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 South America, but is now cultivated throughout the tropics. The beans have an intensely flavoured bitter taste. The resulting products are known as "chocolate" or, in some parts of the world, cocoa.


Chocolate is an extremely popular ingredient, and it is available in many types. Different forms and flavours 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.

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 flavour. With the addition of sugar, however, it is used as the base for cakes, brownies, confections, and cookies.
Dark chocolate is chocolate without milk as an additive. It is sometimes called "plain chocolate". The U.S. Government calls this "sweet chocolate", and requires a 15% concentration of chocolate liquor. European rules specify a minimum of 35% cocoa solids.
Milk chocolate is chocolate with milk powder or condensed milk added. The U.S. Government requires a 10% concentration of chocolate liquor. EU regulations specify a minimum of 25% cocoa solids.
Semisweet chocolate is often used for cooking purposes. It is a dark chocolate with high sugar content.
Bittersweet chocolate is chocolate liquor (or unsweetened chocolate) to which sugar, more cocoa butter, lecithin, and vanilla has been added. It has less sugar and more liquor than semisweet chocolate, but the two are interchangeable in baking. The best quality about bittersweet and semisweet chocolates are that they are produced as couverture; many brands now print on the package the percentage of cocoa (as chocolate liquor and added cocoa butter) contained. The rule is that the higher the percentage of cocoa, the less sweet the chocolate will be.
Couverture is a term used for chocolates rich in cocoa butter. Popular brands of couverture used by professional pastry chefs and often sold in gourmet and specialty food stores include: Valrhona, Felchlin, Lindt & Sprüngli, Scharffen Berger, Cacao Barry, Callebaut, and Guittard. These chocolates contain a high percentage of cocoa (sometimes 70% or more) and have a total fat content of 36-40%.
White chocolate is a confection based on cocoa butter without the cocoa solids.
Cocoa powder. There are two types of unsweetened baking cocoa available: natural cocoa (like the sort produced by Hershey's and Nestlé) and Dutch-process cocoa (such as the Hershey's European Style Cocoa and the Droste brand). Both are made by pulverising partially defatted chocolate liquor and removing nearly all the cocoa butter. Natural cocoa is light in colour and somewhat acidic with a strong chocolate flavour. Natural cocoa is commonly used in recipes which call for baking soda. Because baking soda is an alkali, combining it with natural cocoa creates a leavening action that allows the batter to rise during baking. Dutch-process cocoa is processed with alkali to neutralise its natural acidity. Dutch cocoa is slightly milder in taste, with a deeper and warmer colour than natural cocoa. Dutch-process cocoa is frequently used for chocolate drinks such as hot chocolate due to its ease in blending with liquids. Unfortunately, Dutch processing destroys most of the flavanols present in cocoa.[1]
Compound is a confection combining cocoa with vegetable fat as a replacement for cocoa butter. It is primarily used for candy bar coatings, but because it does not contain cocoa butter, in the US it is not allowed to be called "chocolate."
Flavours such as mint, orange, or strawberry are sometimes added to chocolate. Chocolate bars frequently contain added ingredients such as peanuts, nuts, caramel, or even crisped rice.

Strictly speaking, 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.

Some want to see the definition allowing for any cocoa solid content and any kind of fat in chocolate. This would allow a merely coloured and flavoured margarine to be sold as chocolate. In some countries this happens, and a 50% to 70% cocoa solid dark-chocolate, with no additive, for domestic use, is hard to find and expensive.
Others believe in adhering more strictly to the definition above.
Still others believe that chocolate refers to a flavour only, derived from cocoa solid and/or cocoa fat, but possibly created synthetically. Foods flavoured with chocolate are described with their assosiated names (ie. baker's chocolate, milk chocolate, chocolate ice cream, etc.).
A recent workaround by the US confection industry has been to reduce the amount of cocoa butter in candy bars without using vegetable fats by adding in Pgpr, or polyglycerol polyricinoleate, which is an artificial castor oil-derived emulsifier that simulates the mouthfeel of fat.

The name chocolate most likely comes from the Nahuatl language, indigenous to central Mexico, although it may have been influenced by the Mayan languages. One popular theory is that it comes from the Nahuatl word xocolatl (IPA /ɕɔ.kɔ.atɬ/), derived from xocolli, bitter, and atl, water. It is associated with the Mayan god of Fertility. On the other hand, 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." This theory assumes that the conquistadores would change indigenous words from two very different languages, while at the same time adopting hundreds of other words from these same languages as-is; a highly unlikely scenario.

In a recent article, linguists Karen Dakin and Søren Wichmann found that in many dialects of Nahuatl, the name is 'chicolatl', rather than 'chocolatl'. In addition, many languages in Mexico, such as Popoluca, Mixtec and Zapotec, and even languages spoken in the Philippines have borrowed this form of the word. The word chicol-li, refers to the frothing or beating sticks still used in some areas in cooking. There are two different sticks used, either a small straight stick with small strong twigs on one end, or a stiff plant stalk with the stubs of roots cleaned and trimmed. Since chocolate was originally served ceremonially with individual beater sticks, it seems quite likely that the original form of the word was 'chicolatl', which would have the etymology 'beater drink'. In many areas of Mexico, 'chicolear' means 'to beat, stir'.

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