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Does chocolate contain caffeine?

  • The subject of caffeine has become a more prevalent subject in health as more research is carried out on its effects.
  • We know coffee and tea has caffeine – and our dependancy on it has increased substantially, as demonstrated in the demand for stimulant drinks. 
  • At the same time, more are trying to avoid it due to potential side effects.
  • So does that mean we should avoid chocolate, if we are avoiding caffeine?
  • How much caffeine chocolate contains, depends on the type of chocolate that you choose.
  • Lets first take a brief look at what caffeine actually is and why some of you may wish to avoid consuming too much of it. 

What is caffeine? 

Caffeine is a bitter white crystalline xanthine alkaloid that’s typically found in the seeds, leaves and fruit of certain plants, such as the coffee plant and tea bush. 

Many scientists believe that plants, including the cacao tree, which produces the cacao beans, use caffeine as a natural defence system that helps to deter herbivores and plant pests from attacking and eating them. Some even believe that the ‘caffeine rush’ so prized by us humans is the plant’s clever way of encouraging us to cultivate it in the first place! 

Why should I avoid too much caffeine?

In humans, caffeine acts as a central nervous system stimulant – it’s highly sought-after precisely because it helps to make us feel less drowsy and much more alert. The flip side is that, in large amounts, caffeine may have an affect on our sleeping habits, which is why those struggling with insomnia and other types of sleeping disorders often seek to reduce their caffeine consumption (especially in the evening), or may even endeavour to cut it out altogether.

Unfortunately excessive caffeine consumption has also been linked to a number of other unwelcome side-effects and recognised disorders, which go some way towards explaining why many of our customers are concerned about the caffeine content in their favourite chocolate products.

Does chocolate contain caffeine? 

Chocolate is made from the cacao beans that grow on the cacao tree. Cacao beans contain only very small traces of caffeine, between 0.1% and 0.7%, and usually no more than 0.2%. Compare that to coffee beans, it contains approximately 1.2% caffeine or dry tealeaves, which contain up to 3% caffeine.

So, whilst the answer to the question ‘does chocolate contain caffeine?’ is strictly ‘yes’, an arguably more sensible question would be ‘does chocolate contain a significant amount of caffeine?’, to which the answer is a resounding ‘no’!

Raw chocolate compared to “ordinary” chocolate

As we’ve learnt, cacao beans contain very little caffeine. However, it stands to reason that, as raw chocolate is a purer product, which thankfully doesn’t contain the harmful refined sugars, fattening dairy products and artificial additives found in ordinary chocolate, it may have a fractionally higher caffeine content than say milk or white chocolate. Regardless, it’s important to remember that it’s still a very small quantity and that the other myriad benefits of raw chocolate far outweigh its negligible caffeine content from a healthy eating perspective.

Carob – the caffeine free alternative to chocolate 

The good news is, that for those who do prefer to avoid food and drinks that contain even the smallest amount of caffeine, yet still crave some chocolate, there is a completely caffeine free alternative to chocolate – carob. 

Carob powder is made from the carob pods that grow on the carob tree and was once an important source of sugar before the cultivation of sugarcane and sugar beet. Not only does carob powder contain zero caffeine, it’s also free from theobromine, another known stimulant found in chocolate in much larger quantities than caffeine.