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Chocolate or cocoa is a food made from roasted and ground cacao seed kernels that is available as a liquid, solid, or paste, either on its own or as a flavoring agent in other foods. Cacao has been consumed in some form for at least 5,300 years starting with the Mayo-Chinchipe culture in what is present-day Ecuador. Later Mesoamerican civilizations also consumed chocolate beverages before being introduced to Europe in the 16th century.

The seeds of the cacao tree have an intense bitter taste and must be fermented to develop the flavor. After fermentation, the seeds are dried, cleaned, and roasted. The shell is removed to produce cocoa nibs, which are then ground to cocoa mass, unadulterated chocolate in rough form. Once the cocoa mass is liquefied by heating, it is called chocolate liquor. The liquor may also be cooled and processed into its two components: cocoa solids and cocoa butter. Baking chocolate, also called bitter chocolate, contains cocoa solids and cocoa butter in varying proportions without any added sugar. Powdered baking cocoa, which contains more fiber than cocoa butter, can be processed with alkali to produce Dutch cocoa. Much of the chocolate consumed today is in the form of sweet chocolate, a combination of cocoa solids, cocoa butter, or added vegetable oils and sugar. Milk chocolate is sweet chocolate that additionally contains milk powder or condensed milk. White chocolate contains cocoa butter, sugar, and milk, but no cocoa solids.

Chocolate is one of the most popular food types and flavors in the world, and many foodstuffs involving chocolate exist, particularly desserts, including cakes, pudding, mousse, chocolate brownies, and chocolate chip cookies. Many candies are filled with or coated with sweetened chocolate. Chocolate bars, either made of solid chocolate or other ingredients coated in chocolate, are eaten as snacks. Gifts of chocolate molded into different shapes (such as eggs, hearts, and coins) are traditional on certain Western holidays, including Christmas, Easter, Valentine's Day, and Hanukkah. Chocolate is also used in cold and hot beverages, such as chocolate milk and hot chocolate, and in some alcoholic drinks, such as creme de cacao.

Although cocoa originated in the Americas, West African countries, particularly Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana, are the leading producers of cocoa in the 21st century, accounting for some 60% of the world cocoa supply.

With some two million children involved in the farming of cocoa in West Africa, child slavery and traffickingassociated with the cocoa trade remain major concerns. A 2018 report argued that international attempts to improve conditions for children were doomed to failure because of persistent poverty, the absence of schools, increasing world cocoa demand, more intensive farming of cocoa, and continued exploitation of child labor.

Etymology[]

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Cocoa, pronounced by the Olmecs as kakawa, dates to 1000 BC or earlier. The word "chocolate" entered the English language from Spanish in about 1600. The word entered Spanish from the word chocolātl in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs. The origin of the Nahuatl word is uncertain, as it does not appear in any early Nahuatl source, where the word for chocolate drink is cacahuatl, "cocoa water". It is possible that the Spaniards coined the word (perhaps in order to avoid caca, a vulgar Spanish word for "faeces") by combining the Yucatec Mayan word chocol, "hot", with the Nahuatl word atl, "water".A widely cited proposal is that the derives from unattested xocolatlmeaning "bitter drink" is unsupported; the change from x- to ch- is unexplained, as is the -l-. Another proposed etymology derives it from the word chicolatl, meaning "beaten drink", which may derive from the word for the frothing stick, chicoli. Other scholars reject all these proposals, considering the origin of first element of the name to be unknown. The term "chocolatier", for a chocolate confection maker, is attested from 1888.

History[]

See also: History of chocolate

South America[]

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The cocoa bean was first domesticated at least 5,300 years ago, in equatorial South America from the Santa Ana-La Florida (SALF) site in what is present-day southeast Ecuador (Zamora-Chinchipe Province) by the Mayo-Chinchipe culture, before being introduced in Mesoamerica.

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Mesoamerican usage[]

Chocolate has been prepared as a drink for nearly all of its history. For example, one vessel found at an Olmec archaeological site on the Gulf Coast of Veracruz, Mexico, dates chocolate's preparation by pre-Olmec peoples as early as 1750 BC. On the Pacific coast of Chiapas, Mexico, a Mokaya archaeological site provides evidence of cocoa beverages dating even earlier to 1900 BCE. The residues and the kind of vessel in which they were found indicate the initial use of cocoa was not simply as a beverage; the white pulp around the cocoa beans was likely used as a source of fermentable sugars for an alcoholic drink.

An early Classic-period (460–480 CE) Maya tomb from the site in Rio Azul had vessels with the Maya glyph for cocoa on them with residue of a chocolate drink, which suggests that the Maya were drinking chocolate around 400 CE. Documents in Maya hieroglyphs stated that chocolate was used for ceremonial purposes in addition to everyday life. The Maya grew cacao trees in their backyards and used the cocoa seeds the trees produced to make a frothy, bitter drink.

By the 15th century, the Aztecs had gained control of a large part of Mesoamerica and had adopted cocoa into their culture. They associated chocolate with Quetzalcoatl, who, according to one legend, was cast away by the other gods for sharing chocolate with humans, and identified its extrication from the pod with the removal of the human heart in sacrifice. In contrast to the Maya, who liked their chocolate warm, the Aztecs drank it cold, seasoning it with a broad variety of additives, including the petals of the Cymbopetalum penduliflorum tree, chili pepper, allspice, vanilla, and honey.

The Aztecs were unable to grow cocoa themselves, as their home in the Mexican highlands was unsuitable for it, so chocolate was a luxury imported into the empire. Those who lived in areas ruled by the Aztecs were required to offer cocoa seeds in payment of the tax they deemed "tribute". Cocoa beans were often used as currency. For example, the Aztecs used a system in which one turkey cost 100 cocoa beans and one fresh avocado was worth three beans.

The Maya and Aztecs associated cocoa with human sacrifice, and chocolate drinks specifically with sacrificial human blood. The Spanish royal chronicler Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés described a chocolate drink he had seen in Nicaragua in 1528, mixed with achiote: "because those people are fond of drinking human blood, to make this beverage seem like blood, they add a little achiote, so that it then turns red. ... and part of that foam is left on the lips and around the mouth, and when it is red for having achiote, it seems a horrific thing, because it seems like blood itself."

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