July 26, 2018

Glossary of Chocolate Terminology

By Jerry Toth

As the chocolate industry continues to evolve, so does the language we use to describe its many facets and distinctions. Here’s a simple glossary:

"Bean to bar” vs “tree to bar”

A “bean to bar” chocolate maker is someone who purchases dried cacao beans from someone else and uses these cacao beans to produce chocolate. A “tree to bar” chocolate maker is directly involved with the care and management of the cacao trees, including the harvesting, fermenting and drying of the cacao beans, and then uses those cacao beans to produce chocolate. In other words, the “bean to bar” chocolate maker’s work begins at the factory, whereas the “tree to bar” chocolate maker’s work begins on the land. To’ak is a “tree to bar” chocolate maker.

Jerry and TMA team observing a seedling

“Fine flavor cacao” vs “bulk cacao”

Historically, cacao quality was differentiated according to two tiers: fine flavor and bulk, with the former rightfully earning a higher price on the commodity market. “Fine flavor” status is attributed to the following cacao varieties/cultivars: Nacional (Ecuador); Criollo (principally Venezuela and Central America); and Trinitario (various countries, mostly in Latin America). In contrast, “forastero” cacao was classified as “bulk cacao,” and includes almost all cacao produced in Africa.

As the chocolate industry becomes increasingly refined, this system is rapidly becoming obsolete. The modern-day chocolate industry is quickly moving in the direction of the wine industry, in the sense of classifying cacao according to variety/cultivar and appellation. For the record, To’ak’s cacao is officially considered “fine flavor,” by virtue of the fact that it comes from Ecuador. More specifically, To’ak exclusively uses heirloom Nacional cacao from the valley of Piedra de Plata in the province of Manabí. Note: in the British Commonwealth, the term is spelled “fine flavour.” It’s a less efficient but more aesthetically-appealing way to spell.

Dry Cacao beans

“Single origin” vs “blend”

“Single-origin” chocolate is made with cacao beans that were sourced from a single harvest area, such as a single farm, valley, or region. There is no official rule about how small the harvest area must be to qualify as “single-origin,” and sometimes this term is used very loosely. At To’ak, our single-origin chocolate is made from cacao beans sourced from a single valley in Ecuador. A “blend” is chocolate produced from various different appellations. Single origin chocolate has the ability to highlight the specific flavor and aroma characteristics of a particular place.

Sundown in Ecuador (Piedra del Plata)

“Two-ingredient” dark chocolate

Most 20th-century dark chocolate makers used four or five ingredients: cacao mass, sugar, extra cacao butter, vanilla, and soy lecithin. A “two-ingredient” chocolate bar refers to the fact that only two ingredients were used to produce it: cacao mass and sugar. In our opinion, “two ingredient” chocolate is the most effective way to showcase the signature flavors and aromas of cacao from a particular place and time.

The disadvantage of “two ingredient” chocolate is that it’s actually harder to produce. Adding extra cacao butter and emulsifiers such as soy lecithin make it easier to grind and refine the chocolate, as well as mold and temper it. The disadvantage of these additives, particularly in the case of extra cacao butter, is that they have the tendency to alter the flavor and aroma of the chocolate in a direction which veers away from the essential flavor and aroma profile of the cacao itself. The addition of vanilla, meanwhile, is an intentional alteration of flavor in a direction that some chocolate makers believe to be desirable, although some purists among us respectfully disagree. To’ak Chocolate is exclusively “two-ingredient”. One of those ingredients is organic cacao mass and the other ingredient is organic cane sugar.

Cacao Grinder

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