Chocolate Science: An Introduction; is it Cacao or Cocoa?

 

This is the first installment….I have over 30 years of experience in the analysis of chocolate and thought that with all that time and experience, I should have something useful to say. The topics may be rather eclectic, which will be a reflection of my interests, and could range from a specific chemical to archaeological related information. With all the interest about health effects related to cocoa, I also will be including some historical uses and anecdotes about cocoa or cacao.

 

The topic of cacao or cocoa seems like a good place to start. Until I became involved in archaeological pursuits, I called everything cocoa. Then at a meeting several years ago I was taken to task by an archaeological colleague who informed me about the differences between cacao and cocoa. It is deceptively simple; Cocoa is the brown material that usually we buy in the can and cacao is everything before that, including what grows on the trees.

 

To further confuse the issue, many manufacturers are labeling product with a percentage of cacao. The percent cacao is the sum of the cocoa solids and cocoa butter, so a product labeled 65% cacao has a combination of cocoa butter and cocoa that adds up the 65%. Although, it is worth noting that this number is no indication about the quality of the cacao.  In fact, if you are familiar with cocoa butter soap, it could be said that since it is composed primarily of cocoa butter it approaches 100% cacao.  A final comment on the confusion surround these two words is that, for whatever reason, sometimes there is also confusion of cacao with coca. However there is no connection what-so-ever since cacao produces cocoa and coca becomes cocaine.

 

My plan is to have new material once a month. Since, I don’t know who might be reading this; any comments would be welcomed for content, topics and other points of interest.

 

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William (W.J.) Hurst is a principal scientist with the Hershey Company coming up on his 40 year anniversary. He has had the honor to spend his career working on a number of interesting projects, including dabbling in archaeology.

 

Sir Harry Kroto, co-discoverer of the fullerenes told an interviewer once that, “Scientists are undervalued by a society that does not understand how outstanding someone has to be to become a full-time researcher.” Maybe the measure of science is in its beauty rather than its assessment scores.

 

The views in this document are personal and not representative or reflecting views of The Hershey Company