The information below is comprised from a series of highly reliable chocolate industry resources and compiled by us. Have fun!
Cacao is pronounced Ka-Kow. Is this really what we know of today as cocoa?
The short answer is yes. But don’t stop reading just yet. How did the name change? Was it through error as is became Anglicized? Well, experts say that’s exactly what happened.
So what is Cacao?
The official name of the chocolate tree is Theobroma cacao or the ”food of the gods” and is the source of cocoa and chocolate. Cacao originated millions of years ago in the upper regions of the Amazon River Basin in what are now Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Brazil.
According the The World Cocoa Foundation this vast area of rain forest is rapidly disappearing as the forest is cut down to exploit the wood and transform the region into pastureland and agricultural fields for growing crops such as soybeans. Cacao in its native habitat is in danger of being destroyed or at least its genetic variability, or germplasm, lost because of this human activity.
Cacoa Endangerment – According to the World Cocoa Foundation, the United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service (ARS), intends to collect wild cacao plants from this region and preserve them in international collections so that they are not lost forever. For example, we know from historical records that the majority of disease resistant trees available today are descended from a few individual trees collected in Peru in the 1930s and 1940s. It is essential that we preserve more of the wild trees from their center of origin because we don’t know what important traits they may possess.
Cocoa Origins -
Chocolate is a product of the cacao bean (also known as a cocoa bean) which grows in pod-like fruits on tropical cacao trees.
Ground up and roasted, cacao beans are the all-natural raw material for the chocolate we love. Most of the chocolate we eat has its roots in Africa, which generates about 70% of the world’s cacao beans.
Top Cacao Countries:
- The West African country of Côte d’Ivoire alone produces some 1.4 million tons of beans a year.
- Ghana is the world’s second largest producer with over 600,000 tons per year.
- Other top cacao-growing countries include Indonesia, Brazil, Ecuador, Togo, Mexico and Papua New Guinea.
- Cacao beans are grown also in other Latin American countries and the Caribbean, but their share of the market is smaller.
Chocolate’s flavor depends mainly on the kinds of cacao beans used to make it. Cacao beans vary widely from country to country and sometimes even from farm to farm.
Learn more about the different kinds of beans grown around the world and factors affecting their taste:
- Bulk Beans vs. Flavor Beans- The Workhorses and The Thoroughbreds
- Kinds of Trees: Forastero, Criollo and Trinitario
- Mixing Beans: A Blend For The Perfect Taste
- Ecuador: Flavor Capitol
- Factors Affecting Taste: The Origins of Flavor
- Flavors Across the Globe: Tasting Notes by Country
% CACAO – Percentage in a chocolate derived from the cocoa bean inclusive of added cocoa butter. The ‘% cacao’ excludes sugar, vanilla beans, soya lecithin as well as any other flavors or additives, natural or artificial. The Dark Chocolate Cafe and Bakery focuses on 64%-100% cacoa percentage in our haute cuisine desserts.
Cacao trees are small, understory trees that need rich, well-drained soils. They naturally grow within 20 degrees of either side of the equator because they need about 2000 millimeters of rainfall a year, and temperatures in the range of 21 to 32 degrees Celsius. Cacao trees cannot tolerate a temperature lower than 15 degrees Celsius (59 degrees Fahrenheit).
Basically, there are three main kinds of cacao trees grown throughout the world and each has their own flavor profiles and growth characteristics.
- Forastero: Forastero, the main bulk bean, accounts for about 90 percent of all beans. It has a clean chocolate flavor with low acidity and is prized for its disease resistance and consistent performance. While Forastero beans do not have fruity or aromatic flavors found in other beans, the bean’s dependability makes it a favorite for large chocolate producers.
The most commonly grown bean is forastero, a large group of wild and cultivated cacaos, most likely native to the Amazon basin. The African cocoa crop is entirely of the Forastero variety. They are significantly hardier and of higher yield than Criollo. The source of most chocolate marketed, forastero cocoas are typically strong in classic “chocolate” flavor, but have a short duration and are unsupported by secondary flavors, producing “quite bland” chocolate.
