You say ‘CACAO’ – I say ‘COCOA’: Fine Chocolate Glossary aims to clear up confusion surrounding chocolate nomenclature

By Anthony Myers

- Last updated on GMT

FCIA launches Fine Chocolate Glossary

Related tags Kristy Leissle Cocoa Chocolate

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between ‘CACAO’ and ‘COCOA’? So do we! For consistency, ConfectioneryNews’s editorial guide uses the word 'COCOA', except when quoting other sources, but it can get a little confusing ...

Here’s where the Fine Chocolate Glossary​ will come in very useful for academics, journalists, business owners, researchers, influencers, and of course, chocolate lovers and consumers.

The Fine Chocolate Industry Association’s (FCIA) official Fine Chocolate Glossary is a publicly available thought-leadership tool the authors say is designed to address industry confusion by establishing a common language around all aspects of chocolate.

The Glossary launched with more than 250 terms relating to chocolate and so far approximately 14% have completed entries. The Glossary team expects to bring the entry completion rate to 25% by the end of April.

Dr Kristy Leissle, glossary architect

The CACAO-COCOA debate is at the heart of our discussion around a common language, and I do think people get quite passionate about it, to be honest with you -- Dr Kristy Leissle, glossary architect

Dr Kristy Leissle, glossary architect and author of the book Cocoa, says anyone can explore the Glossary to learn how other experts define terms.

“As a researcher, author, and educator in cocoa and chocolate, I use fine chocolate terminology all the time to communicate effectively”, she says.

Leissle, an academic who has studied the chocolate industry for more than 20 years, says that even she struggles sometimes with the various nomenclature.

“The CACAO-COCOA debate is at the heart of our discussion around a common language, and I do think people get quite passionate about it, to be honest with you,” she says in our podcast interview.

"We already have a definition, an entry completed for CACAO in the glossary, authored Dr Carla Martin and Dr Kathryn Sampek – and I am actually working on the definition for COCOA."

Leissle says she refers to all products of Theobroma cacao as ‘COCOA’ regardless of the level of processing. “But I know that many people use ‘COCOA’ to mean something else, or they may have another word (often ‘CACAO’) that feels more accurate to them. This can lead to confusion, where we think we're talking about the same thing, but we're really not.

“For me, the Fine Chocolate Glossary helps solve this problem. It's a shared space where leaders across many fields and disciplines offer definitions of chocolate terms based on their professional experience and illustrate how those terms ‘work’ in the real world.

“Glossary entries give us a reference point, a place to start, so that we can feel more confident we are truly speaking the same language when it comes to chocolate.”

'CACAO' as defined in the Fine Chocolate Glossary

In the Anglophone context, “cocoa” is used commonly in reference to the tree and the seed, and especially as a referent for the commodity once it has been sold or processed. An important caveat is the use of the word “cacao” (instead of “cocoa”) is symbolically important in the niche, fine/specialty/craft cacao-chocolate community, where many see it as a return to the historical roots of the crop and a point of distinction from bulk commodity cocoa.

A group of more than 30 chocolate industry professionals, including researchers and scholars, spent 12 months preparing Glossary entries for its debut. Their diverse and extensive professional experience – which collectively spans North America, Central and South America, the Caribbean, Europe, and Africa–is reflected in the Glossary entries.

The FCIA says entries will continue to be authored by invited experts and will be subject to ongoing review and revision by its members and external stakeholders.

"Whatever your reason, we invite you to explore the Glossary from A to Z - we look forward to welcoming your voice to the conversation,” says Leissle.

  • The Fine Chocolate Glossary​ was created in partnership with TSIRO and MOCCA.
  • Listen to our exclusive podcast with Dr Kristy Leissle to find out more about the Glossary – and all things chocolatey.

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