2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Food and agriculture

Chocolate most commonly comes in dark, milk, and white varieties, with cocoa solids contributing to the brown coloration.
Chocolate most commonly comes in dark, milk, and white varieties, with cocoa solids contributing to the brown coloration.

Chocolate ( pronounced /ˈtʃɒklət, -lɪt/ ; see below for etymology) comprises a number of raw and processed foods that originate from the bean of the tropical cacao tree. It is a common ingredient in many kinds of sweets, chocolate candy, ice creams, cookies, cakes, pies, and desserts. It is one of the more popular flavours in the world.

Chocolate was created by the Mesoamerican civilization, from cacao beans, and cultivated by pre-Columbian civilizations such as the Maya and Aztec, who used it as a basic component in a variety of sauces and beverages. The cocoa beans were ground and mixed with water to produce a bitter beverage which was reserved only to the highest noblemen and clerics of the Mesoamerican world. The word "chocolate" comes from the Nahuatl words Xocol meaning "bitter" and Atl meaning "water". Chocolate is made from the fermented, roasted, and ground beans taken from the pod of the tropical cacao tree, Theobroma cacao, which was native to Central America and Mexico, but is now cultivated throughout the tropics. The beans have an intensely flavored bitter taste. The resulting products are known as "chocolate" or, in some parts of the world, cocoa.

It is the solid and fat combination, sweetened with sugar and other ingredients, that is made into chocolate bars and which is commonly referred to as chocolate by the public. It can also be made into beverages (called cocoa and hot chocolate). The first chocolate beverages were made by the Aztecs and the Mayas and later the Europeans. Chocolate is often produced as small molded forms in the shape of animals, people, or inanimate objects to celebrate festivals worldwide. For example, there are moulds of rabbits or eggs for Easter, coins for Hanukkah, Saint Nicholas (Santa Claus) for Christmas, and hearts for Valentine's Day.

Types and definition

Chocolate truffles typically have a thin shell of powdered chocolate with a soft creamy center.
Chocolate truffles typically have a thin shell of powdered chocolate with a soft creamy centre.

Chocolate is an extremely popular ingredient and it is available in many types. Different forms and flavors of chocolate are produced by varying the quantities of the different ingredients. Other flavours can be obtained by varying the time and temperature when roasting the beans.

Chocolate is any product based 99% on cocoa solid and/or cocoa fat. Because it is used in a vast number of other foods, any change in the cost of making it has a huge impact on the industry. Adding ingredients is an aspect of the taste. On the other hand, reducing cocoa solid content, or substituting cocoa fat with a non-cocoa one, reduces the cost of making it. There has been disagreement in the EU about the definition of chocolate.


A mug of modern hot chocolate.  The first chocolate was drunk rather than eaten.
A mug of modern hot chocolate. The first chocolate was drunk rather than eaten.

The word chocolate is derived from the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs of Mexico. The word is derived from the Nahuatl word xocolatl ( IPA /ɕɔ.kɔ.atɬ/; SHOCK-o-lattle). The word is derived from xocolli bitter, and atl, water. It is associated with the Mayan god of Fertility. Mexican philologist Ignacio Davila Garibi, proposed that "Spaniards had coined the word by taking the Maya word chocol and then replacing the Maya term for water, haa, with the Aztec one, atl." However, it is more likely that the Aztecs themselves coined the term, having long adopted into the Nahuatl the Mayan word for the "cacao" bean; the Spanish had little contact with the Mayans before Cortés's early reports to the Spanish King of the beverage known as xocolatl.

The chocolate residue found in an ancient Maya pot suggests that Mayans were drinking chocolate 2,600 years ago, which is the earliest record of cacao use. The Aztecs associated chocolate with Xochiquetzal, the goddess of fertility. In the New World, chocolate was consumed in a bitter and spicy drink called xocoatl, often seasoned with vanilla, chile pepper, and achiote, (which we know today as annatto). Xocoatl was believed to fight fatigue, a belief that is probably attributable to the theobromine content. Chocolate was an important luxury good throughout pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, and cocoa beans were often used as currency. Other chocolate drinks combined it with such edibles as maize gruel (which acts as an emulsifier) and honey.

