With this month’s focus on the cacao bean, there’s some chocolate jargon popping up around the place. I thought it might be good to have a bit of a glossary here; I’ll add words in from time to time as they come up, but we’ll start with the basics.
Bean-to-bar: Made in small batches, from raw ingredient to finished product by the same artisan. Often these producers source beans directly from farmers, enabling them to ensure an ethical supply chain (see Direct Trade).
Cacao bean: The all-important pod from which chocolate is made. The three most commonly referenced varieties are Criollo (rare but fine), Forastero (common and robust), and Trinitario (a hybrid of Criollo and Forastero).
Chocolate: The finished product, made from cocoa solids, (usually) sugar and (sometimes) extra cocoa butter, milk and other flavourings.
Chocolate maker: Someone who processes cacao into chocolate, e.g large chocolate makers include Valrhona and Callebaut, or closer to home, Whittaker’s; smaller local chocolate makers include Hogarth, Ocho and Wellington Chocolate Factory.
Chocolatier: Someone who uses chocolate to create filled, dipped or otherwise flavoured chocolates. A chocolatier does not make cacao into chocolate (although some chocolatiers are also chocolate makers).
Cocoa butter: The naturally occurring fats from the cacao bean, which give chocolate its magical meltiness, because it liquifies just below human body temperature. Extra cocoa butter is sometimes added to give a smoother finish to chocolate.
Cocoa mass/liquor: Pure liquid cacao – the main ingredient in chocolate. Includes both cocoa solids and cocoa butter in their natural proportions. This is what is referred to when percentages are used to describe chocolate.
Couverture: Fine chocolate, made to be remelted into new products. This is usually what is used for filled and dipped chocolates. Common options include Valrhona and Callebaut; some bean-to-bar producers also make couverture for other chocolatiers to work with.
Direct trade: Means the chocolate-maker sources directly from the farmer, rather than through intermediaries. This means more work for the chocolate-maker but usually results in higher prices for the farmer than Fair Trade agreements offer.
Single-origin: Made from beans from a single geographical location (sometimes a single farm). Most bean-to-bar products are single-origin, and many couverture chocolates are too.
Tempering: The process required to set couverture chocolate properly when making chocolates. This involves heating to a specific temperature to melt, cooling to a lower temperature to allow the correct crystallisation, and then raising the temperature sufficiently that the chocolate is workable but doesn’t lose the crystals that have formed. There are different methods of tempering. Properly tempered chocolate should be glossy, set firmly, and should snap when broken.
There are a few for starters – what chocojargon have I missed?