Chocolate has a long history, with origins dating back thousands of years to the ancient Aztec, Maya, and Olmec cultures of Central and South America. The Aztecs consumed a ceremonial drink called cacahuatl that they made from the beans of the cocoa trees that were indigenous to their region. The English word chocolate is thought to be a combination of the Aztec words cacahuatl and chocolatl, which meant “hot water.”
How Chocolate Making Begins
Today, chocolate has become one of the most globally produced and consumed delicacies. It’s a treat that transcends borders and languages, with the leading producers in Africa and South America and largest per capita consumers in northern Europe.
Chocolate production starts with harvesting beans from cocoa trees that are grown in tropical climates around the world, including Africa, the Caribbean, Central and South America, and Indonesia. Cocoa bean shells are then removed to collect their meat, or nib. Cocoa nibs are subsequently ground into chocolate liquor, which contains a mixture of cocoa solids and cocoa butter, the naturally occurring fat in cocoa beans. Chocolate liquor can then be pressed to separate cocoa butter from the solids. Despite their names, cocoa butter does not contain dairy, and chocolate liquor does not contain alcohol—although it does naturally contain small amounts of caffeine.
Types of Chocolate
While many people prefer a certain type of chocolate, they may not be aware of what makes one type different from another. Here’s a rundown of five types of chocolate, starting with a newer variety that you may never have heard of.
If you’ve never heard of ruby chocolate, you’re not alone. Ruby chocolate is a relative newcomer to the chocolate scene. It’s so new that a standard of identity has not been established for ruby chocolate in the U.S. (as it has for other types of chocolate). Ruby chocolate has been temporarily defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as containing (by weight) at least 1.5% nonfat cacao solids, 2.5% milkfat, and 12% total milk solids (which includes milkfat, cream, butter, or various other forms of milk).
Ruby chocolate is pink, but no colors are added during its production. Ruby chocolate gets its name from the color of cocoa beans that produced it via a patented process. Cocoa beans used to make ruby chocolate are grown only in specific climates found in parts of Brazil, Ecuador, and Ivory Coast.
Is white chocolate even chocolate? Although you may have heard that it isn’t real chocolate, white chocolate is considered a cocoa product by the FDA, which permits white chocolate to have the word chocolate in its name. Some of the confusion may stem from the fact that white chocolate does not contain all parts of the cocoa bean like other chocolates do. Specifically, white chocolate does not contain cocoa solids—it only contains cocoa butter, which accounts for its unique color and taste. By weight, white chocolate in the U.S. must be at least 20% cocoa butter, 3.5% milkfat, and 14% total milk solids. White chocolate cannot contain more than 55% sugar.
One ounce of white chocolate contains about 150 calories, nine grams of fat, and 16 grams of added sugars.
Milk chocolate is generally considered the most popular type of chocolate. It is typically sweeter and creamier than dark chocolate, and it has the chocolate-rich flavor that white chocolate lacks. By weight, milk chocolate in the U.S. must be at least 10% chocolate liquor, 3.39% milkfat, and 12% total milk solids. There are no requirement for specific amounts of cocoa butter or added sugar for milk chocolate.
One ounce of milk chocolate contains about 150 calories, eight grams of fat, one gram of fiber, 14 grams of added sugars and five milligrams of caffeine.
Dark chocolate is typically more bitter and less sweet than milk chocolate and white chocolate. Dark chocolate can be either sweet or semi-sweet, depending on the amount of chocolate liquor it contains. By weight, semi-sweet chocolate in the U.S. must contain at least 35% chocolate liquor, while sweet chocolate must have a minimum of 15% chocolate liquor. High cocoa percentages are typically highlighted on the front of dark chocolate packaging as “X% cocoa.”
Whereas white and milk chocolate have minimum requirements for total milk solids, dark chocolates have a maximum of 12%. Similar to milk chocolate, dark chocolates do not have requirements for specific amounts of cocoa butter or added sugar.
One ounce of (45–59% cocoa) dark chocolate contains about 155 calories, nine grams of fat, two grams of fiber, 13 grams of added sugars, and 12 milligrams of caffeine.
One ounce of (60–69% cocoa) dark chocolate contains about 165 calories, 11 grams of fat, two grams of fiber, 10 grams of added sugars, and 24 milligrams of caffeine.
One ounce of (70–85% cocoa) dark chocolate contains about 170 calories, 12 grams of fat, three grams of fiber, seven grams of added sugars, and 23 milligrams of caffeine.
Raise your hand if you learned the hard way at a young age—like I did!—that baking chocolate tastes different from other types of chocolate. Baking chocolate is dark in color like other dark chocolates, but even more bitter because it only contains chocolate liquor. Baking chocolate, also known as unsweetened chocolate, has no sugar or dairy added to it because it is meant to be used in baking recipes that include other sweet-tasting ingredients.
One ounce of baking chocolate contains about 185 calories, 15 grams of fat, five grams of fiber, and 23 milligrams of caffeine.