Roughly two-thirds of the entire world's cocoa is produced in Western Africa, with close to half of the total sourced from Côte d'Ivoire. Like many food industry producers, individual cocoa farmers are at the mercy of volatile world markets. The price can vary from £500 ($945) to £3,000 ($5,672) per ton in the space of just a few years. While investors trading in cocoa can dump shares at will, individual cocoa farmers can not increase production or abandon trees at anywhere near that pace. It has been alleged that an estimated 90% of cocoa farms in Côte d'Ivoire have used some form of slave labor in order to remain viable. When cocoa prices drop, farmers in West Africa sometimes cut costs by resorting to slave labor.


A cacao tree with fruit pods
A cacao tree with fruit pods


The three main varieties of cacao beans used in chocolates are Criollo, Forastero and Trinitario. Criollo, the variety native to Central America, the Caribbean islands and the northern tier of South American states, is the rarest and most expensive cocoa on the market. There is some dispute about the genetic purity of cocoas sold today as Criollo, since most populations have been exposed to the genetic influence of other varieties. Criollos are difficult to grow, as they are vulnerable to a host of environmental threats and deliver low yields of cocoa per tree. The flavor of Criollo is characterized as delicate but complex, low in classic chocolate flavor, but rich in "secondary" notes of long duration. Forastero is a large group of wild and cultivated cacaos, probably native to the Amazon basin. The huge African cocoa crop is entirely of the Forastero variety. They are significantly hardier and of higher yield than Criollo. Forastero cocoas are typically big in classic "chocolate" flavor, but this is of short duration and is unsupported by secondary flavours. There are exceptional Forasteros, such as the "Nacional" or "Arriba" variety, which can possess great complexity. Trinitario, a natural hybrid of Criollo and Forastero, originated in Trinidad after an introduction of (Amelonado) Forastero to the local Criollo crop. These cocoas exhibit a wide range of flavor profiles according to the genetic heritage of each tree. Nearly all cacao produced over the past five decades is of the Forastero or lower-grade Trinitario varieties. The share of higher quality Criollos and Trinitarios (so-called flavor cacao) is just under 5% per annum.


First, the pods, containing cacao beans, are harvested. The beans, together with their surrounding pulp, are removed from the pod and left in piles or bins to ferment for 3-7 days. The beans must then be quickly dried to prevent mold growth; weather permitting, this is done by spreading the beans out in the sun.

The beans are then roasted, graded and ground. Cocoa butter is removed from the resulting chocolate liquor either by being pressed or by the Broma process. The residue is what is known as cocoa powder.

Approximately 80% of the world's chocolate comes from Africa. According to human rights organizations, most of the chocolate is grown and harvested by small family farmers, many of whom use child slaves for the work. These child slaves are said to be treated as family members, and the human rights groups do not encourage a boycott of chocolate.


Chocolate liquor is blended with the butter in varying quantities to make different types of chocolate or couvertures. The basic blends of ingredients, in order of highest quantity of cocoa liquor first, are as follows. (Note that since U.S. chocolates have a lower percentage requirement of cocoa liquor for dark chocolate, some dark chocolate may have sugar as the top ingredient.)

  1. Plain dark chocolate: sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa liquor, and (sometimes) vanilla
  2. Milk chocolate: sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa liquor, milk or milk powder, and vanilla
  3. White chocolate: sugar, cocoa butter, milk or milk powder, and vanilla

Usually, an emulsifying agent such as soya lecithin is added, though a few manufacturers prefer to exclude this ingredient for purity reasons and to remain GMO-free (Soya is a heavily genetically modified crop), sometimes at the cost of a perfectly smooth texture. Some manufacturers are now using PGPR, an artificial emulsifier derived from castor oil that allows them to reduce the amount of cocoa butter while maintaining the same mouthfeel.

