Last month, our longtime barista and former chocolate maker, Brandon, spent five weeks in Tokyo as part of our exchange program with Dandelion Chocolate Japan. Brandon, of course, also happens to be a talented photographer. Here’s a peek into his time there.
You’re curious, so we find answers. Our education team fields lots of questions from our guests during classes, so we’ve decided to launch a series of monthly installments in which we tackle some of those questions and share the answers with the world. We call it The Education Station. This week, Robert addresses some questions about a product we sell in our cafes, and what to do with them.
At Dandelion Chocolate, most people know us for our chocolate bars, drinks, and pastries, but the one item our customers seem to be most curious about lately are whole roasted beans. We sell bags of them in our cafés, and after spending most of my time working at the Ferry Building as a cafe associate, I’ve heard a lot of questions about them: “Are those coffee beans?” or “Is that where chocolate comes from?” and of course, “What do I do with them?” Well, now is the time to grab a bag and come along to dehusk that question.
To start, Whole Roasted Beans (or as we often abbreviate, WRB) are cocoa beans. Yes, these are what we use to make chocolate. So nope, they are not coffee beans. After we finish hand sorting all of our beans—picking out the cracked, flat, and broken ones that might not taste good—we roast them, and then we crack, winnow and grind them down with sugar into chocolate. Roasting is a very important step in our flavor development process for two reasons: One, it helps bring out the flavors that we love in our chocolate and two, it’s the ‘kill step’ that ultimately kills any possible pathogens and assures that our chocolate is safe to eat. For our WRB, we use Madagascan beans from Bertil Akesson’s Bejofo Estate, and roast them a bit longer than we do if we were making them into chocolate. Why? The answer is simple. When roasted lightly, our Madagascar beans have the bright flavors we think taste amazing as a chocolate bar (after they’ve been conched and sugar has been added) but we don’t necessarily love those flavors as much as a stand-alone experience. So, by increasing our roast time, we’ve been able to skim off some of the sharper acidic flavors, leaving us with a nutty, citrusy flavor profile that we think is more snackable. If you want to learn more about the roasting process for our beans, we have factory tours and classes available to answer any questions you may have.
So, how do I eat them?
One way people eat them is as a snack! You can squeeze one lightly and roll it between your fingers, just like cracking a peanut, to snap the skin and make it easier to peel off. You’ll end up with two parts; a peel, which we call husk, and the solids inside or the “meat of the bean,” which we call the nib. The nibs are what we refine down to make chocolate. This is the closest thing to eating 100% chocolate without the commitment. I often taste nutty notes in pure nibs, similar to a peanut or almond.
Using the nibs as a topping is always my favorite way to enjoy them. I like to have the crunchy texture and nibby flavor that it adds to things I already love. You can sprinkle the full nibs on top of yogurt, oatmeal, a salad or even ice cream! If you feel like getting creative, many people candy their nibs and use them as a delicious topping for desserts. Not only can you eat them as broken chunks of nib, but you can grind them up in a blender or food processor to make a nutty powder to boost your recipes. I suggest trying matcha soft serve, covered in ground nibs – yum!
Baking with chocolate is always fun, but with nibs, it’s even better! My favorite is making chocolate cherry bread using nibs instead of chocolate chips. Roasted cacao beans also make a great substitute for nuts. You can easily make banana nut bread by replacing nuts for nibs. We use nibs in many of our recipes here at Dandelion, stop by either of our cafes to try how our kitchen team incorporates them into our pastries and drinks.
Although it’s possible, I wouldn’t recommend using these bean for home chocolate making. As I mentioned before, we developed a very specific roast profile that is intentionally different from the one we use for our bars, so we would hate for you to not get the result you wanted. If you’re interested in making chocolate at home we have a book coming out in November where we go more in depth, but if you can’t wait, sign up for our Chocolate 201 classes and let’s make a batch of chocolate!
Are there any other experiments I can do with them?
Absolutely! The great thing about working at Dandelion Chocolate is all of the tasting and experiments we do here—from our chocolate makers developing new bar profiles to our pastry team regularly adding new things to the menu. Everyone works hard in learning and creating something they’re excited about, so I wanted to share a couple of things that I made at home using my roasted beans.
Cracking and winnowing (removing husks)
If you want a quick, but slightly messy way to remove the husk off the beans, this has worked since the beginning of our chocolate journey. This is the same technique our founder, Todd, used when he was starting in his kitchen at home.
