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Chocolate Terms and Definitions

Chocolate on Marble SlabBaking Chocolate
Also known as unsweetened chocolate or chocolate liquor, baking chocolate is made from the finely ground centers (called the nibs) of roasted cocoa beans. There is no added sugar in baking chocolate. It is used often in dessert recipes with sugar as a separate ingredient.

Bittersweet (or Semisweet) Chocolate
The darkest of eating chocolate, bittersweet chocolate has the highest percentage of chocolate liquor and may contain extra cocoa butter. According to U.S. regulations called the Standards of Identity, both bittersweet and semi-sweet chocolate must contain at least 35 % chocolate liquor. Generally, bittersweet chocolate, which is primarily used for baking, contains at least 50% cacao but can be much higher.

Cacao (and Cacao %)
The term refers to the ingredients derived from the cocoa bean. The source of the cacao components are chocolate liquor, cocoa butter and cocoa powder. The % cacao refers to the total amount of these ingredients contained, by weight, in the finished product.

Chocolate Flavored Coating
Chocolate flavored coatings are a blend of chocolate liquor cocoa powder and vegetable fats in addition to or other than cocoa butter. Some coatings are made with chocolate liquor and have a vegetable fat added to the mixture. Coatings often appear similar to other chocolate products using sugar, milk and flavorings and are most often used to coat or cover confectionery or ice cream products, but also can be molded into solid bars or shapes. While confections made with coatings that contain vegetable fats cannot be called "chocolate" if the coating contains chocolate liquor it may legally use the claim "made with chocolate" since "chocolate" is a synonym by U.S. regulation with chocolate liquor.

Chocolate Liquor
This ingredient, essential to chocolate confectionery production, is produced by grinding the cacao bean nib (or center of the bean) to a smooth, liquid state. According to U.S. regulations, chocolate liquor may also be called chocolate, unsweetened chocolate, baking chocolate, or bitter chocolate. Chocolate liquor does not contain vegetable fat. In Canada and Europe, other names include cocoa (or cacao) mass and cocoa liquor. It also does not contain alcohol.

Cocoa Beans
These are the seeds from the pod (or fruit) of Theobroma cacao, a tree native to the tropical Amazon forests. It is grown commercially worldwide in tropical rainforests within 20° latitude of the equator.
Cocoa Butter
The fat naturally present in cocoa beans that melts at body temperature and gives chocolate its unique mouth feel. The amount of cocoa butter in cacao beans typically ranges from 50 to 60 percent. Cocoa butter is not a dairy product.

Cocoa or Cocoa Powder
The product made by removing part of the fat (or cocoa butter) from the nib (center) of the cocoa bean and grinding the remaining material to a powder. Under U.S. regulations, "cocoa" and "cocoa powder" can be used synonymously.

Dark Chocolate
The term dark chocolate is not defined by regulation in the U.S. Standards of Identity in the United States. Within the industry however, it is used to refer to both sweet and bittersweet chocolates containing high levels of chocolate liquor. Many dark chocolates on the market today contain more than 35% chocolate liquor. The liquor combined with the cocoa butter and any added cocoa powder equal the % cacao. It is common to see dark chocolates containing 45-80% cacao on the market today. Dark chocolates may contain milk fat to soften the texture, but do not generally have a milky flavor.

Dutch (or Dutched) Process
A treatment used during the making of chocolate liquor or cocoa powder in which cocoa solids are treated with an alkaline solution to neutralize acidity. This process darkens the color of the cocoa and develops a milder chocolate flavor. When dutched or alkalized chocolate liquor and cocoa are used in a food product, the terms "dutched" or "alkalized" are included on the ingredient declaration for products sold in the U.S.

Milk Chocolate
The most common kind of eating chocolate; it is made by combining chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, milk or cream, sweeteners such as sugars and flavorings. According to U.S.Food and Drug regulations, all milk chocolate must contain at least 10 % chocolate liquor and at least 12 % milk solids. The only fats allowed in milk chocolate are milk fat and cocoa butter. The varieties of milk chocolates in the marketplace are expanding. Some high cacao % milk chocolates essentially are dark chocolates with additional dairy ingredients.

The nib is the center (meat) of the cocoa bean. Roasted or unroasted cocoa beans are mechanically cracked, allowing the separation of the cocoa bean shell from the cocoa nib.

Semisweet (or Bittersweet) Chocolate
Like bittersweet chocolate, semisweet chocolate is required by the U.S. Standards of Identity to contain at least 35 % chocolate liquor. Generally, semisweet chocolate contains 35 - 45% chocolate liquor. 2

Sweet Chocolate
Sweet chocolate is a combination of chocolate liquor, cocoa butter and sugar containing at least 15% chocolate liquor according to the U.S. Standards of Identity.

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

White Chocolate
White chocolate is a blend of cocoa butter, milk, sugar, and flavor. No chocolate solids other than cocoa butter are present, which explains the lack of brown color. According to U.S. regulations, white chocolate needs to be at least 20% (by weight) cocoa butter, at least 14% total milk solids, and less than 55% sweeteners (such as sugar).