That chocolate acts as a stimulant doesn't surprise anybody I'm sure, but the main stimulating chemical isn't caffeine. The real choco-high mostly comes from theobromine, a stimulant with physiological effects similar to those of caffeine, but ... different. Theobromine takes longer to effect the nervous system, and lasts longer in the system, than caffeine. Wikipedia says
Theobromine has very different effects on the human body from caffeine; it is a mild, lasting stimulant with a mood improving effect, whereas caffeine has a strong, immediate effect and increases stress.
Most coffee-heads would argue the stress point, but ... whatever.
I'd heard so much associating caffeine and chocolate that I wanted to know the truth of it. Is there caffeine in chocolate? Apparently there is, although it's very small doses, and what's there, is there by human intervention. Chocolate doesn't naturally contain caffeine.
The confusion may come from the similarity in their chemical makeup. Or maybe it's the fact that there's sugar in most of the chocolate stuff we eat, which gives a false sort of "high" that can seem like the effects of caffeine. The actual amount of caffeine in hot cocoa or chocolate candy is pretty small.
The average cup of hot cocoa contains about 10 mg of caffeine but over 200 mg of theobromine. A 3 1/2 ounce chocolate bar contains approximately 12 mg of caffeine and 155 mg of theobromine.
Compared to an average cup of drip coffee (60-120 mg) and black tea (45 mg), that's not much, caffeine-wise. Most of the comparison charts I found on the net identified just the caffeine content, and ignored the theobromine content. Except for this one, from foodreference.com:
|White chocolate 3ounce bar or 1 cup chips||0.0 mg||0.0 mg|
|Baking chocolate, unsweetened 1 ounce||57.120 mg||346.360 mg|
|Semisweet chocolate 1 ounce (chocolate chips)||17.577 mg||137.781mg|
|Milk Chocolate 1.55 ounce bar||11.440 mg||74.360 mg|
|Cocoa mix 1 envelope/3 heaping tsp||5.040 mg||169.680 mg|
|Cocoa powder, unsweetened 1 tbsp||12.420 mg||111.078 mg|
What about the caffeine content of your favorite chocolate products?
Ben & Jerry's Coffee Fudge Frozen Yogurt (8 oz) -- 85 mg of caffeine
Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate Bar (1.5 oz bar) -- 31 mg
Perugina Milk Chocolate Bar with Cappuccino Filling (1/3 bar, 1.2 ounces) -- 24 mg
Hershey Bar (milk chocolate) (1.5 oz bar) -- 10 mg
Coffee Nips (hard candy) (2 pieces) -- 6 mg
Cocoa or Hot Chocolate (8 ounces) -- 5 mg
Cadbury Chocolate bar (1 oz, 28 g) -- 15 mg
Chocolate Jello Pudding Pops, (47 g) -- 2 mg
IMO, chocolate AND coffee is the best of all possible stimulant combinations. You get both the quick and the delayed lift. You get the long lasting effect of the chocolate, which counteracts the fall from the caffeine high. You get the increased sense of well-being that comes from theobromine, as well as the increased alertness from coffee. Now I ask you, how much better can it get?
Go forth and MOCHA!
More on the caffeine content of chocolate: