FREE 2ND DAY AIR SHIPPING ORDERS $75 AND OVER Contact Ghirardelli   |   GIFT CARD BALANCE

Chocabulary from A to Z

Alkalized or Dutch Processed Cocoa Powder Cocoa powder that has been chemically treated (usually with potassium carbonate) to reduce acidity. See Cocoa Powder.

Aroma The variety of scents given off by individual chocolate. Hold different kinds of chocolates to the nose and you'll quickly see that each has an individual and distinctive aroma.

Bloom Dullness, streaks, graying, or whitish discoloration on the surface of chocolate caused by poor tempering, temperature fluctuations and/or moisture in storage. Bloom is unattractive but not harmful.

Bittersweet Chocolate Dark chocolate that contains a minimum of 35% chocolate liquor and less than 12% milk solids. Bittersweet and semi-sweet both fall under this definition; however, bittersweet is often the term used for chocolate with a minimum of 50% chocolate liquor.

Cacao The defining ingredient in all chocolate and chocolate products. The term “cacao” refers to the tree and its fruit and the seeds (otherwise known as cocoa beans) inside the fruit, which are processed to make chocolate.

Varieties of Cacao

  • Forastero: The hardiest and most productive of the three or four cacao varieties, Forastero is believed to have originated in the Amazon basin. Today it is grown around the globe and accounts for over 90% percent of the world's cacao. Chocolate manufacturers value Forasteros for basic robust chocolate flavor.
  • Criollo: Considered the rarest and most prized of the three or four recognized varieties of cacao, Criollo is native to either northern South America and or Mesoamaerica. Prized for their fragrance and delicate and complex flavor, criollos are “flavor beans” which account for less than 1% of the world's cacao.
  • Trinitario: One of three or four recognized varieties of cacao, Trinitario is a hybrid of the flavorful Criollo and hardy Forastero. Along with Criollos, Trinitarios are considered “flavor beans” and they account for less than 5% of the world cacao crop.
  • Nacional or Arriba: The proposed fourth variety of cacao from Ecuador, otherwise considered a finer strain of Forastero.
  • Theobroma Cacao: The botanical name for the tree, fruit, and seeds from which chocolate is made.

Cacao Beans/Cocoa Beans Seeds from the pod of a Theobroma tree. Native to the dense tropical Amazon forests. Commercially grown worldwide in tropical rainforests within 20° latitude of the equator.

Cacao Content Cacao content refers to the amount of the chocolate product that is made of the three cacao components (chocolate liquor, cocoa butter and cocoa powder).

Chocolate Liquor The ground up center (nib) of the cocoa bean (otherwise known as unsweetened chocolate and is often used in baking) in a smooth, liquid state. It contains no alcohol.

Chocolate Truffle A rich confection made from chocolate and cream (ganache), although it may contain butter, eggs, and other flavorings. Truffles may be dipped in chocolate and or rolled in cocoa powder. Although American-style chocolate truffles are larger and may be decorated, the original European chocolate truffle is bite-sized with a rough cocoa-y exterior.

Cocoa The term cocoa is used in different ways. When it appears on a chocolate label with a percentage, it denotes the total cocoa bean (cacao) content of the chocolate and the term is sometimes used interchangeably with chocolate liquor, cacao, cocoa beans or cocoa solids. Not to be confused with Cocoa Powder.

Cocoa Butter The unique ivory colored fat that constitutes 50 to 54% of roasted cocoa beans. Cocoa butter has little flavor of its own, but it adds considerable richness and depth to the flavor of chocolate. Cocoa butter makes chocolate fluid when melted and crisp when hardened. Chocolate melts readily and luxuriously on the tongue because cocoa butter melts at body temperature. Cocoa butter contributes to the creamy smooth texture and the long finish that characterizes fine chocolate.

Cocoa Mass or Cocoa Masse An alternate term for the total cocoa bean, cacao, chocolate liquor, or cocoa content of chocolate.

Cocoa Nibs Pieces of hulled, roasted cocoa beans. Nibs are composed of fat called cocoa butter (50%-54%) and non-fat dry solids fat (46%-50%).

Cocoa Powder Used as an ingredient in baking, or the base for a hot beverage. Cocoa powder is chocolate liquor, which has been pressed to remove most of its fat, and then pulverized to a powder. High fat cocoa powders typically contain 22%-24% cacao fat; low-fat cocoa powders typically contain 10% or less cacao fat. Natural Cocoa Powder: Cocoa powder that has not been “Dutch” processed or treated with chemical alkalis.

