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Chocolate is a common ingredient in many kinds of sweets one of the most popular in the world.
Chocolate is made from the fermented, roasted and ground beans of the tropical cacao tree Theobroma cacao. The beans come from a cacao pod. The resulting product is known as "chocolate", an intensely flavored bitter food; this is the definition of chocolate used in many dictionaries. This product is defined as cocoa in many countries. In the American chocolate industry, cocoa is defined as the solids of the cacao bean, cocoa butter is defined as the fat component, and chocolate is the combination of the solids and the fat. This is usually sweetened with sugar and other ingredients and made into chocolate bars (the substance of which is also and commonly referred to as chocolate), or beverages (called cocoa or hot chocolate).
There are three main varieties of cacao beans used in chocolates. The most prized, rare, and expensive is Criollo, the bean of the Maya. Criollos are less bitter and require shorter roasting periods to develop aroma. Forastero is a large group of wild and cultivated cacaos, significantly hardier than Criollo. Trinitario, a natural hybrid of Criollo and Forastero, originated in Trinidad after an introduction of (Amelonado) Forastero to local Criollo crop.
Nearly all cacao produced over the past five decades is of the Forastero or lower-grade Trinitario varieties. The share of higher quality Criollos and Trinitarios (so called flavour cacao) is just under 5% per annum.
Chocolate, when not produced in "bars" or other geometric shapes, is often produced in the form of small molded forms (usually of animals or people), for example as rabbit- or egg-shaped chocolates near Easter, and other shapes for Christmas, Saint Nicholas and Valentine's Day. Chocolate "kisses" (Hershey's Kisses) and roses are other popular shapes.
Additionally, chocolate is often the main ingredient, or a major ingredient, in ice cream, cookies, cake, pie, and other desserts. The word chocolate is of Nahuatl origin.
There is a lot of debate over whether commercial chocolate is vegan. Though dark chocolate is usually distinguished from milk chocolate because of a lack of added whole milk powder, it has been argued that some commercial brands add a bit of milk powder to their dark chocolate. For example, Hershey's Special Dark contains milk and lactose from milk. Another concern is that all chocolate contains sugar, which is sometimes processed with bone char. It is possible to buy certified vegan chocolate. Carob chips are often used as a substitute as well.
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