (sweet dark) to 70%, 75%, or even above 80% for extremely dark bars. Common terms used to distinguish the cocoa content of dark chocolate bars include bittersweet, semi-sweet, and sweet dark chocolate.

Lecithin – Lecithin is an emulsifier and decreases the viscosity of chocolate. It is generally added during the end of the conching process. Some fine chocolate makers use lecithin while others do not – that is the personal choice of the chocolate maker.

Milk Chocolate – Milk chocolate is typically much sweeter than dark chocolate and accounts for a minimum of 87.5% of the solid chocolate consumed in the United States. Fine milk chocolate contains: cacao liquor, sugar, cacao (cocoa) butter, milk solids, milk fat, lecithin and vanilla. The U.S. Government requires a 10% concentration of chocolate liquor in milk while EU regulations specify a minimum of 25% cocoa solids.

Roasting – Cocoa beans are roasted to develop the characteristic aroma and taste of chocolate. The length of the roasting process and its temperatures vary. For those familiar with coffee roasting, cocoa roasting times and temperatures is generally significantly longer and lower. Fine chocolate manufacturers generally do not roast every origin of cocoa beans in the same way, but try to find the combination of time and temperature that best enhances a particular origin’s flavor.

Tempering – Tempering is a process in which the temperature of the chocolate is manipulated to allow for a controlled crystallization of the cocoa butter to occur, thus allowing the cooled chocolate to have a good “snap,” glossy sheen, and proper mouthfeel. Master chocolatiers develop a highly refined understanding of the tempering process through experience, because only this experience ensures that each chocolate product is perfectly tempered.

White Chocolate – White chocolate is not technically chocolate because it does not contain cocoa solids, the primary nutritional constituent of chocolate liquor. White chocolate is characterized by a pale yellow or ivory appearance and commonly consists of cocoa butter, sugar and milk solids. During the manufacturing process, the dark-colored solids of the cocoa bean are separated from its fatty content but, unlike conventional chocolates, the cocoa solids are not later recombined. As a result, white chocolate contains only trace amounts of the stimulants theobromine and caffeine, and lacks the antioxidant properties and characterizing ingredients of chocolate, such as thiamine, riboflavin, and phenyl ethylamine.

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