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Chocolate most commonly comes in dark, milk, and white varieties, with cocoa solids contributing to the brown coloration
Main ingredient(s)Chocolate liquor
For other uses, see Chocolate (disambiguation).

Chocolate Listeni/ˈɒklət/ is a raw or processed food produced from the seed of the tropical Theobroma cacao tree. Cacao has been cultivated for at least three millennia in MexicoCentral and South America. Its earliest documented use is around 1100 BC. The majority of the Mesoamerican people made chocolate beverages, including the Aztecs, who made it into a beverage known asxocolātl, a Nahuatl word meaning "bitter water". The seeds of the cacao tree have an intense bitter taste, and must be fermented to develop the flavor.

After fermentation, the beans are dried, then cleaned, and then roasted, and the shell is removed to produce cacao nibs. The nibs are then ground to cocoa mass, pure chocolate in rough form. Because this cocoa mass usually is liquefied then molded with or without other ingredients, it is called chocolate liquor. The liquor also may be processed into two components: cocoa solids andcocoa butter. Unsweetened baking chocolate (bitter chocolate) contains primarily cocoa solids and cocoa butter in varying proportions. Much of the chocolate consumed today is in the form of sweet chocolate, combining cocoa solids, cocoa butter or other fat, and sugar. Milk chocolate is sweet chocolate that additionally contains milk powder or condensed milk. White chocolatecontains cocoa butter, sugar, and milk but no cocoa solids.

Cocoa solids contain alkaloids such as theobromine and phenethylamine, which have physiological effects on the body. It has been linked to serotonin levels in the brain. Some research found that chocolate, eaten in moderation, can lower blood pressure.[1] The presence of theobromine renders chocolate toxic to some animals,[2] especially dogs and cats.

Chocolate has become one of the most popular food types and flavors in the world. Gifts of chocolate molded into different shapes have become traditional on certain holidays: chocolate bunnies and eggs are popular on Easter, chocolate coins on HanukkahSanta Claus and other holiday symbols on Christmas, and chocolate hearts or chocolate in heart-shaped boxes on Valentine's Day. Chocolate is also used in cold and hot beverages, to produce chocolate milk and hot chocolate.

Cocoa mass was used originally in Mesoamerica both as a beverage and as an ingredient in foods. Chocolate played a special role in both Maya and Aztec royal and religious events. Priests presented cacao seeds as offerings to the gods and served chocolate drinks during sacred ceremonies. All of the areas that were conquered by the Aztecs that grew cacao beans were ordered to pay them as a tax, or as the Aztecs called it, a "tribute".[3]

The Europeans sweetened and fattened it by adding refined sugar and milk, two ingredients unknown to the Mexicans. By contrast, the Europeans never infused it into their general diet, but have compartmentalized its use to sweets and desserts. In the 19th century, Briton John Cadbury developed an emulsification process to make solid chocolate, creating the modern chocolate bar. Although cocoa is originally from the Americas, today Western Africa produces almost two-thirds of the world's cocoa, with Côte d'Ivoire growing almost half of it.


The word "chocolate" entered the English language from Spanish.[4] How the word came into Spanish is less certain, and there are multiple competing explanations. Perhaps the most cited explanation is that "chocolate" comes from Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, from the word chocolātl, which many sources derived from xocolātl [ʃokolaːtɬ], fromxococ 'sour' or 'bitter', and ātl 'water' or 'drink'.[4] However, as William Bright noted[5] the word "chocolatl" does not occur in central Mexican colonial sources, making this an unlikely derivation. Santamaria[6] gives a derivation from the Yucatec Maya word "chokol" meaning hot, and the Nahuatl "atl" meaning water. Sophie and Michael D. Coe agree with this etymology.

