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French-style bonbons are dipped, or enrobed, in chocolate. Belgian-style chocolates are molded—into crowns, butterflies, diamonds and other shapes. Photo courtesy of






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Last Updated May 2018

Product Reviews / Main Nibbles / Chocolate

Chocolate Glossary

Terms & Definitions: F


Fair Trade Certified, fondant, and French-style chocolate are some of the terms you will find here. If you think we should consider chocolate terms and definitions other than those we have provided, or you’d like to suggest additional words for inclusion, click on the Contact Us link on this page. Also enjoy our other 60+ food glossaries.

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Fair Trade ensures that farmers are paid fair value for their beans. This affords money for adult (instead of child) labor, sound agricultural practices and a minimum standard of living. It is a trademarked term authorized by TransFair USA, a nonprofit organization that audits transactions between U.S. companies offering Fair Trade Certified™ products and the international suppliers from whom they source. TransFair is one of twenty members of Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO), and the only third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the U.S. In the case of the greatest chocolatiers, Fair Trade is a moot point, because they are already paying top dollar to secure the limited supply of the world’s finest cacao beans. Read more on the issues of Fair Trade.


See bloom.


It is during fermentation that the cacao beans start developing their flavors. Fermentation is a natural, post-harvest process that converts the sugars in raw cacao beans to alcohol, kills the germ, and develops the necessary elements that modify the composition of the beans so they will yield the characteristic flavor and aroma of chocolate during roasting. Depending on the country, fermentation takes place in baskets, wooden boxes or cylinders stored away from light. The beans need to be turned to ensure an even fermentation. Depending on the varietal, the fermentation process lasts from three days to seven days.


(Foy-yuh-TAY) Alternating layers of cooked sugar and praline.


(Foy-yuh-TEEN) A bonbon that that includes crisp layers of thin pastry (crepes dentelles).


The French words for cocoa bean.


Another term for bonbons. Filled chocolates have centers that are enrobed in chocolate (or filled using other techniques). Popular centers include candied fruit, caramels, creams (buttercream and whipped cream in a variety of flavors, liqueur creams), fondants, ganaches, gianduja, marzipan, nougat and pralines.


The measurement of the average particle size of the cocoa solids in the chocolate. Finesse is expressed in ten-thousandths of an inch, or in microns.


Chocolate that tastes less lively. This happens when producers omit vanilla with the intent of enabling the cacao nuances to shine through. Similar to adding salt when cooking, vanilla perks up the overall flavor of the chocolate mix. Its absence can be noticed when the chocolate appears flat.


Flavanols are the antioxidants in cacao. There is a perception that the higher the cacao percentage, the higher the flavanol content; but actual levels of flavanol content may fluctuate widely depending upon the species and subspecies of bean, recipe, processing practices, and storage and handling conditions. Thus, “% cacao” does not necessarily indicate a similar flavanol content among chocolates of like cacao content. In addition, while scientists agree that cacao percentages higher than 75% are important to gain a beneficial concentration of flavanols, there has been no scientific determination of how much chocolate should be consumed to achieve health benefits.


A Criollo or Trinitario cacao—called a flavor cacao because it provides delicate flavor and finesse.


Couverture can be enhanced with flavor essences—e.g. anise, chile, cinnamon, coffee, lemon, liqueur, mint, orange, raspberry—have been added to the chocolate. This category also covers bars with inclusions such as dried fruit, nuts and cacao nibs.


There are several definitions for fondant: (1) The creamy, white crystalline filling for bonbons. Made of a sugar and water base, it can be flavored with anything that complements the chocolate bonbon shell—fruits, liqueurs, spices. e.g. the “liquid” of a chocolate-covered cherry is actually fondant. It is firm when wrapped around the cherry, but the juice from the cherry, when encased in the chocolate shell, causes the sugar in the fondant to liquefy. (2) Rolled fondant is a smooth covering paste for fine cakes that serves as both an elegant decor and seals in freshness. (3) A chocolate spread for bread and crackers is called fondant. (4) In France, fondant means dark or “pure” chocolate (milk chocolate is lait). When the smooth, velvety chocolate we know today was made possible by the invention of the conching machine in 1879, it was called fondant chocolate to distinguish it from what was then the norm.


The Forastero cacao varietal accounts for approximately 75% to 90% of the world cacao yield and is often referred to as “bulk beans.” Forastero trees grow in all chocolate growing regions: Africa, the Caribbean, Central and South America and the Pacific Rim. An estimated 70% of the crop comes from West Africa, with Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, and Cameroon the predominant suppliers.  Forastero means “foreign” in Spanish. The species originated in the Amazon basin. The tree is much heartier, more adaptable, and more resistant to disease than the Criollo, but the flavor produced by the beans is not at the same level. The thick-skinned, pods yield flat, violet-colored beans, with high astringency. Forastero beans are much more bitter and require a longer fermentation period to remove the astringency. The flavor of most Forasteros is strong and non-complex: the cacao is used to make most generic chocolate bars. However, there are some varieties known for their aromatic properties, such the Amelonado cacao of the lower Amazon region, the Nacional cacao of Ecuador and the beans from the West African island republic of São Tomé. In fact, Nacional cacao is sometimes regarded as an entirely different subgroup and is considered a flavor cacao which is widely sought after for its unique subtlety. Experts recommend that you look at the origin of the bean—i.e., the single origin characteristics—to understand the flavor of the cacao, rather than look at the Forastero bean as having a specific flavor profile. As with wine grapes, the flavors differ widely by terroir, as well as botanical/horticultural factors. See our single origin flavor chart for more information. See Trinitario for a photo of a Forastero cabosse. See Theobroma cacao for more general information.


Beans that are cultivated among a diverse ecosystem of indigenous rainforest plants, rather than clearing the land, so that that some of the world’s most vulnerable and biodiverse environments are preserved.


The French word for raspberry, it also refers to a bonbon with a raspberry filling—crème, ganache or raspberry liqueur.


Of the three styles of bonbons—Belgian, French and Swiss—French chocolates have a thinner shell of chocolate. While some are molded into shapes, the original style was hand-dipping (enrobing) rather than molding, which originally accounted for the thinner style. (All chocolates were hand-dipped until Belgian chocolatier Jean Neuhaus invented molding in 1912.) French chocolates focus on ganache centers—chocolate and cream, either plain, infused with another flavor (coffee, orange, raspberry, Cognac) or praliné, with a nut (generally hazelnut, pistachio or walnut).


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