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Chocolate comprises a number of raw and processed foods produced from the seed of the tropical cacao tree. Cacao has been cultivated for at least three millennia in Mexico, Central and South America, with its earliest documented use around 1100 BC. The majority of the Mesoamerican peoples made chocolate beverages, including the Aztecs and the Maya, who made it into a beverage known as xocolātl, a Nahuatl word meaning "bitter water". The seeds of the cacao tree have an intense bitter taste, and must be fermented to develop the flavor.

After fermentation, the beans are dried, cleaned, and roasted, and the shell is removed to produce cacao nibs. The nibs are then ground and liquefied, resulting in pure chocolate in fluid form: chocolate liquor. The liquor can be further processed into two components: cocoa solids and cocoa butter. Pure, unsweetened chocolate contains primarily cocoa solids and cocoa butter in varying proportions. Much of the chocolate consumed today is in the form of sweet chocolate, combining chocolate with 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 (and thus does not qualify to be considered true chocolate).

Chocolate contains alkaloids such as theobromine and phenethylamine, which have physiological effects on the body. It has been linked to serotonin levels in the brain. Scientists claim that chocolate, eaten in moderation, can lower blood pressure. Dark chocolate has recently been promoted for its health benefits, including a substantial amount of antioxidants that reduce the formation of free radicals, though the presence of theobromine renders it toxic to some animals, especially dogs and cats.

Chocolate has become one of the most popular food types and flavors in the world. Gifts of chocolate molded into different shapes have become traditional on certain holidays: chocolate bunnies and eggs are popular on Easter, chocolate coins on Hanukkah, Santa Claus and other holiday symbols on Christmas, and hearts on Valentine's Day. Chocolate is also used in cold and hot beverages, to produce chocolate milk and hot chocolate. The world's top producer of cacao beans is Africa, where recent controversy has focused on the use of child labor in cocoa production.

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Quick Tip by . January 13, 2013
posted in Gourmand
This one thing that I can never stay away from for long. But it is true, that it makes clothes go smaller.     
Quick Tip by . July 24, 2011
posted in Gourmand
Contrary to popular belief, real chocolate is NOT bad for you if you take in the right quantities. It's milk chocolate that's the bad stuff, not the real, darker, more cacao-based chocolate. Anyway, what's not to love? It's delicious! It works as a sweet snack and goes well with a lot of different wines, and is fantastic in a lot of pastry baking!
Quick Tip by . November 06, 2009
posted in Gourmand
Chocoholic! I prefer dark as well, organic, fair trade, and raw. Yes it does have health benefits if consumed daily in very small amounts!
Quick Tip by . November 06, 2009
Chocolate- a wonderful food....would be nice if the dark did indeed have health benefits. Macademia too....delicious...
Quick Tip by . November 06, 2009
I'm with Bethany on this one. I love dark chocolate as well. But health benefits? Would like to think so but...
Quick Tip by . November 06, 2009
posted in Gourmand
What can I say? I love chocolate. Dark chocolate is my favorite, and even has health benefits!
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