Chocolate contains hundreds of chemical compounds including polyphenols, powerful antioxidants thought to stave off cancer and heart disease, as well as psychoactive compounds such as theobromine, theophylline, and caffeine. Theobromine and theophyliline are mild stimulants that are also partly responsible for that familiar and welcome chocolate buzz. We all know caffeine as the stimulant found in coffee that brings us clarity and energy in the morning, but how much caffeine is in chocolate compared to drinks like coffee, tea or cola?
Let’s cut to the chase right now – chocolate doesn’t contain much caffeine. Of course, the actual amount of caffeine you get depends upon factors such as the percent cacao (cocoa), where the beans were grown, how they were processed after harvest and how much you consume as a “typical” serving. What’s a typical serving of chocolate? That’s up to you, but for high quality dark chocolate, you need much less to feel satisfied, so I’d say 20 grams at most which is a little less than half a small bar or 1/4 of a large one. With that in mind, here are a few facts about caffeine in chocolate:
|CHOCOLATE||CAFFEINE PER SERVING||SERVING SIZE|
|Milk Chocolate (junk)||4 mg||20 g|
|Milk Chocolate 45% Cacao||16 mg||20 g|
|Dark Chocolate 60% Cacao||24 mg||20 g|
|Dark Chocolate 70% Cacao||28 mg||20 g|
|Hot Chocolate (typical)||9 mg||8 oz.|
|Hot Chocolate – Rich||24 mg||8 oz. (made with 15g of 80% cocoa)|
Unless you are monitoring your daily caffeine intake for medical reasons, there is no reason to get too caught up in the numbers. The numbers don’t say much unless you compare them to something familiar, so here are some facts for common beverages:
|BEVERAGE||CAFFEINE PER SERVING||SERVING SIZE|
|Brewed Coffee||140 mg||8 oz.|
|Single Shot Espresso||63 mg||1 oz.|
|Decaf Coffee||9 mg||8 oz.|
|Black Tea||65 mg||6 oz.|
|Green Tea||28mg||6 oz.|
|Coke Classic||35 mg||12 oz.|
|Red Bull||78 mg||250 mL|
You may be surprised to see that a shot of espresso has less caffeine than a cup of brewed coffee despite its reputation as a sort of rocket fuel for the weary. Actually, because the water is in contact with the espresso beans for only a short time, it does not fully extract the caffeine, but pulls out all the best coffee flavors and aromas into your cup. So where does chocolate stand next to that little cup of espresso? To get as much caffeine as a single shot of espresso, you would need to eat about three servings of 60% dark chocolate or 4 servings of quality milk chocolate. On the other hand, to match the caffeine kick of a cup of coffee, you’d need to down 2 entire dark chocolate bars, 3 milk chocolate bars or 6 cups of hot cocoa.
Most people shouldn’t worry one bit about the small about of caffeine in chocolate. If you’re worried that eating chocolate at night is going to keep you awake, don’t. Don’t worry, that is. Like most other good things in life, chocolate is best enjoyed in moderation and moderate amounts of chocolate are not going to affect most people. But don’t come away from this thinking that milk chocolate is the best choice since it has less caffeine! Eat milk chocolate if that’s what you like most, but generally speaking, dark chocolate will have more of all the healthy compounds that we seek from plant-based super foods like blueberries and grape juice, not to mention, more satisfying chocolate flavor. So, rest well knowing you are choosing a healthy artisan food.
References and Notes:
 The data are averages from multiple sources.
 Goldberger BA, Lessig MC, McCusker RR, Cone EJ, Gold MS. Evaluation of Current Caffeine Content of Coffee Beverages: Recommendations for Clinicians Regarding Caffeine Exposure. Society of Biological Psychiatry’s Annual Convention and Scientific Program 2003. San Francisco, California.
 Mayo Clinic – http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/caffeine/AN01211
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