AskDefine | Define chocolate

Dictionary Definition



1 a beverage made from cocoa powder and milk and sugar; usually drunk hot [syn: cocoa, hot chocolate, drinking chocolate]
2 a food made from roasted ground cacao beans
3 a medium to dark brown color [syn: coffee, deep brown, umber, burnt umber]

User Contributed Dictionary



Often said to come from xocolatl (e.g. American Heritage Dictionary 2000) or chocolatl (e.g. 2006), which would be derived from xococ, bitter, and atl, water, (with an irregular change of x to ch). Dakin and Wichmann (2000) propose that the chocol- element refers to a special wooden stick used to prepare chocolate.
However, the form xocolatl is not directly attested, and chocolatl does not appear in Nahuatl until the mid-18th century, which may indicate another origin. The word may come instead from a language.
In any case, the word chocolate reached English via .


  • "chocolate." The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 17 Nov. 2006.
  • "chocolate." Unabridged (v 1.0.1). Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006. 17 Nov. 2006.
  • Dakin, Karen; Wichmann, Søren. (2000) ‘Cacao and Chocolate: An Uto-Aztec perspective’. Ancient Mesoamerica, vol. 11, pp.55–75.
  • Karttunen, Frances. (1983) An Analytical Dictionary of Nahuatl. University of Texas Press, p. 54.


  • a UK: /ˈʧɒklɪt/, /"tSQklIt/ or /ˈʧɒkəlɪt/, /"tSQk@lIt/
  • a US: /ˈʧɑklət/, /"tSAkl@t/ or /ˈʧɑkələt/, /"tSAk@l@t/
  • a Aus: /ˈʧɒklət/, /"tSQkl@t/ or /ˈʧɒkələt/, /"tSQk@l@t/


  1. A food made from ground roasted cocoa beans.
    Chocolate is a very popular treat.
  2. A single, small piece of confectionery made from chocolate.
    He bought her some chocolates as a gift.
  3. In the context of "uncountable|colour": A dark, reddish-brown colour/color, like that of chocolate.
    chocolate colour:   
    As he cooked it the whole thing turned a rich deep chocolate.
food made from ground roasted cocoa beans
small piece of confectionery made from chocolate


  1. Made of or containing chocolate.
  2. Having a dark reddish-brown colour/color.

Derived terms

See Derived terms for the noun


made of or containing chocolate



  1. Form of feminine, chocolat



  1. chocolate



ia-noun s



  • /ʃokoˈlaʧi/


  1. chocolate



Possibly from xocoatl, though the etymology is unclear.


  • /ʧokoˈlate/, tSoko"late

Extensive Definition

Chocolate has been used as a drink for nearly all of its history. The earliest record of using chocolate dates back to the Maya. 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. The residues found and the kind of vessel they were found in indicate that 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. and used the cacao seeds it produced to make a frothy, bitter drink. Documents in Maya hieroglyphs stated that chocolate was used for ceremonial purposes, in addition to everyday life. The chocolate residue found in an early ancient Maya pot in Río Azul, Guatemala, suggests that Maya were drinking chocolate around 400 AD. In the New World, chocolate was consumed in a bitter, spicy drink called xocoatl, and was often flavored with vanilla, chile pepper, and achiote (known today as annatto). Xocoatl was believed to fight fatigue, a belief that is probably attributable to the theobromine content. Chocolate was also an important luxury good throughout pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, and cacao beans were often used as currency. For example, the Aztecs used a system in which one turkey cost one hundred cacao beans and one fresh avocado was worth three beans. South American and European cultures have used cocoa to treat diarrhea for hundreds of years. All of the areas that were conquered by the Azetcs that grew cacao beans were ordered to pay them as a tax, or as the Aztecs called it, a "tribute".
Untill the 1500s, no European had ever heard of the popular drink from the Central and South American peoples. It was not until the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs that chocolate could be imported to Europe, where it quickly became a court favorite. Even with cacao harvesting becoming a regular business, only royalty and the well-connected could afford to drink this expensive import. Before long, the Spanish began growing cacao beans on plantations, and user African workforce to help manage them. The situation was different in England. Put simply, anyone with money could buy it. The first chocolate house opened in London in 1657.
For hundreds of years, the chocolate making process remained unchanged. When the people saw the Industrial Revolution arrive, many changes occured that brought the hard, sweet candy we love today to life. In the 1700s, mechanical mills were created that squeezed out cocoa butter, which in turn helped to create hard, durable chocolate. 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. When new machines were produced, people began experiencing and consuming chocolate worldwide.