The texture is also heavily influenced by processing, specifically conching (see below). The more expensive chocolates tend to be processed longer and thus have a smoother texture and "feel" on the tongue, regardless of whether emulsifying agents are added.

Different manufacturers develop their own "signature" blends based on the above formulas but varying proportions of the different constituents are used.

The finest plain dark chocolate couvertures contain at least 70% cocoa (solids + butter), whereas milk chocolate usually contains up to 50%. High-quality white chocolate couvertures contain only about 33% cocoa. Inferior and mass-produced chocolate contains much less cocoa (as low as 7% in many cases) and fats other than cocoa butter. Some chocolate makers opine that these "brand name" milk chocolate products can not be classed as couvertures, or even as chocolate, because of the low or virtually non-existent cocoa content.

Chocolate, with enough cocoa butter, flows gently over a chocolate fountain to serve fondue.
Chocolate, with enough cocoa butter, flows gently over a chocolate fountain to serve fondue.


The penultimate process is called conching. A conche is a container filled with metal beads, which act as grinders. The refined and blended chocolate mass is kept liquid by frictional heat. The conching process produces cocoa and sugar particles smaller than the tongue can detect; hence the smooth feel in the mouth. The length of the conching process determines the final smoothness and quality of the chocolate. High-quality chocolate is conched for about 72 hours, lesser grades about four to six hours. After the process is complete, the chocolate mass is stored in tanks heated to approximately 45–50 °C (113–122 °F) until final processing.


The final process is called tempering. Uncontrolled crystallization of cocoa butter typically results in crystals of varying size, some or all large enough to be clearly seen with the naked eye. This causes the surface of the chocolate to appear mottled and matte, and causes the chocolate to crumble rather than snap when broken. The uniform sheen and crisp bite of properly processed chocolate are the result of consistently small cocoa butter crystals produced by the tempering process.

The fats in cocoa butter can crystallize in six different forms (polymorphous crystallization). The primary purpose of tempering is to assure that only the best form is present. The six different crystal forms have different properties.

Crystal Melting Temp. Notes
I 17°C (63°F) Soft, crumbly, melts too easily.
II 21°C (70°F) Soft, crumbly, melts too easily.
III 26°C (78°F) Firm, poor snap, melts too easily.
IV 28°C (82°F) Firm, good snap, melts too easily.
V 34°C (94°F) Glossy, firm, best snap, melts near body temperature (37°C).
VI 36°C (97°F) Hard, takes weeks to form.

Making good chocolate is about forming the most of the type V crystals. This provides the best appearance and mouth feel and creates the most stable crystals so the texture and appearance will not degrade over time. To accomplish this, the temperature is carefully manipulated during the crystallization.

The chocolate is first heated to 45°C (113°F) to melt all six forms of crystals. Then the chocolate is cooled to about 27°C (80°F), which will allow crystal types IV and V to form (VI takes too long to form). At this temperature, the chocolate is agitated to create many small crystal "seeds" which will serve as nuclei to create small crystals in the chocolate. The chocolate is then heated to about 31°C (88°F) to eliminate any type IV crystals, leaving just the type V. After this point, any excessive heating of the chocolate will destroy the temper and this process will have to be repeated.

Two classic ways of tempering chocolate are:

  • Working the melted chocolate on a heat-absorbing surface, such as a stone slab, until thickening indicates the presence of sufficient crystal "seeds"; the chocolate is then gently warmed to working temperature.
  • Stirring solid chocolate into melted chocolate to "inoculate" the liquid chocolate with crystals (this method uses the already formed crystal of the solid chocolate to "seed" the melted chocolate).

No more than a pound at a time should ever be tempered, and tempering shouldn't be attempted when the air temperature is over 24°C (75 degrees Fahrenheit). A third, more modern tempering method involves using a microwave oven. A pound of coarsely chopped chocolate should be placed in an open, microwave-safe glass or ceramic container. The chocolate should be microwaved at full power for one minute and then stirred briefly. Continue to microwave at full power in ten-second increments until the chocolate is about ⅔ melted and ⅓ solid or lumpy. Then stir briskly until all the chocolate is completely melted and smooth.