- Put your desired amount of beans into a ziplock bag and make sure it’s closed all the way.
- Using a rolling pin to go over the bag and break all of the beans. What you will have in the bag is a bunch of broken husk and nibs, all mixed together.
- Place all of the broken nibs and husk into a bowl. I found that using a strainer helped me filter out some of the bigger pieces of husk before putting in the bowl.
- Then use a blow dryer to “winnow” the husk off the nibs. Since husk pieces are light, they should blow away and the nibs should remain in the bowl. This takes a little practice of angling the blow dryer just right to allow only the husk to fly over the edge of the bowl, while the heavier nibs remain inside. As a warning, make sure you do not do this in a place where pets could eat them. Theobromine is very, very dangerous for dogs!
- If you’re like me, and like things done at 110%, you can remove any remaining husk by hand. In our factory, we use the ten-minute rule: once you start picking nibs clean, cap yourself at ten minutes. Otherwise, you’ll be doing it for eternity.
I also tried seeing how long it would take me to remove the husk by hand, bean by bean, and got through half of the bag before my hands were covered in cocoa butter and smelled like chocolate. It’s not impossible, but requires more patience, a lot of podcasts, and may take longer than cracking and winnowing.
Cold Brew infused with nibs
After spending some time working at the Ferry Building one of my favorite things to do was to make our Ecuador Cold Brew. So I went home and made some for myself in a French press.
- Start off by grinding your coffee at a coarse grind.
- Optional: Use a spice grinder. I tried to match the same coarseness as the coffee.
- Pour the coffee into the French press first and then fill it about halfway full with boiling water.
- Next, add the nibs and stir everything together before topping it off with more water.
- Remember to put the lid on, but don’t plunge it.
- Leave it to brew at room temperature for 24 hours.
- Plunge the coffee, and do it slowly so none of the grounds make it to your coffee.
- Transfer to a jar and put it in the fridge to enjoy later.
Waffles with nibs
This was probably the most exciting thing I got to do. I bought a cast iron waffle maker and was finally able to put it to use. If you were wondering, this is where I used those nibs I winnowed by hand!
Here is a recipe I adapted from Flour Arrangements:
I love incorporating roasted beans into my overall diet, especially if I want to cut out sugar for a bit. The possibilities are endless, and if you ever see me at an event or class I would love to hear how you used your beans. Or comment your favorite ways below! Remember there’s no right or wrong way to taste chocolate, so I hoped this helped answer some of your questions. There are lots more experiments that I wanted to try, like smoothies and candied nibs, so keep an eye out for another post soon.
I remember talking to Carla Martin at the Northwest Chocolate Festival in 2015 about her creation of the Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute (FCCI). Part of her goal for FCCI was to create a standard (similar to specialty coffee cupping) which could be used across the cacao and chocolate industry to consistently and accurately communicate about flavor. This is something I’d been wanting for a very long time as it’s quite hard for cacao producers and chocolate makers to speak the same language when it comes to the organoleptic evaluation of cacao. Cacao producers tend to taste fermented and dried beans, chocolate makers tend to taste liquor; the flavors in each often being very different. This is where the FCCI protocol comes in – it is a step beyond tasting a bean and a step before tasting liquor and can be done easily, cheaply, repeatably, and quickly enough that it can be useful for all parties. Full information on the FCCI protocol can be found on the FCCI website.
I’m going to talk about my nascent use of this protocol for cacao evaluation, but before I do, I want to be clear that at this point I’m not certain this will solve all our sensory evaluation challenges. As I’ve used it, I think where this protocol shines is in comparisons rather than absolutes. In fairness the protocol was designed to be used in the absolute and maybe as I use it more, I’ll change my mind :). The great thing about this protocol is even without a lot of training, if you are trying to understand variations in day lots while producing cacao, this is great. If you are a chocolate maker trying to understand variations in harvest from the year before, this will work well. If you are visiting a new cacao producer and want to get a sense of the beans, this is just great! While I think this protocol does a good job of helping understand positive traits and defects in beans, I’m not certain it can be used on its own to determine if beans will make great chocolate (as opposed to just good chocolate). Ed Seguine’s insight about the FCCI protocol is that he felt it would help you understand if you want to turn beans into liquor, which is a much more arduous process. Clearly, this protocol doesn’t mean people magically understand how to differentiate all the various attributes of cacao, that takes time and lots of tasting (and FCCI is working toward making this sort of training available to all). But, even if you just want to start off by understanding how today’s beans compare to last week’s beans, it’s useful.
I also should note that it seems the best way to give feedback on cacao is breaking it up into:
- Physical quality: this is an assessment of the quantity of rocks, flats, broken beans, etc
- Sensory analysis: this is the goal of the FCCI cacao grading – understanding, as well as providing feedback on, the organoleptic qualities of the beans. This should be objective and, if everyone is well trained and calibrated, it should be consistent across assessments
- Hedonic preference: this is subjective and comes down to whether you like the beans and/or think they could work well for you as a buyer
My last caveat is what I am describing here is what I might refer to as the FCCI cacao grading field protocol. The more formal lab protocol was linked above. The formal protocol calls for a different set of tools but it was a set of tools I couldn’t fit into my standard traveling gear. So, I talked to Carla and came up with a smaller set of gear that I’d be willing to carry all the time. The FCCI protocol also has a paper form. I made an offline-capable app.
The field protocol variant I’ve been using has the following steps:
– Pull 100g of beans using a scale and evaluate external characteristics. I will sometimes skip this step for things like day lots which don’t change much.
– Perform a cut test on 50 beans and record the results. Again, if I am just trying to get the flavor, I sometimes skip this.
– Pull a set of 20 beans at random, break up, and peel all 20 beans. If they’re tough to crack, try with a nutcracker. This is important, as you need to use all the beans, not just the ones that are easy to peel, because the tough ones often impact the flavor significantly.
– Put the broken beans (aka unroasted nibs) into your grinder
– Sing a little song while grinding up the beans until they are all ground up!
– Mix the resulting powder to homogenize. This is one of the best aspects of this protocol, tasting 3 or 4 beans doesn’t give you a sense of a whole lot, creating a powder both releases aromatics but also allows you to taste a larger sample size consistently.
– Evaluate aromatics by reading each criterion on the scoring sheet, smelling the sample, and giving a score. It’s a lot easier to smell one time for each criterion than trying to remember the sensation of them all.
– Evaluate the flavors by taking a 1/8 teaspoon sample of the powder and putting it into your mouth. While smelling beans multiple times is easy, tasting that many times is harder so I suggest tasting the sample and then scoring a quickly as possible while it is fresh in your mind. Feel free to spit it out!
There are times I just do aroma and taste and other times I do a full evaluation. I don’t tend to do a cut test but others might like to. I am new to this, I only started using this methodology on a recent trip to the Solomon Islands (sponsored by PHAMA who is doing some great work in the Pacific islands with cacao). What I found was it gave me a good, consistent way to evaluate someone’s cacao. It was thorough enough that you felt comfortable with the result and didn’t take months to give initial thoughts on beans. It also gave me a good opportunity to sit with producers for a few minutes touching and tasting their beans, almost like a little ritual so that they knew I was taking the evaluation seriously rather than tasting 3 beans from a bag and saying “hmmm.” It’s hard to get to know people in short visits and any opportunity to build rapport is worth exploring.
This protocol helped me understand which beans seemed good enough to get a sample and process into chocolate. Narrowing which beans to get for sampling is helpful as one of the worst things a chocolate maker can do is get a sample and not give feedback. Samples take a lot of time and energy for producers to pull together and ship. If you don’t want to give feedback, don’t get a sample. I partially say this as I am guilty of it as well. There have been times we’ve gotten busy, haven’t processed a sample and each time I know I have wronged the producer who sent us the sample, I should’ve just not asked for one at that point in time.
The app I made saves a GPS point, photos, and scores which help me keep track of samples. The app also creates a PDF (such as Solomons-Waisu-Evaluation) which is helpful to give back to the people you are working with. Carla and FCCI are working to make a free, standardized app for evaluation. Until that point I will happily share the app I made, if you are interested, just email me at email@example.com for more information!
It feels to me like this is a great step in the evolution of cacao sensory evaluation. I’m sure there is more to come but, if you are a cacao producer looking for a consistent way to evaluate lots or a chocolate maker looking for a lightweight evaluation method, give it a try! This is a living protocol and FCCI is looking for any feedback users have to iterate on it and make it more useful, feel free to drop them a line at firstname.lastname@example.org with any thoughts you might have. If you have any questions for me about this I am happy to answer them, feel free to email or drop by our shop if you are in the SF bay area!
Richard is a chocolate maker at our Valencia St. factory, and as a former line cook, he’s been eagerly experimenting with ways to bring cacao husk into his culinary endeavors. Here, he gives us a primer on his most recent adventures: smoking meat and making charcoal with husk! A quick disclaimer: because cocoa beans come straight from farms, there is always the risk of pathogen contamination or heavy metals. Check out our blog post that dives into some of those risks here. The husk that Richard used was from Mantuano, Venezuela, and tested negative for heavy metals and aflotoxins. We very, very strongly encourage you (we’d require it if we were standing in your kitchen) that you know the source of your husk, and check in with your supplier to make sure that it has been tested for contamination. Ok, now that that’s over, let’s smoke!
I’ve always been fascinated with finding uses for things that people typically throw away. I guess this attitude came from growing up with family that spent a few years in a refugee camp, so I grew up with a strong emphasis on not wasting anything. A lot of delicious things have been invented from what was previously considered “scraps” including meatloaf, Vietnamese Pho, and most stews. In our factory, we’ve got no use for cocoa husk (the outer shell of the cocoa bean), other than donating it to local farms to use as mulch. I’ve done a few weird projects with chocolate at home—chocolate milk dumplings (like soup dumplings but with chocolate milk, peanut butter, and banana), and tangyuan, which is like a mochi in a ginger syrup but I made it with chocolate ganache in a cacao nib and ginger syrup. But smoking meat with cacao husks was especially enticing to me because I get to use something we normally throw away. That, and it’s a lot cheaper than buying wood chips. And by cheaper, I mean free (for me).
So, on one of my days off, I drove up to the Valencia St. Factory and came home with a 7-kilogram bag of husk from a batch of beans from Mantuano, Venezuela that was winnowed that day. My mission: to find out if I can, in fact, smoke meat with cacao husk.
So, can you?
You bet! Turns out that it works. Though it doesn’t impart any special chocolatey notes to the meat, it definitely makes for a faint smokey flavor, almost like oak or maple. Now, I am very far from a barbecue master, so I am not familiar with the nuances of different types smoke and how they impart different flavors. I just know that it is possible to smoke with the husk and that the end result tastes pretty good. If anything, it is a convenient alternative to wood chips.
The technique I used to smoke with cacao husk was inspired by Chinese tea-smoking (think tea smoked duck). The typical method for tea-smoking involves wrapping your tea with rice and spices in foil. In this method, you bunch up all your smoking fuel so that it burns a little slower. The low oxygen environment keeps it from igniting and turning to ash. Here, I’ll outline the process that I used with my grill because I don’t have a smoker (yet). If you don’t you have a smoker like me, you can just use a little Weber grill ($30-$40 from Home Depot). If you have a smoker, I imagine you can replace your wood chips with packets of wet cacao husk.
How to smoke with cacao husk:
This is my method for smoking anything using cacao husk, and I recommend using it on brisket or white fish to start, or pork belly—which you’ll find a recipe for below.
Fill foil with a few handfuls of cacao husk and wrap it up.
Poke holes in the foil to allow room for smoke to escape.
Do this to make two larger to three smaller foil packets.
Set Up Your Grill:
Set a metal pan full of water under where the meat will go, this will simultaneously add moisture, catch drippings, and act as a heat sink to keep the temperature consistent as you are smoking your meat.
Light your coals using a charcoal chimney, or any other method you know. Add a bed of unlit coals opposite of where you will grill your meat. Add your lit coals on top of these. Cover and preheat your grill until it reaches roughly 250°F (you’ll want a thermometer here).
Place smoking packet over coals, and place grill rack on. Place meat on grill above the water pan
Stick a lid on the grill with vents above the meat, half open. This creates airflow that will guide the smoke towards the meat you are cooking.
Replace coals every hour or so to maintain temperature and fuel for your grill. If the packet stops smoking replace it with a new one.
After about four hours, begin checking the temperature of your meat with an internal thermometer. Once the meat reaches 145°F, the meat is done. Now take the meat off and let rest.
So far, I’ve only done this the husk from Venezuelan beans, and I’m curious to see if different husks might impart different flavors.
RECIPE: Crispy Smoked Pork Belly with Cacao Husk
1- 1.5 lbs of pork belly, skin on
2-3 foil packets of cacao husk (instructions above)
a few tablespoons of Chinese five spice
Score the skin in cross hatches on the skin side of the pork belly to allow fat to drain out when cooking.
Rub a thin layer of salt and Chinese five spice all over the pork belly.
Heat up coals for the grill in a chimney starter, and prepare smoking packets. Place water pan in the grill, once coals are ready place them on one side next to water pan. Place smoke packet over coals and allow the charcoal grill to preheat until the thermometer reads roughly 225°F.
Place pork belly, skin-side up on the grill above the water pan, and layer more kosher salt on top of the skin. Cover grill let smoke for at least 4-6 hours until the salt has formed a crust and the internal temperature has reached 145°.
Take pork off the grill and remove the salt crust. Preheat oven to 475°F, and bake for another 30 minutes, or until skin is crackly and crispy (alternatively you can place the pork belly under the broiler for 5-10 minutes). That’s it! Enjoy your crispy smoked pork belly.
Bonus! Making Charcoal out of Cacao Husk
One of the byproducts of smoking with cacao is that you get charcoal flakes at the end that you can use later to make charcoal briquettes.
For those who don’t know, charcoal is made by heating high carbon material (typically wood, discarded coconut shells, and other plant materials) in a low oxygen environment so that “impurities,” or anything that isn’t carbon, burn out, and the carbon itself (the charcoal) doesn’t combust and turns to ash.
Normally when people make charcoal, they are looking to make lump charcoal, from whole chunks of wood, especially in more rural areas. I first ran into homemade charcoal when I was staying in Kenya, where the folks I was staying with would essentially light a pile of wood on the fire, then cover it with dirt, so the wood didn’t burn into ash.
Inevitably, you will also end up with little bits of charcoal that break off that are too small to use on their own. Charcoal briquettes are made by grinding up all these extra bits and pieces into a powder and mixing them with a binder (I used cornstarch because that was what I had on-hand), then shaping them into briquettes. They’re basically the hotdogs of the charcoal world.
If you try this, please let me know how it went in the comments below!
You’re curious, so we find answers. Our education team fields lots of questions from our guests during classes, so we’ve decided to launch a brand new series of monthly installments in which we tackle some of those questions and share the answers with the world. We call it The Education Station. This week, Kelsey dives into clarifying some commonly mis-used words – namely what plant chocolate does and does not come from.
Sometimes, when we’re deep in conversation with a class attendee or a guest in our cafe, some very similar sounding — but very different meaning — words come up. And those words, if misused, can create a bit of confusion. So let’s discuss coca, coco, cocoa, and cacao, and how, if any of them are related to chocolate.
First, let’s talk about what they have in common: These are all plants. They grow in the tropics. Aaand that’s about it. Below, we’ll dig into each of them, but a quick disclaimer before we get started: the definitions here are our own, unless noted otherwise, and refer primarily to terminology used in the United States. You may find slightly different definitions elsewhere, and we’ll do our best to explain how we arrived at the words we use.
So what is coca?
The plant itself is native to the Andean region of South America and grows relatively easily in mid to high altitudes. When consumed, the primary alkaloid in the plant, cocaine, acts as a stimulant by constricting blood vessels. Coca only becomes dangerous when the cocaine alkaloid is extracted, concentrated, processed and synthesized. Although coca may receive a bad rap due to its modern day uses and cultivation (think Narcos, the TV show), the traditional and practical uses are much more innocent than many think. Often consumed by chewing the leaves, or as a tea, coca has been, and is still, used to relieve pain, altitude sickness and even suppress hunger.
The coca leaf has actually been used for thousands of years, with some of the oldest evidence pointing to nomadic tribes scattered throughout the Andes in Northern Peru, around 1800 B.C. These tribes migrated with the changing of seasons, avoiding the harsh conditions of the mountains in search of food and shelter. This required walking up and down the high altitudes of the Andes for long, extended periods of time, where food was often scarce along the way. Naturally, the healing properties of the coca plant allowed many tribes to move frequently and was used as a sacred medicine.
Coca is also known as one of the first domesticated plants in recorded history. Once early explorers of the region began growing the crop for medicinal purposes, the cultivation expanded and evolved as more was understood about the plant. By concentrating of the cocaine alkaloid in order to produce a high demand drug, coca turned into the high-risk cash crop it is now commonly known for.
It is not related to chocolate, in anyway whatsoever. Bummer, I know.
What is coco?