Types of chocolate

Alongside milk chocolate, white chocolate and dark chocolate are also common chocolate varietes.
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; thus not officially qualifying as true chocolate. Becuase of this, many countries do not consider white chocolate as chocolate at all. 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, one benefit of white chocolate is that it also does not contain any theobromine, meaning it can be consumed by animals. Dark chocolate is produced by adding fat and sugar to the cacao mixture. 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. Dark chocolate, with its high cocoa content, is a rich source of the flavonoids epicatechin and gallic acid, which are thought to possess cardioprotective properties. Dark chocolate has also been said to reduce blood pressure and the possibility of a heart attack when consumed in small amounts and regularly. Unsweetened chocolate is pure chocolate liquor, also known as bitter or baking chocolate, mixed with some form of fat to produce a solid substance. It is unadulterated chocolate: the pure, ground, roasted chocolate beans impart a strong, deep chocolate flavor. With the addition of sugar, however, it is used as the base for cakes, brownies, confections, and cookies. Semisweet chocolate is often used for cooking purposes. It 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. Bittersweet and semisweet chocolates are sometimes referred to as 'couverture' chocolate, chocolate that contains at least 32% cocoa butter).


Roughly two-thirds of the entire world's cocoa is produced in Western Africa, with 43% sourced from Côte d'Ivoire. According to the World Cocoa Foundation, some 50 million people around the world depend on cocoa as a source of livelihood. Despite some disagreement in the EU about the definition, chocolate is any product made primarily of cocoa solids and cocoa fat. The different flavors of chocolate can be obtained by varying the time and temperature when roasting the beans, by adjusting the relative quantities of the cocoa solids and cocoa fat, and by adding non-chocolate ingredients.
Production costs can be decreased by reducing cocoa solid content or by substituting cocoa butter with a non-cocoa fat. Cocoa growers object to allowing the resulting food to be called "chocolate", due to the risk of lower demand for their crops.

Cacao varieties

Cacao trees are small, understory trees that need rich, well-drained soils. They naturally grow within 20 degrees of either side of the equator because they need about 2000 millimeters of rainfall a year, and temperatures in the range of 21 to 32 degrees Celsius. Cacao trees cannot tolerate a temperature lower than 15 degrees Celsius (59 degrees Fahrenheit).
The three main varieties of cacao beans used in chocolate are criollo, forastero and trinitario.
Representing only five percent of all cocoa beans grown, criollo is the rarest and most expensive cocoa on the market and is native to Central America, the Caribbean islands and the northern tier of South American states. There is some dispute about the genetic purity of cocoas sold today as Criollo, as most populations have been exposed to the genetic influence of other varieties. Criollos are particularly difficult to grow, as they are vulnerable to a variety of environmental threats and produce low yields of cocoa per tree. The flavor of Criollo is described as delicate yet complex, low in classic chocolate flavor, but rich in "secondary" notes of long duration.
The most commonly grown bean is forastero,


Harvesting cacao beans is a delicate process. First, the pods containing cacao beans, are harvested by cutting the pods from the tree using a machete, or by knocking them off the tree using a stick. The beans with their surrounding pulp are removed from the pod and placed in piles or bins to ferment. The fermentation process is what gives the beans their familiar chocolate taste. It is important to harvest the pods when they are fully ripe because if the pod is unripe, the beans will have a low cocoa butter content, or there will be insufficient sugars in the white pulp for fermentation resulting in a weak flavor. After fermentation, the beans must be quickly dried to prevent mold growth. Climate and weather permitting, this is done by spreading the beans out in the sun from 5 to 7 days.