Using a candy thermometer, the temperature must be tested as follows for the different types of chocolate:

  • 31.1 to 32.7 degrees Celsius (88 to 91 degrees Fahrenheit) for dark chocolate, the generic term for semisweet chocolate or bittersweet chocolate.
  • 28.9 to 30.5 degrees Celsius (84 to 87 degrees Fahrenheit) for milk chocolate or white chocolate.


Chocolate is very sensitive to temperature and humidity. Ideal storage temperatures are between 15 and 17 degrees Celsius (59 to 63 degrees Fahrenheit), with a relative humidity of less than 50%. Chocolate should be stored away from other foods as it can absorb different aromas. Ideally, chocolates are packed or wrapped and then placed in proper storage areas with the correct humidity and temperatures. Additionally chocolate should be stored in a dark place or protected from light by wrapping paper. Sunlight could warm up the surface of the chocolate and cause it to get 'grey', this being the cocoa butter crystals forming on the surface of it. It will also slightly change the tasting sensation, because of the different stage that the cocoa butter is in then.

Physiological effects

Pleasure of consuming chocolate

Melted Chocolate
Melted Chocolate

Part of the pleasure of eating chocolate is due to the fact that its melting point is slightly below human body temperature; it melts in the mouth. Chocolate intake has been linked with release of serotonin in the brain, which is thought to produce feelings of pleasure. Research has shown that heroin addicts tend to have an increased liking for chocolate; this may be because it triggers dopamine release in the brain's reinforcement systems – an effect, albeit a legal one, similar to that of opium.

Health benefits

Recent studies have suggested that cocoa or dark chocolate may possess certain beneficial effects on human health. Dark chocolate, with its high cocoa content, is a rich source of the flavonoids epicatechin and gallic acid, which are thought to possess cardio protective properties. Cocoa possesses a significant antioxidant action, protecting against LDL oxidation, perhaps more than other polyphenol antioxidant rich foods and beverages. Processing cocoa with alkali destroys most of the flavonoids. Some studies have also observed a modest reduction in blood pressure and flow mediated dilation after consuming approximately 100g of dark chocolate daily. There has even been a fad diet named, "Chocolate diet", that emphasizes eating chocolate and cocoa powder in capsules. However, consuming milk chocolate or white chocolate, or drinking milk with dark chocolate, appears to largely negate the health benefit. Chocolate is also a calorie-rich food with a high fat content, so daily intake of chocolate also requires reducing caloric intake of other foods.

Two-thirds of the fat in chocolate comes in the forms of a saturated fat called stearic acid and a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid. However, unlike other saturated fats, stearic acid does not raise levels of LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream. Consuming relatively large amounts of dark chocolate and cocoa does not seem to raise serum LDL cholesterol levels; some studies even find that it could lower them.

Several population studies have observed an increase in the risk of certain cancers among people who frequently consume sweet 'junk' foods such as chocolate. However very little evidence exists to suggest whether consuming flavonoid-rich dark chocolate may increase or decrease the risk of cancer. Evidence from laboratory studies suggest that cocoa flavonoids may possess anticarcinogenic mechanisms, but more research is needed to prove this idea.

The major concern that nutritionists have is that even though eating dark chocolate may favorably affect certain biomarkers of cardiovascular disease, the amount needed to have this effect would provide a relatively large quantity of calories which, if unused, would promote weight gain. Obesity is a significant risk factor for many diseases including cardiovascular disease. As a consequence, consuming large quantities of dark chocolate in an attempt to protect against cardiovascular disease has been described as 'cutting off one's nose to spite one's face'..

Chocolate as a drug

A chocolate candy.
A chocolate candy.