- Criollo: Treasured for its complex, fruity flavor, Criollo is a flavor bean grown mainly in Latin America. Its susceptibility to disease and low productivity, however, means many cacao farmers have traded its rich flavor for hardier plants.
Representing only five percent of all cocoa beans grown, criollo is the rarest and most expensive cocoa on the market and is native to Central America, the Caribbean islands and the northern tier of South American states. There is some dispute about the genetic purity of cocoas sold today as Criollo, as most populations have been exposed to the genetic influence of other varieties. Criollos are particularly difficult to grow, as they are vulnerable to a variety of environmental threats and produce low yields of cocoa per tree. The flavor of Criollo is described as delicate yet complex, low in classic chocolate flavor, but rich in “secondary” notes of long duration.
- Trinitario: A fusion of the two strains, Trinitario is believed to combine the best of both- good flavor and hardiness. Also considered a flavor bean, it gets its name from the island of Trinidad where it was first grown. Its flavor notes range from spicy to earthy to fruity to highly acidic.
Trinitario is a natural hybrid of Criollo and Forastero. Trinitario originated in Trinidad after an introduction of Forastero to the local Criollo crop. Nearly all cacao produced over the past five decades is of the Forastero or lower-grade Trinitario varieties.
ADDED COCOA BUTTER – Cocoa butter that supplements the amount of cocoa butter naturally inherent in the cocoa bean. Chocolate with added cocoa butter is correctly labeled in terms of its ‘% cacao’, and, any added cocoa butter is included in this percentage, since it is also a derivative of the cacao bean. Chocolate with NO added cocoa butter may be labeled in terms of its ‘% cacao mass’.
BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE- A chocolate that is at least 35% chocolate liquor may be called either semisweet or bittersweet, the choice being left to the manufacturer.
BLENDING. In artisan style chocolate making, this process normally occurs after roasting, winnowing and grinding. During these steps, beans are kept separate so that each can receive the treatment optimal for that bean type.
BLOOM- Cocoa butter from within the chocolate that rises to the surface when the chocolate is exposed to warm temperatures and then cooled. (The chocolate may be remelted and retempered to return it to its bloom-free state.)
CACAO – The raw, agricultural ingredient used to make chocolate. Also see ‘Cacao Mass’. (While ‘Cacao’ and ‘Cocoa’ are technically interchangeable, the chocolate industry tends to use the former to describe the raw ingredient, and the latter to reference elements such as cocoa powder and cocoa butter.)
CACAO MASS – Chocolate derived from cacao exclusive of added cocoa butter as well as sugar, vanilla beans, soya lecithin and any other natural or artificial flavoring or additive (i.e. just the ground up cocoa bean). Applied correctly, the term describes chocolate that includes no added cocoa butter. Synonymous with ‘Chocolate Liquor’.
CHOCOLATE. Under US standards of identity, ‘chocolate’ refers to ‘chocolate liquor’, thus technically speaking, the terms ‘chocolate liquor’, ‘cocoa mass’ and ‘chocolate’ are all the same thing. More generally speaking, ‘chocolate’ is used to describe the familiar product we all know that is made from five basic ingredients: cacao beans, pure cane sugar, cocoa butter, soya lecithin and vanilla beans.
CHOCOLATE LIQUOR. Comprised of 52-54% (50-60% legally) cocoa butter (fat) and 46%-48% cocoa solids (cocoa powder). Chocolate liquor (the American term for ‘cocoa mass’) results when cacao nibs are ground into finer and finer particles. It does not contain any alcohol.
COCOA BUTTER. The part of the cacao bean that is fat. A process of pressing chocolate liquor separates cocoa butter from cocoa powder. White chocolate is pure cocoa butter. Cocoa butter is not a dairy product.
COCOA POWDER. The solids that remain once cocoa butter is extracted or pressed from chocolate liquor.