Pointing to various sources dating from the time period of the Spanish conquest, they identify cacahuatl ("cacao water") as the original Nahuatl word for the cold beverage consumed by the Aztecs. Noting that using a word with caca in it to describe a thick, brown beverage would not have gone over well with most speakers of Spanish due to the fact that cacameans faeces in Spanish, the Coes suggest that the Spanish colonisers combined the Nahuatl atl with the Yucatec Maya chocol, for unlike the Aztec, the Maya tended to drink chocolate heated. The Spanish preferred the warm Mayan preparation of the beverage to the cold Aztec one, and so the colonisers substituted chocol in place of the culturally unacceptable caca.[7]

More recently, Dakin and Wichmann derive it from another Nahuatl term, "chicolatl" from eastern Nahuatl, meaning "beaten drink". They derive this term from the word for the frothing stick, "chicoli".[8] However, the Coes write that xicalli referred to the gourd out of which the beverage was consumed and that the use of a frothing stick (known as amolinollo) was a product of creolisation between the Spanish and Aztec; the original frothing method used by the indigenous people was simply pouring the drink from a height into another vessel.[7]


Mesoamerica history

A Mayan chief forbids a person to touch a jar of chocolate

Chocolate has been used as a drink for nearly all of its history. The earliest record of using chocolate dates back before the Olmec. In November 2007, archaeologists reported finding evidence of the oldest known cultivation and use of cacao at a site in Puerto Escondido,Honduras, dating from about 1100 to 1400 BC.[9] The residues found and the kind of vessel they were found in indicate the initial use of cacao was not simply as a beverage, but the white pulp around the cacao beans was likely used as a source of fermentable sugars for an alcoholic drink.[9] The Maya civilization grew cacao trees in their backyards,[10] and used the cacao seeds it produced to make a frothy, bitter drink.[11] Documents in Maya hieroglyphs stated chocolate was used for ceremonial purposes, in addition to everyday life.[12] The chocolate residue found in an early ancient Maya pot in Río Azul, Guatemala, suggests the Maya were drinking chocolate around 400 AD.

Mayan writing referring to cocoa.

The sweet chocolate residue found in jars from the site of Puerto Escondido in Honduras from around 1100 BC is the earliest found evidence of the use of cacao to date.[13] An early Classic (460–480 AD) period Mayan tomb from the site of Rio Azul, Guatemala, had vessels with the Maya glyph for cacao on them with residue of a chocolate drink.[14] The Maya are generally given credit for creating the first modern chocolate beverage over 2,000 years ago, despite the fact that the beverage would undergo many more changes in Europe.[15]

By the 15th century, the Aztecs gained control of a large part of Mesoamerica, and adopted cacao into their culture. They associated chocolate with Xochiquetzal, the goddess of fertility,[16] and often used chocolate beverages as sacred offerings.[14] The Aztec adaptation of the drink was a bitter, frothy, spicy drink called xocolatl, made much the same way as the Mayan chocolate drinks. It was often seasoned with vanillachile pepper, and achiote, and was believed to fight fatigue, which is probably attributable to the theobrominecontent, a mood enhancer. Because cacao would not grow in the dry central Mexican highlands and had to be imported, chocolate was an important luxury good throughout the Aztec empire, and cocoa beans were often used as currency.[17] For example, the Aztecs used a system in which one turkey cost one hundred cacao beans and one fresh avocado was worth three beans.[18] South American and European cultures have used cocoa to treat diarrhea for hundreds of years.[19] All of the areas ruled by the Aztecs were ordered to pay a tax, leading those that grew the beans to offer cacao seeds as tribute.[20]

European adaptation

Chocolate soon became a fashionable drink of the nobility after the discovery of the Americas. The morning chocolateby Pietro Longhi; Venice, 1775–1780.

The first European contact with chocolate came when Montezuma (then tlatoani of Tenochtitlan) introduced Hernán Cortés, a Spanishconquistador, to xocolatl in the 16th century.[14] Antonio de SolísPhilip IV's official Chronicler of the Indies, described Montezuma customarily taking a chocolate beverage after meals, as part of a sumptuous daily ritual:

He had Cups of Gold, and Salvers of the same; and sometimes he drank out of Cocoas [i.e., coconut shells], and natural Shells, very richly set with Jewels.[...] When he had done eating, he usually took a Kind of Chocolate, made after the Manner of the Country, that is, the Substance of the Nut beat up with the Mill till the Cup was filled more with Froth than with Liquor; after which he used to smoak Tobacco perfum'd with liquid Amber.[21]

Jose de Acosta, a Spanish Jesuit missionary who lived in Peru and then Mexico in the later 16th century, wrote of it:

Loathsome to such as are not acquainted with it, having a scum or froth that is very unpleasant taste. Yet it is a drink very much esteemed among the Indians, where with they feast noble men who pass through their country. The Spaniards, both men and women that are accustomed to the country are very greedy of this Chocolate. They say they make diverse sorts of it, some hot, some cold, and some temperate, and put therein much of that "chili"; yea, they make paste thereof, the which they say is good for the stomach and against thecatarrh.[22]

The first recorded shipment of chocolate to Europe for commercial purposes was in a shipment from Veracruz to Sevilla in 1585.[16] It was still served as a beverage, but the Europeans added cane sugar to counteract the natural bitterness and removed the chili pepper while retaining the vanilla, in addition they added cinnamon as well as other spices.[14]

What the Spaniards then called "chocolatl" was said to be a beverage consisting of a chocolate base flavored with vanilla and other spices that was served cold.[23][24] Montezuma's court reportedly drank about 2,000 cups of xocolatl per day, 50 of which were consumed by Montezuma himself.

Until the 16th century, no European had ever heard of the popular drink from the Central and South American peoples.[25] It was not until the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs that chocolate could be imported to Europe. In Spain, it quickly became a court favorite. In a century it had spread and become popular throughout the European continent.[25] To keep up with the high demand for this new drink, Spanish armies began enslaving Mesoamericans to produce cacao.[26] Even with cacao harvesting becoming a regular business, only royalty and the well-connected could afford to drink this expensive import.[27] Before long, the Spanish began growing cacao beans on plantations, and using an African workforce to help manage them.[28] The situation was different in England. Put simply, anyone with money could buy it.[29] The first chocolate house opened in London in 1657.[29] In 1689, noted physician and collector Hans Sloane developed a milk chocolate drink in Jamaica which was initially used by apothecaries, but later sold to the Cadbury brothers in 1897.[30]

For hundreds of years, the chocolate-making process remained unchanged. When the Industrial Revolution arrived, many changes occurred that brought about the food today in its modern form. A Dutch family's (van Houten) inventions made mass production of shiny, tasty chocolate bars and related products possible. In the 18th century, mechanical mills were created that squeezed out cocoa butter, which in turn helped to create hard, durable chocolate.[31] But, it was not until the arrival of the Industrial Revolution that these mills were put to bigger use. Not long after the revolution cooled down, companies began advertising this new invention to sell many of the chocolate treats we see today.[32] When new machines were produced, people began experiencing and consuming chocolate worldwide.[33]

At the end of the 18th century, the first form of solid chocolate was invented in Turin by Doret. This chocolate was sold in large quantities from 1826 by Pierre Paul Caffarel in Italy. In 1819, F. L. Cailler opened the first Swiss chocolate factory. In 1828, Dutchman Coenraad Johannes van Houten patented a method for extracting the fat from cocoa beans and making powdered cocoa and cocoa butter. Van Houten also developed the "so-called" Dutch process of treating chocolate with alkali to remove the bitter taste. This made it possible to form the modern chocolate bar. The German company Jordan & Timaeus sold the first known chocolate bar made from cocoa, sugar and goat's milk in 1839.[34] In England, the company, J. S. Fry & Sons discovered a way to mix some of the cocoa butter back into the Dutched chocolate, and added sugar, creating a paste that could be moulded. This led to the first British chocolate bar in 1847, followed in 1849 by the Cadbury brothers.

In 1865, an unknown employee at the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company discovered the Broma process of separating cocoa butter from cocoa solids (namely, that if chocolate is hung in a bag in a warm room, the butter will drip out naturally over time).

Daniel Peter, a Swiss candle maker, joined his father-in-law's chocolate business. In 1867, he began experimenting with milk as an ingredient. He brought his new product, milk chocolate, to market in 1875. He was assisted in removing the water content from the milk to prevent mildewing by a neighbour, a baby food manufacturer named Henri Nestlé. Rodolphe Lindt invented the process called conching, which involves heating and grinding the chocolate solids very finely to ensure that the liquid is evenly blended. This enabledMilton Hershey to make chocolate even more popular by mass producing affordable chocolate bars.


Main article: Types of chocolate
Chocolate is commonly used as a coating for various fruits and fillings, such ascherries.
Disk of chocolate (about 4cm in diameter), as sold in Central America, for making hot cocoa. Note that the chocolate pictured here is soft, can easily be crumbled by hand, and already has sugar added.

Several types of chocolate can be distinguished. Pure, unsweetened chocolate contains primarily cocoa solids and cocoa butter in varying proportions. Much of the chocolate consumed today is in the form of sweet chocolate, combining chocolate with sugar. Milk chocolate is sweet chocolate that additionally contains milk powder or condensed milk. In the U.K. and Ireland milk chocolate must contain a minimum of 20% total dry cocoa solids; in the rest of the European Union the minimum is 25%.[35] "White chocolate" contains cocoa butter, sugar, and milk, but no cocoa solids. Chocolate contains alkaloids such as theobromine and phenethylamine, which have some physiological effects in humans, but the presence of theobromine renders it toxic to some animals, such as dogs and cats.[2] It has been linked to serotonin levels in the brain. Dark chocolate has been promoted[who?] for unproven health benefits, as it seems to possess substantial amount of antioxidants that reduce the formation of free radicals.

White chocolate is formed from a mixture of sugar, cocoa butter and milk solids. Although its texture is similar to milk and dark chocolate, it does not contain any cocoa solids. Because of this, many countries do not consider white chocolate as chocolate at all.[36]Although first introduced by Hebert Candies in 1955, Mars, Incorporated was the first to produce white chocolate within the United States. Because it does not contain any cocoa solids, white chocolate does not contain any theobromine, meaning it can be consumed by animals. It is usually not used for cooking.

Dark chocolate is produced by adding fat and sugar to the cacao mixture. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration calls this "sweet chocolate", and requires a 15% concentration of chocolate liquor. European rules specify a minimum of 35% cocoa solids.[35] Dark chocolate, with its high cocoa content, is a rich source of epicatechin and gallic acid, which are thought to possess cardioprotective properties. Dark chocolate has also been said to reduce the possibility of a heart attack when consumed regularly in small amounts.[37]Semisweet chocolate is a dark chocolate with a low sugar content. Bittersweet chocolate is chocolate liquor to which some sugar (typically a third), more cocoa butter, vanilla and sometimes lecithin have been added. It has less sugar and more liquor than semisweet chocolate, but the two are interchangeable in baking.

Unsweetened chocolate is pure chocolate liquor, also known as bitter or baking chocolate. It is unadulterated chocolate: the pure, ground, roasted chocolate beans impart a strong, deep chocolate flavor.

Raw chocolate, often referred to as raw cacao, is always dark and a minimum of 75% cacao. Because the act of processing results in the loss of certain vitamins and minerals (such as magnesium), some consider raw cacao to be a more nutritious form of chocolate.[38]

Some people who purchase chocolate off the store shelf can be disappointed when they see whitish spots on the dark chocolate part. This is called chocolate bloom and is not an indication of chocolate gone bad. Instead, this is just an indication that sugar and/or fat has separated due to poor storage.

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