Chocolate contains a variety of substances, some of which are addictive (such as caffeine). These include:

  • Sugar - Chocolate bars (as opposed to cocoa) contain large amounts of sugar.
  • Caffeine - The stimulant present in coffee and tea.
  • Theobromine - Various theobromines are present.
  • Anandamide - An endogenous cannabinoid.
  • Tryptophan - An essential amino acid that is a precursor to serotonin, an important neurotransmitter involved in regulating moods.
  • Phenylethylamine - An endogenous amphetamine. Often described as a 'love chemical'. However, it is quickly metabolized by the enzyme MAO-B, preventing significant concentrations from reaching the brain.

Current research indicates that chocolate has a weak stimulant effect due mainly to its content of theobromine. However, chocolate contains too little of this compound for a reasonable serving to create effects in humans that are on par with a coffee buzz. Chocolate contains only small amounts of the compound caffeine. There are 5 to 10 milligrams of caffeine in one ounce of bittersweet chocolate, 5 milligrams in milk chocolate, and 10 milligrams in a 170 millilitre cup of cocoa. There are 100 to 150 milligrams of caffeine in an 220 millilitre cup of coffee, it would be necessary to eat more than a dozen chocolate bars to get the same amount of caffeine as one cup of coffee. The pharmacologist Ryan J. Huxtable has described chocolate as "more than a food but less than a drug". However, chocolate is a very potent stimulant for horses; its use is therefore banned in horse-racing. Theobromine is also a contributing factor in acid reflux because it relaxes the esophageal sphincter muscle, allowing stomach acid to more easily enter the esophagus.

Melted chocolate and a piece of a chocolate bar
Melted chocolate and a piece of a chocolate bar

Chocolate also contains small quantities of the endogenous cannabinoid anandamide and the cannabinoid breakdown inhibitors N-oleoylethanolamine and N-linolenoylethanolamine. Anandamides are produced naturally by the body, in such a way that their effects are extremely targeted (compared to the broad systemic effects of drugs like tetrahydrocannabinol) and relatively short-lived. In experiments N-oleoylethanolamine and N-linolenoylethanolamine interfere with the body's natural mechanisms for breaking down endogenous cannabinoids, causing them to last longer. However, noticeable effects of chocolate related to this mechanism in humans have not been demonstrated.

Some studies have described a condition called Hysteroid dysphoria, characterized by repeated episodes of depressed mood in response to feeling rejected, and a craving for chocolate.

Medical applications

Mars, Incorporated, a Virginia-based candy company, spends millions of dollars each year on flavonol research. The company is talking with pharmaceutical companies to license drugs based on synthesized cocoa flavonol molecules. According to Mars-funded researchers at Harvard, the University of California, and European universities, cocoa-based prescription drugs could potentially help treat diabetes, dementia and other diseases.


Research indicates that chocolate may be effective at preventing persistent coughing. The ingredient theobromine was found to be almost ⅓ more effective than codeine, the leading cough medicine. The chocolate also appears to soothe and moisten the throat.

Chocolate as an aphrodisiac

Romantic lore commonly identifies chocolate as an aphrodisiac. The reputed aphrodisiac qualities of chocolate are most often associated with the simple sensual pleasure of its consumption. More recently, suggestion has been made that serotonin and other chemicals found in chocolate, most notably phenethylamine, can act as mild sexual stimulants. While there is no firm proof that chocolate is indeed an aphrodisiac, giving a gift of chocolate to one's sweetheart is a familiar courtship ritual.


There is a popular belief that the consumption of chocolate can cause acne. Pure chocolate contains anti-oxidants which aid better skin complexion. The University of Pennsylvannia and the US Naval Academy conducted experiments that fed subjects chocolate or a bar with similar amounts of macronutrients (fat, sugar etc.) and found that consumption of chocolate, frequent or not, had no effect on the developing of acne. Professional dermatologists today do not link acne with diet. One study showed that women who drank three or more glasses of milk a day were 22% more likely to develop severe acne than women who consumed less milk. Chocolate bars with milk content may contribute to acne. It is not the chocolate itself that causes acne, but rather the milk with which the chocolate is mixed.

