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Chocolate is a common ingredient in many kinds of sweets -- one of the most popular in the world -- made from the fermented, roasted, and ground seeds of the tropical cacao tree Theobroma cacao. Dictionaries refer to this cacao substance as "chocolate," which is an intensely flavored bitter (not sweet) food, although this is legally defined as cocoa in many countries. This is usually sweetened with sugar and other ingredients and made into chocolate bars (the substance of which is also and commonly referred to as chocolate), or beverages (called cocoa or hot chocolate).

Extremely rarely, melted chocolate has been used to make a kind of surrealist sculpture called coulage.

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Different kinds of chocolate

Chocolate is an extremely popular ingredient, available in many types, and great quantity. Different forms and flavors of chocolate are usually produced by varying the amount of the ingredients used to make the chocolate.

  • Dark chocolate
  • Milk chocolate
  • Semisweet chocolate (used for cooking purposes)

The history of chocolate

The Aztecs associated chocolate with Xochiquetzal, the goddess of fertility. In the New World, chocolate was consumed in a drink called xocoatl[?], often seasoned with vanilla, chili pepper, and pimento[?]. Xocoatl was believed to fight fatigue, a belief that is probably attributable to the caffeine content. The drink was said to be an acquired taste. Jose de Acosta, a Spanish Jesuit missionary who lived in Peru and then Mexico in the later 16th century, wrote:

Loathsome to such as are not acquainted with it, having a scum or froth that is very unpleasant to 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 Chocolaté. 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 the catarrh.

Christopher Columbus brought some cocoa beans to show Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, but it remained for Hernando de Soto to introduce it to Europe more broadly.

The first recorded shipment of chocolate to the Old World for commercial purposes was in a shipment from Veracruz to Seville in 1585. It was still served as a beverage, but the Europeans added sugar to counteract the natural bitterness, and removed the chili pepper. By the 17th century it was a luxury item among the European nobility.

In 1828, Conrad J. van Houten[?] patented a method for extracting the fat from cocoa beans and making powdered cocoa and cocoa butter[?]. This made it possible to form the modern chocolate bar[?]. It is believed that Joseph Fry made the first chocolate for eating in 1847.

Chocolate as a stimulant

Chocolate is very mildly psychoactive since it contains theobromine, small quantities of anandamide, an endogenous cannabinoid[?] found in the brain, as well as caffeine and tryptophan.

Why chocolate tastes so good

Part of the enjoyability of the chocolate eating experience is ascribed to the fact that its melting point is slightly below human body temperature and so it melts in the mouth.

How chocolate is made

Chocolate in the media

See also: chocolate milk -- Kinder Egg -- Valentine's Day -- Christmas -- Easter

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