CONCHING. The final and key step in chocolate flavor development. A concher is used to simultaneously churn and cook the chocolate allowing it to develop different flavors while also smoothening the ground chocolate even further. Depending on the flavor and chocolate style desired (French, Belgian or Swiss for instance), different lengths of time and temperatures may be used in conching, and innumerable flavor characteristics may be achieved. Guittard has over 135 years of custom chocolate making and conching experience.
COTYLEDONS. The part of the fresh cut cacao bean that later becomes the nib when the cacao bean is dried.
COUVERTURE. Chocolate containing NOT less than 32% cocoa butter. Fine quality chocolate. The term is defined for legal purposes only in France, although this French definition has become an accepted standard worldwide.
MILK CHOCOLATE. A chocolate that contains at least 10% cocoa mass (chocolate liquor) and 12% whole milk. E. Guittard milk chocolate contains 38% cacao, almost four times this legal minimum.
NIBS. The part of a cacao bean that, once roasted, is ground into cocoa mass (chocolate liquor). Raw, this part of the cacao bean is referred to as the cotyledons.
ROASTING. Dried cacao beans arriving from their origin country must first be roasted before being winnowed. The optimal roasting time and temperature depends on the bean variety, bean size, moisture content, season of the year and flavor desired, among other factors. Each lot of beans used to make E. Guittard chocolate is roasted separately in order to retain the unique flavor characteristics of each bean type.
SEMISWEET CHOCOLATE. A chocolate that is at least 35% chocolate liquor may be called either semisweet or bittersweet, the choice being left to the manufacturer.
STONE GRINDING. After winnowing, cacao nibs are slowly ground down into smaller and smaller particles. The stone grinding machine, or melangeur, is a hallmark of the artisan French chocolate making process and is no longer found in larger factories.
SUGAR BLOOM. Sugar from within the chocolate that rises to the chocolate’s surface when the chocolate is exposed to moisture, such as the condensation that develops on the chocolate’s surface when it is taken from the refrigerator. (Chocolate should not be refrigerated for this reason. The chocolate may be remelted and retempered to return it to its original bloom-free form.)
TEMPERING. The process of warming chocolate, mixing it to a perfect consistency and then cooling it with carefully controlled mixing and hold times to 85°-88°F for milk chocolate or 88°-90°F for dark chocolate, such that the crystals that form in the cocoa butter are uniform throughout the product.
UNSWEETENED CHOCOLATE. Cocoa mass (chocolate liquor) that generally contains 50-58% cocoa butter (and 42-50% cocoa solids), and no sugar. It may contain vanilla beans and soya lecithin (emulsifier).
WINNOWING. The process of crushing the roasted beans into small pieces called ‘nibs’ and removing the outer shells, or ‘hulls’. Removing the hulls in their entirety is crucial to attaining perfect chocolate flavor, so the Guittard winnower, or ‘cracker and fanner’, is carefully tuned so that the hulls, which are lighter than the nibs, can be entirely removed.
- ^ “All About Chocolate: The Cacao Tree”. Xocoatl. http://www.xocoatl.org/tree.htm. Retrieved 20 December 2007.
- ^ a b c d e f Kowalchuk, Kristine. “Cuckoo for Cocoa”. Westworld Alberta. http://www.ama.ab.ca/cps/rde/xchg/ama/web/membership_WWarticle-Feb08-UpFront-10192.htm. Retrieved 1 February 2008.
- ^ “Criollo Chocolate: Efficient Food of the Gods”. MetaEfficient. http://www.metaefficient.com/food-and-drink/criollo-chocolate-efficient-food-of-the-gods.html. Retrieved 17 May 2008.
- ^ “Sensational Chocolates: Discover the Intense Robust flavor of 100% “Grand Cru” Chocolate”. Sensational Chocolates. http://www.sensationalchocolates.com/ingredients.html. Retrieved 17 May 2008.
- ^ “What are the varieties of cocoa?”. International Cocoa Organization. 21 July 1998. Archived from the original on 18 February 2006. http://web.archive.org/web/20060218083848/http://www.icco.org/questions/varieties.htm. Retrieved 27 June 2006.