Chocolate, ranging from dark to light, can be molded and decorated like these chickens with ribbons.
Chocolate, ranging from dark to light, can be molded and decorated like these chickens with ribbons.


Chocolate has one of the higher concentrations of lead among products that constitute a typical Westerner's diet. Recent studies have shown that, although lead tends to bind to cocoa shells, the beans themselves absorb little lead in their country of origin. Contamination of certain samples appears to happen later in the manufacturing process. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, levels of lead in chocolate are sufficiently low that even people who eat large amounts of chocolate every day are not at risk of any adverse effects.

Toxicity in animals

In sufficient amounts, the theobromine found in chocolate is toxic to animals such as horses, dogs, parrots, and cats ( kittens especially) because they are unable to metabolise the chemical effectively. If they are fed chocolate, the theobromine will remain in their bloodstream for up to 20 hours, and these animals may experience epileptic seizures, heart attacks, internal bleeding, and eventually death. Medical treatment involves inducing vomiting within two hours of ingestion, or contacting a veterinarian.

A typical 20-kilogram dog will normally experience great intestinal distress after eating fewer than 240 grams (8.47 oz) of dark chocolate, but will not necessarily experience bradycardia or tachycardia unless it eats at least a half a kilogram (1.1 lbs) of milk chocolate. Dark chocolate has 2 to 5 times more theobromine and thus is more dangerous to dogs. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, approximately 1.3 grams of baker's chocolate per kilogram of a dog's body weight (0.02 oz/lb) is sufficient to cause symptoms of toxicity. For example, a typical 25-gram (0.88 oz) baker's chocolate bar would be enough to bring about symptoms in a 20-kilogram (44 lb) dog. Of course, baking chocolate is rarely consumed directly due to its unpleasant taste, but other dark chocolates' canine toxicities may be extrapolated based on this figure. Large dogs such as St. Bernards or Rottweilers are somewhat less susceptible to poisoning, but as dogs like the taste of chocolate products as much as humans do, they should still be kept out of their reach; treats made from carob are a good substitute and pose no threat. There are reports that mulch made from cacao bean shells is dangerous to pets (and other animals)


  • Consumers spend more than $7 billion a year on chocolate.
  • U.S. consumers eat about 2.8 billion pounds of chocolate annually, making per capita consumption about 12 pounds per person a year.
  • American chocolate producers use about 1.5 million pounds of milk.
  • Chocolate has over 500 flavours components, more that twice the amount found in strawberry and vanilla.

Significant chocolate makers

Main article: List of chocolate manufacturers

Large volume chocolate makers

  • Cadbury (UK)
  • Ferrero SpA (Italy)
  • Hershey's (U.S.)
  • Kraft Foods ( Milka, Suchard, Toblerone, Côte d'Or, and many others) (U.S.)
  • Mars Incorporated ( M&M's, Dove) (U.S.)
  • Nestlé (Switzerland)

Regionally large chocolate makers

  • Chocolates Garoto (Brazil)
  • Fazer (Finland)
  • Ghirardelli (USA)
  • Neuhaus (Belgium)
  • Ritter Sport (Germany)
  • Royce' (Japan)
  • Teuscher (Switzerland)
  • Whittaker's (New Zealand)
  • Freia (Norway)
  • Marabou (Sweden)

Makers of chocolate primarily for confectioners or premium markets

  • Belcolade (Belgium)
  • Callebaut (Belgium)
  • Green & Black's (UK)
  • Guittard (U.S.)
  • Haigh's Chocolates (Australia)
  • Michel Cluizel (France)
  • Perugina (Italy)
  • Valrhona (France)
  • Scharffen Berger (U.S.)
  • Thorntons (UK)

Historically significant chocolate makers

  • J. S. Fry & Sons (UK) (first eating chocolate manufacturer)
  • Lindt & Sprüngli (Switzerland) (Sprüngli developed conching)
  • Menier Chocolate (France)
  • Pierre Paul Caffarel (Italy)(Caffarel built the first mass production manufacturing facility for chocolate in 1826).

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