Chocolate liquor

The dried beans are transported from the plantation where they were grown to a chocolate manufacturing facility. The beans are then cleaned (removing twigs, stones, and other debris), roasted, and graded. Next the shells are removed to extract the nib. Finally, the nibs are ground which releases and melts the cocoa butter producing chocolate liquor.
There are three things that can be done with the chocolate liquor at this point:
  • It can be solidified and sold as unsweetened baking chocolate.
  • Cocoa butter can be removed from it and the result is cocoa powder. There are several mechanisms for removing cocoa butter from chocolate liquor. These include using hydraulic pressure and the Broma process.
  • Cocoa butter can be added to it to make eating chocolate.


Chocolate liquor is blended with the cocoa butter in varying quantities to make different types of chocolate or couvertures. The basic blends of ingredients for the various types of chocolate (in order of highest quantity of cocoa liquor first), are as follows:
  • Dark chocolate: sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa liquor, and (sometimes) vanilla
  • Milk chocolate: sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa liquor, milk or milk powder, and vanilla
  • White chocolate: sugar, cocoa butter, milk or milk powder, and vanilla
Usually, an emulsifying agent such as soy lecithin is added, though a few manufacturers prefer to exclude this ingredient for purity reasons and to remain GMO free, 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 chocolate tends 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 (both solids and butter), whereas milk chocolate usually contains up to 50%. High-quality white chocolate couvertures contain only about 33% cocoa.
Producers of high quality, small batch chocolate argue that mass production produces bad quality chocolate. Currently, the FDA does not allow a product to be referred to as "chocolate" if the product contains any of these ingredients.


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 in a liquid state by frictional heat. Chocolate prior to conching has an uneven and gritty texture. 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. Next, the chocolate is cooled to about 27 °C (80 °F), which will allow crystal types IV and V 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 type V. After this point, any excessive heating of the chocolate will destroy the temper and this process will have to be repeated. However, there are other methods of chocolate tempering used. The most common variant is introducing already tempered, solid "seed" chocolate. The temper of chocolate can be measured with a chocolate temper meter to ensure accuracy and consistency. A sample cup is filled with the chocolate and placed in the unit which then displays or prints the results.
Two classic ways of manually tempering chocolate are:
  • Working the molten 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 molten chocolate to "inoculate" the liquid chocolate with crystals (this method uses the already formed crystal of the solid chocolate to "seed" the molten chocolate).
Chocolate tempering machines (or temperers) with computer controls can be used for producing consistently tempered chocolate, particularly for large volume applications.


Chocolate is very sensitive to temperature and humidity. Ideal storage temperatures are between 15 and 17 °C (59 to 63 °F), 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 placed in proper storage with the correct humidity and temperature. Additionally chocolate should be stored in a dark place or protected from light by wrapping paper. Various types of "blooming" effects can occur if chocolate is stored or served improperly. If refrigerated or frozen without containment, chocolate can absorb enough moisture to cause a whitish discoloration, the result of fat or sugar crystals rising to the surface. Moving chocolate from one temperature extreme to another, such as from a refrigerator on a hot day can result in an oily texture. Although visually unappealing, these conditions are perfectly safe for consumption.


Child labor is sometimes used in cocoa production in West Africa, in violation of the Minimum Age Convention of 1973. Some farmers in West Africa use slave labor as a cost-cutting measure, especially when cocoa prices drop.


Chocolate is regularly eaten for pleasure. Besides, there are many potential beneficial effects on health of eating chocolate. Cocoa or dark chocolate benefits the circulatory system.
Other beneficial effects are suggested, such as anticancer, brain stimulator, cough preventor and antidiarrhoeal effects. An aphrodisiac effect is yet unproven.
On the other hand, eating large quantities of any chocolate increases risk of obesity. There is concern of mild lead poisoning for some types of chocolate. Chocolate is toxic to many animals because of insufficient capacity to metabolize theobromine.

Health benefits

Circulatory benefits

Recent studies have suggested that cocoa or dark chocolate may possess certain beneficial effects on human health. 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 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 fat-containing milk with dark chocolate, appears largely to negate the health benefit. Processed cocoa powder (so called Dutch chocolate), processed with alkali greatly reduces the antioxidant capacity as compared to "raw" cocoa powder.
One-third 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. Indeed, small but regular amounts of dark chocolate lower the possibility of a heart attack, a result of cholesterol imbalance according to the lipid hypothesis.. While serotonin has a pleasurable effect, in high concentrations it can be converted to melatonin which in large amounts reduces sexual drive. Although there is no firm proof that chocolate is indeed an aphrodisiac, a gift of chocolate is a familiar courtship ritual.

Other benefits

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 suggests that cocoa flavonoids may possess anticarcinogenic mechanisms, but more research is needed to prove this idea.
Studies suggest a specially formulated type of cocoa may be nootropic and delay brain function decline as people age.
Mars, Incorporated, a Virginia-based candy company, spends money 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.
Other research indicates that chocolate may be effective at preventing persistent coughing. The ingredient theobromine was found to be almost one third more effective than codeine, the leading cough medicine. The chocolate also appears to soothe and moisten the throat.
Flavonoids can inhibit the development of diarrhea, suggesting antidiarrhoeal effects of chocolate.

Health risks

Obesity risk

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'.


There is a popular belief that the consumption of chocolate can cause acne. Various studies seem to show that this is the case for high glycemic index foods in general, though the question is still being studied. Milk is known to cause acne, including any which is mixed with chocolate.


Chocolate has one of the higher concentrations of lead among products that constitute a typical Westerner's diet, with a potential to cause mild lead poisoning. Recent studies have shown that although the beans themselves absorb little lead, it tends to bind to cocoa shells and contamination may occur during the manufacturing process. A recent peer-reviewed publication found significant amounts of lead in chocolate. A review article published in a peer-reviewed journal in 2006 states that despite high consumption levels of chocolate, there is a paucity of data on lead concentrations in chocolate products. In a USDA study in 2004, mean lead levels in the samples tested ranged from 0.0010 to 0.0965 µg lead per gram of chocolate, but another study by a Swiss research group in 2002 found that some chocolate contained up to 0.769 µg per gram, close to the international (voluntary) standard limit for lead in cocoa powder or beans, which is 1 µg of lead per gram. In 2006, the U.S. FDA lowered by one-fifth the amount of lead permissible in candy, but compliance is only voluntary. While studies show that the lead consumed in chocolate may not all be absorbed by the human body, there is no known threshold for the effects of lead on children's brain function and even small quantities of lead can cause permanent neurodevelopmental deficits including impaired IQ.

Toxicity in animals

In sufficient amounts, the theobromine found in chocolate is toxic to non-human animals such as horses, dogs, parrots, small rodents, and cats because they are unable to metabolise the chemical effectively. Treats made from carob can be used to substitute and pose no health threat to animals.

As a stimulant

Chocolate contains a variety of substances, some of which have an effect on body chemistry. These include:


Chocolate is one of the most popular treats given on holidays. On Valentine's Day, a box of chocolate is given, usually with flowers and a greeting card. It is given on other holidays, including Christmas, Thanksgiving, and birthdays, although no special chocolate creation is common on these holidays. Chocolate is used in many other holiday foods, such as cakes, brownies, cupcakes, and fudge.
On Easter, chocolate eggs are popular gifts. A chocolate egg is a confectionery made primarily of chocolate, and can either be solid, hollow, or filled with cream. They are also associated with the Easter Bunny and Easter eggs.


