Cacao, Couverture and a thing called Chocolate

Understanding the basics of Chocolate

WE ARE CHOCOLATIERS - Chef's of Chocolate.  We don't process cacao beans; that’s a ‘chocolate maker’.  What’s the difference, you wonder?  

Well we’re glad you asked because while they share a lot in common, there are some clear distinctions.  Both work with chocolate but while a chocolate maker is perhaps concerned with transforming a bean into a bar (think wine-making) a chocolatier is often a pastry chef that creates confections using chocolate as the main ingredient.  A thorough explanation can be found here: Chocolatier versus Chocolate Maker.


Cacao pod cut in half; At Finca La Cruz Cacao Plantation in Guatemala

As an artisan chocolatier, we use superior ingredients to make our award-winning confections. The most important one is couverture.

Couverture is a French word literally meaning ‘covering’ (as in covering with chocolate). It has become the term used to describe a pure cacao base with a very high percentage of cocoa butter and minimal additional ingredients such as sugar or an emulsifier like lecithin.   

Cacao (or cocoa, the Anglicized word) is short for Theobroma cacao, the name of the plant genus which means “food of the gods”. This in turn is derived from the word cacahuatl, an Aztec word meaning “bitter or acidic water”. From @damecacao:  Cacao vs Cocoa:  How They’re Different

Couverture is the result of processing the harvested pulp from cacao pods. That heavy lifting includes  harvesting, fermenting, drying, sorting, roasting, cracking, grinding, mixing and finally conching the beans to the elixir known as chocolate. Phew!  It’s an entailed process, alchemy even, and those that go to the trouble of doing it themselves tend to make bars.  Everything you Don’t Know About Chocolate

As stated we do not process our own beans but that doesn’t mean we are disconnected from the source of our couverture.  We have invested a great deal of time vetting different couvertures to ensure purity of flavor.  But we are also concerned about the environment, sustainability, and the fair treatment of workers.  While it is important to us that the couverture is superior quality, equally important is a transparent supplier with a humane work ethic and that the beans they use are traceable back to the source. 

This is how we know that our 42% Milk Chocolate couverture is organic - because our supplier has provided the documentation to prove it.  Likewise our 68% Dark Chocolate couverture is a wild criollo bean from the Beni province of Bolivia where it is gathered mostly by indigenous Chimane people.  And our 64% Dark Chocolate is from Madagascar and provided by the woman-run “Mevosa” organization, an alliance of over 50 cacao farmers.

What’s this ‘percentage thing’ being proclaimed, you may ask? It’s simply the amount of cacao solids found in the couverture.  The less the percentage, the lighter and sweeter is a good barometer. 

Our Hawaiian Mendiants made with white chocolate.

White chocolate, however, has no cacao solids, hence the pale color. It is a blend of cacao butter, sugar and dairy typically.  The percentage here refers to the amount of cacao butter.  What is White Chocolate?

If you’d like to read more about these topics, see the excellent articles inserted above.

This Fall we will be introducing our first bars.  Know what you’re thinking - a bit late to the party!  While we are not bean-to-bar, we do use incomparable couverture and there are those that just enjoy a great bar.  So for bar lovers, we’re given it to you straight-up.

Stay tuned!

LeSaint French Chocolate 


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