Coco [koh-koh]: the coconut palm; the drupaceous fruit of the coconut palm whose outer fibrous husk yields coir and whose nut contains thick edible meat and, in the fresh fruit, a clear liquid (see coconut water) (Merriam Webster)
Coconuts! From the now popular coconut water, touted as a magic cure for one too many adult beverages, to clothing made from the fibrous husk — the coconut has become an important global commodity with rising popularity and variety of uses. As Science Daily put it, “The coconut […] is the Swiss Army knife of the plant kingdom; in one neat package it provides a high-calorie food, potable water, fiber that can be spun into rope, and a hard shell that can be turned into charcoal. What’s more, until it is needed for some other purpose it serves as a handy flotation device.”
Often called the Tree of Life, the coconut palm (coco nucifera) has been supporting the local economies of many tropical countries for centuries. The first recorded discoveries of the coconuts were arguably by 15th century Portuguese explorers in Southeast Asia. They described the coconut shell as “coco” meaning “head or face,” for the characteristic the dark holes that resembled two eyes and a mouth.
Coconuts are also unrelated to chocolate, but you probably already guessed that.
What is cacao?
Cacao [kuh-kah-oh]: the fatty seeds of a South American evergreen tree (Theobroma cacao of the family Sterculiaceae) that are used in making chocolate.
It’s more than just a funny word from a Portlandia skit. Cacao is the seed of a tree, and it grows inside of a pod filled with pulpy fruit. To make chocolate, these seeds are traditionally harvested, fermented, dried, roasted, cracked and winnowed, then ground down with sugar. But at some point in this process, the cacao becomes cocoa. Chocolate has been made from cacao for a very long time, and it has a long and deep global history, much of which is widely still unknown. Most of what we do know about chocolate only happened in the last one to two hundred years, but we know it’s existed for thousands! (If you’d like to learn more about the history of chocolate, we’d love to host you in our Edible History of Chocolate classes).
So, if cacao is a seed that becomes chocolate, then what is cocoa, and what is a cocoa bean?
Good question. Even in dictionaries, cacao and cocoa are often used interchangeably. Because of that lack of clarity, the craft chocolate community has been trying to come to an agreement about how we all define things, including the difference between cacao and cocoa. One simple distinction that we like to make is that cacao refers to the unprocessed state, while cocoa is the processed state. But here is where it gets a little more complicated.
When does ‘processing’ begin? The minute human hands are involved, say at harvest? Or, is it when the chemical state of the seed has shifted, say during fermentation?
We like this summarized definition that was shared with us by the folks at the Cocoa Research Center at the University of the West Indies.
“The cacao becomes cocoa when the cotyledon dies. The cotyledon is the part of the seed that would become the first leaves of the plant. The death of the cotyledon changes the future of the seed; it ceases to be a plant and will become something tasty to eat instead. This simple distinction helps us identify when the destiny of the cacao changes from becoming a living thing to becoming a product.”
So, put simply?
Cocoa [koh-koh]: the seeds of the Theobroma cacao tree, once the fermentation process has killed the cotyledon.
But, wait, what about cocoa powder? Isn’t that “cocoa”?
Well yes. Kind of. Out in the world, sometimes the word cocoa, or ‘hot cocoa’, is used in reference to cocoa powder. Cocoa powder is made by pressing most of the fat (or cocoa butter, rather) out of winnowed cocoa beans, and then grinding up the solid mass that’s left after the pressing.
So technically, if you’re using our definition of things, cocoa powder is cocoa because the cotyledon is definitely dead, but the word cocoa could refer to a lot of things, not necessarily only cocoa powder. It’s one of those ‘a-square-is-a-rectangle-but-a-rectangle-isn’t-a square’ kind of definition.
Clear as mud, right? If anything, I hope you’ve taken away a few lessons from this little rundown. Namely, chocolate is not a narcotic or a coconut.
COCA: Coca leaves were once a spiritual and medicinal plant that, over time and with heavy processing, turned into a controlled substance. Coca has nothing to do with chocolate.
COCO: Although many chocolate makers may use various parts of the coconut palm in their chocolate for additional flavor, chocolate itself does not come from coco(nut).
CACAO: The seed which grows off the Theobroma Cacao tree and is the main ingredient for chocolate.
COCOA: A debated term. Often alone, cocoa refers to a comforting hot chocolatey drink (at least in the United States). Within the chocolate industry, many use cocoa or cocoa bean to differentiate a cacao seed once it has been processed.