Some manufacturers provide the percentage of chocolate in a finished chocolate confection as a label quoting percentage of "cocoa" or "cacao". It should be noted that this refers to the combined percentage of both cocoa solids and cocoa butter in the bar, not just the percentage of cocoa solids.
Chocolates that are organic or fair trade certified carry labels accordingly. Manufacturers may also state whether their chocolate is shade grown.
In the United States, some large chocolate manufacturers lobbied the federal government to permit confection containing cheaper hydrogenated vegetable oil in place of cocoa butter to be sold as "chocolate". In June 2007, as a response to consumer concern after the proposed change, the FDA re-iterated that "Cacao fat, as one of the signature characteristics of the product, will remain a principal component of standardized chocolate"


Many chocolate manufacturers have created products from chocolate bars to fudge, hoping to attract more consumers with each creation. Both The Hershey Company and Mars have become the largest manufacturers in the world, but other companies have attempted. Major examples include Nestlé and Lindt.
The Hershey Company is the largest chocolate manufacturer in North America. Its headquarters is in Hershey, Pennsylvania, a town permeated by the aroma of cocoa on some days, and home to Hershey's Chocolate World. It was founded by Milton S. Hershey in 1894 as the Hershey Chocolate Company, a subsidiary of his Lancaster Caramel Company. Hershey's candies and other products are sold worldwide. and was one of the highest grossing films of its year, earning over US$470,000,000 worldwide. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was also recognized at the 78th Academy Awards, where it was nominated for Best Costume Design for Gabriella Pesucci.
Chocolat is a 1999 novel by Joanne Harris. It tells the story of Vianne Rocher, a young mother, whose confections change the lives of the townspeople through magic. The 2000 film adaptation, Chocolat, also proved successful, grossing over US$150,000,000 worldwide, becoming well received by critics, and receiving both Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Original Score.


Further reading

See also

chocolate in Dutch: Chocolade
chocolate in Dutch Low Saxon: Sokkeloa
chocolate in Japanese: チョコレート
chocolate in Norwegian: Sjokolade
chocolate in Norwegian Nynorsk: Sjokolade
chocolate in Narom: Chocolat
chocolate in Low German: Schokolaad
chocolate in Polish: Czekolada
chocolate in Portuguese: Chocolate
chocolate in Romanian: Ciocolată
chocolate in Quechua: Chukulati
chocolate in Russian: Шоколад
chocolate in Scots: Chocolate
chocolate in Albanian: Çokollata
chocolate in Sicilian: Cioccolatti
chocolate in Simple English: Chocolate
chocolate in Silesian: Šekulada
chocolate in Slovenian: Čokolada
chocolate in Serbian: Чоколада
chocolate in Serbo-Croatian: Čokolada
chocolate in Finnish: Suklaa
chocolate in Swedish: Choklad
chocolate in Tagalog: Tsokolate
chocolate in Tamil: சாக்கலேட்
chocolate in Thai: ช็อกโกแลต
chocolate in Vietnamese: Sô-cô-la
chocolate in Tajik: Шакалод
chocolate in Turkish: Çikolata
chocolate in Ukrainian: Шоколад
chocolate in Urdu: چاکلیٹ
chocolate in Yiddish: טשאקאלאד
chocolate in Contenese: 朱古力
chocolate in Samogitian: Čėkuolads
chocolate in Chinese: 巧克力
chocolate in Slovak: Čokoláda

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Life Saver, Scotch kisses, beige, bonbon, brittle, brown, brownish, brownish-yellow, brunet, bubble gum, butterscotch, candied apple, candy corn, caramel, chewing gum, chocolate bar, chocolate drop, cinnamon, cocoa, cocoa-brown, coffee, coffee-brown, cotton candy, cough drop, cream, divinity, drab, dun, dun-brown, dun-drab, ecru, fawn, fawn-colored, fondant, fudge, fuscous, glace, grege, gum, gumdrop, hard candy, hazel, honey crisp, horehound, jelly bean, jelly egg, jujube, khaki, kiss, lollipop, lozenge, lurid, marchpane, marshmallow, marzipan, mint, nougat, nut-brown, olive-brown, olive-drab, peanut bar, peanut brittle, peppermint, popcorn balls, praline, rock candy, saltwater taffy, seal, seal-brown, sepia, snuff-colored, sorrel, sugar candy, sugarplum, taffy, tan, taupe, tawny, toast, toast-brown, toffee, torrone, tutti-frutti, umber, umber-colored, walnut, walnut-brown, yellowish-brown
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