The Ultimate Chocolate Glossary: C


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The pod-like fruit of the cacao tree. These pods grow on the trunk of the cacao tree, as well as its main branches. The tree bears fruit (the pods) all year long, but harvesting is generally seasonal. The pods come in multiple types, because cacao trees cross-pollinate easily. Typically, they are green, yellow, or maroon in color; their sizes and shapes can vary widely. It takes knowledge and experience to determine when the pods are ripe for harvest, and harvesting must be done with care, as the tree is delicate. Cocoa pods do not fall from the tree; they must be carefully cut from the tree one at a time. Inside grow the beans that are the source of all chocolate.



Also known as “Chocolate Forest”. The word refers to a system of growing cacao trees among the indigenous canopies of the tropical forest. Most often, cacao trees are planted on open land, in an area that has been cleared of tropical forest. Under the cabruca system, just a few of the tall tropical forest trees are felled, and the mid-height cacao trees are planted under a canopy of shade. While this lowers yield, it also results in less disease and fewer attacks by pests, and the arrangement preserves the valuable biodiversity of the tropical forest. See Forest-Grown.


In the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs, this word refers to both the cacao bean and the drink produced from it. Pronounced cah-cah-WA-tay, it is derived from the Mayan word xocoatl. See also kakawa. (Information from The True History of Chocolate, by Sophie Coe and Michael Coe.)



The name of both the tree (Theobroma cacao) and its unprocessed seeds (beans) from which chocolate is made. The word comes from the Olmec, a highly cultured civilization that preceded the Maya in the southern Gulf of Mexico area. Cacao is divided by quality; bulk cacao is of lesser quality, while better-quality cacao is called flavor, fine, or special. The latter group includes the three chief (and best-known) types of beans, Criollo, Trinitario, and Arriba or Nacional, a sub-group of Forastero beans. Each type has a great number of hybrids. The name is derived from Cacaoti, the messenger of the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, to whom the deity gave cacao beans, intending them for the use of humankind. Most Americans refer to the bean as cocoa.


See Cocoa Beans


See nib. Other terms to identify the nib include amandes de cacao, amandes decortiquees, cacao en grains, and grain de cacao.

This glossary would not have been possible without the kind assistance of my good friend Karen Hochman who runs the website: The Nibble. Karen gave us permission to base our chocolate glossary on hers. TheNibble is one of the Internet’s greatest resources for food articles, reviews, history, and just about anything when it comes to quality food. Please, if you have a few moments, visit my friend Karen’s website and you’ll be amazed at what a valuable resource it is. Thanks for all your help Karen!

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