chocolate, general term for the products of the seeds of the cacao or chocolate tree, used for making beverages or confectionery. The flavor of chocolate depends not only on the quality of the cocoa nibs (the remainder after the seeds are fermented, dried, and roasted) and the flavorings but also on a complex process of grinding, heating, and blending. The chocolate liquid formed in an intermediate stage is used in the confectionery trade as a covering for fruits, candies, or cookies, or the process may be continued and the resulting smooth mass of chocolate molded, cooled, and packaged as candy. It should be hard enough to snap when broken, have a mellow flow when melting, be free of gritty particles, and have a rich, dark color and an aromatic smell and flavor.
A chocolate beverage was known to the Aztecs and through Spanish explorers found (c.1500) its way into Europe; the Maya also made such a drink, perhaps as early as 900 BC, and may also have used chocolate in prepared food. In 1657 a shop was opened in London where chocolate was sold at luxury prices. It became a fashionable drink; many shops sprang up to become centers of political discussion and grow into famous clubs, such as the Cocoa Tree. Chocolate was first manufactured in the United States at Milton Lower Mills, near Dorchester, Mass., in 1765. About 1876, M. D. Peter of Vevey, Switzerland, perfected a process of making milk chocolate by combining the cocoa nib, sugar, fat, and condensed milk. The United States has the world's largest chocolate-manufacturing industry.
See B. W. Minifie, Chocolate, Cocoa and Confectionery (1970); S. Beckett, Industrial Chocolate Manufacture and Use (1982); J. G. Brenner, The Emperors of Chocolate (1999); M. Norton, Sacred Gifts, Profane Pleasures: A History of Tobacco and Chocolate in the Atlantic World (2008).