Chocolate is a typically sweet, usually brown, food preparation of roasted and ground cacao seeds. It is made in the form of a liquid, paste, or in a block, or used as a flavoring ingredient in other foods. The earliest evidence of use traces to the Olmecs (Mexico), with evidence of chocolate beverages dating to 1900 BC. The majority of Mesoamerican people made chocolate beverages, including the Maya and Aztecs.
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. The shell is removed to produce cacao 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 also may 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. 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.