Compound Known as confectionery coating. A blend of sugar, vegetable oil, cocoa powder, and other products. Vegetable oil is substituted for cocoa butter to reduce the product cost and to make the coating easier to work with.

Conching Conching is the prolonged heating, mixing and scraping or grinding process done during the last stages of chocolate manufacture. Conching produces both a smooth texture by reducing the size of the particles and mixing them, and a smooth flavor by driving off unwanted harsh flavors and aromas.

Couverture Chocolate with a minimum of 32% cocoa butter. Most couverture these days contains even more than 32% cocoa butter!

Dark Chocolate See Sweet Chocolate below.

Dry or Non-Fat Cocoa Solids The non-fat portion of the cocoa bean.

Dutch Process A treatment used during the making of cocoa powder in which cocoa solids are treated with an alkaline solution to neutralize acidity. This process changes the color of the cocoa and develops a milder chocolate flavor.

Fat Bloom The result of inadequate tempering or temperature abuse of a properly tempered chocolate. Visible as a dull white film on the surface of the chocolate with the possibility of a soft or crumbling texture on the interior. It is a visual and textural defect only. The product is fine to eat.

Ganache A mixture of chocolate and cream used as the filling for chocolate truffles, but also for sauces, glazes and cake fillings.

Gloss The satiny sheen or mirror-like shine on the surface of a perfectly tempered piece of chocolate.

Lecithin A natural emulsifier added to chocolate to promote fluidity when the chocolate is melted. The lecithin used in chocolate manufacture is derived from soy.

Milk Chocolate Chocolate with at least 10% chocolate liquor, 12% milk solids and 3.39% milk fat, combined with sugar, cocoa butter, and vanilla.

Mouthfeel The texture of a substance in your mouth; how the chocolate feels as it melts on your palate.

Nib The center (meat) of the cocoa bean. When ground, the nib becomes chocolate liquor.

Notes The variety of distinctive flavors or hints of flavor that one can pick up when tasting and appreciating an individual piece of chocolate. Chocolate, like fine wine, has a flavor profile that's very individual. It's common to pick up hints of smoke, coffee, cherry, vanilla, nuts or citrus in chocolate. Further, no two people will necessarily pick up the exact same notes in chocolate, depending on their experience savoring chocolate.

Percentage The percentage label on chocolate bars indicates the total amount of the bar, by weight, comprised of cocoa beans (including added cocoa butter or dry cocoa solids). Dark chocolate generally features a higher percentage of cacao than milk chocolate. While a high cacao percentage (60% or more) is a sign of quality in dark chocolate, 90% cacao content in a bar is not necessarily “better.” This is because as the cacao percentage is increased, chocolate becomes more and more bitter in flavor to the point that it becomes unpalatable.

Semi-Sweet Chocolate Also known as bittersweet chocolate. Contains a minimum of 35% chocolate liquor and less than 12% milk solids.

Snap The sound and the feel of chocolate as it breaks or is bitten. A sharp, crisp snap indicates fine particle size, high quality cocoa butter, and good tempering. Dark chocolate generally has more “snap” than softer milk chocolate.

Sugar Bloom Visible as a dull white film on the surface of the chocolate. Dry and hard to the touch, sugar bloom is the result of surface moisture dissolving sugar in the chocolate and subsequent recrystallization of the sugar on the chocolate surface. Typically caused by cold chocolate being exposed to a warm humid environment with resultant condensation forming on the product. It is a visual and textural defect only. The product is fine to eat.

Sweet Chocolate (Dark) Chocolate that contains a minimum of 15% chocolate liquor and less than 12% milk solids with varying amounts of sweeteners and cocoa butter.

Tempering A process of preparing chocolate that involves cooling and heating so that it will solidify with a stable cocoa butter crystal formation. This process is used to prepare chocolate for coating and dipping. Proper tempering, followed by good cooling, is required for good surface gloss and to prevent "fat" bloom.

Unsweetened Chocolate Same as "chocolate liquor." The chocolate liquor is cooled and molded into blocks that can be used for baking.

White Chocolate Contains at least 20% cocoa butter, 14% milk solids, and 3.5% milk fat. It contains sugar, cocoa butter, milk solids and fats, and flavorings. White chocolate is white because it contains no cocoa powder or chocolate liquor/unsweetened chocolate.

White Confectionery Coating Although apparently similar to white chocolate, white confectionery coating contains no part of the cocoa bean. It is made with sugar, milk and milk fat, vanilla, lecithin, and vegetable fats.