Does Chocolate Have Caffeine?

chocolate and coffee beans

It’s true that millions of people all over the world enjoy a cup of coffee (or more) every day to help them perk up in the morning. Other benefits of caffeine include stimulating the brain and central nervous system, helping with heart rate and respiration, and overall providing a mental energy boost and enhanced alertness, among a number of other benefits. 

It’s also true that many people all over the globe enjoy chocolate – especially personalized chocolate bars – in its various forms. But what is the connection between caffeine and chocolate? In fact, a better question to ask is: is there caffeine in chocolate?

Read on to find out about the amount of caffeine in chocolate as well as other information about the two that may come as news to you.

The benefits of caffeine vs chocolate

Although coffee is a major source of caffeine, caffeine can be found in multiple other sources such as in soft drinks, teas, and other beverages. 

Apart from decreasing tiredness and acting as a mild diuretic, caffeine is sometimes also used to treat migraines and tension headaches. 

As for chocolate, those who have had the pleasure to consume it at some point in time will know that apart from its delicious flavor, it also provides an energy or mood boost. 

Darker chocolate has also been said to be good for the heart and it contains antioxidants, which are good for one’s physical well-being. 

The production and structure of chocolate

Interestingly enough, chocolate is made from the seeds of the fruit in cacao trees – cocoa beans. Trees are usually found in the equatorial regions of the world and you may get cocoa beans from places such as Mexico to Ecuador and Uganda to Ghana, among many others. 

In terms of the production process, the shells of the cocoa beans are first removed. Then, what’s left over is fermented, dried, and liquefied in the chocolate-making process resulting in cocoa butter and cocoa solids. 

It must be mentioned at this point that the higher the cocoa content, the darker the chocolate and the healthier it is for consumption. However, chocolate that is commercially prepared may also contain other added ingredients such as sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla, and lecithin. 

We should also mention that although cocoa solids do contain caffeine, cocoa butter doesn’t. But for more on this, take a look at our discussion below. 

The science behind chocolate and caffeine

The cocoa bean or cocoa solid has three naturally-occurring stimulants. These are 

What’s interesting about these three stimulants is that they all belong to the same family or class of alkaloids that are called xanthines. 

In nature, xanthines are used to protect plants and trees from insects. But when used in the right dosage by humans, they can help improve our cognitive function, protect us from tooth decay, reduce risks of Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease, and overall, they act as a nice pick-me-up when energy levels are low.

With all this in mind, you may have come to the conclusion that all chocolate contains caffeine. But the real answer is that this level of caffeine will greatly vary from country to country in which the cacao trees are raised. 

For example, research done on theobromine content in cocoa to determine cocoa solids content in chocolate found that cocoa grown in South American countries has a significantly higher level of caffeine than African cacao.

To further complicate things, it also matters when exactly the cacao is harvested and roasted. Studies have shown that harvesting cacao in the dry season has a much higher caffeine yield than cacao harvested in wet or rainy seasons.

And on top of all this, the roasting process plays little to no role in the caffeine content found in chocolate. 

How much caffeine is in chocolate?

Now that we’ve got the basics out of the way, you may have questions such as how much caffeine is in chocolate and whether the type of chocolate affects the caffeine content. Spoiler alert: yes, it does! However, let’s take a deeper dive into the mechanics behind it, starting with dark chocolate. 

We all know that dark chocolate has several health benefits and you’re more likely to get a boost of energy by consuming this chocolate type than any other. 

In addition, as opposed to drinking a cup of coffee, consuming a piece or two of dark chocolate means you’re much less likely to experience the “dip” effect of chocolate or the associated “crash” or “jitters”. 

It’s also likely you’ll sleep better at night although for those sensitive to caffeine, this is not recommended. 

And as for the other chocolate types, the lighter in color they are, the less cacao solids or cacao content in them and therefore the less caffeine. 

How much caffeine is in dark chocolate?

We’ll start with dark chocolate, which contains 12 mg of caffeine per ounce. Said differently, dark chocolate with 70% to 85% cacao solids has 22.7 mg of caffeine, while dark chocolate with 45% to 59% cacao solids contains 12.2 mg of caffeine. 

How much caffeine is in milk chocolate?

Semi-sweet chocolate and candies contain around 17.6 mg of caffeine. Milk chocolate, on the other hand, contains around 9 mg of caffeine per 1.55 ounces. Put in a different way, the average milk chocolate bar will contain 5.6 mg of caffeine.

Is there caffeine in white chocolate?

As for white chocolate, you’ll be interested to know, it contains zero caffeine because it does not contain cocoa solids but is mostly made up of cocoa butter. 

The bottom line

If you are sensitive to caffeine and you still consume coffee but you love chocolate, you don’t have to worry just yet. That’s because the amount of stimulant found in chocolate can be compared to around one cup of coffee, which has about three times as much caffeine as chocolate. 

The roasting methods, the processing of the cocoa beans, the country of origin, the climate, and season of harvesting will all play a major role in how much caffeine is found in chocolate. But for now, you can rest assured that your caffeine intake from chocolate is much lower than your caffeine intake from coffee or other caffeinated beverages and soft drinks.

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