The history of cocoa and chocolate including the birth and the expansion of the chocolate industry was described. Recent developments in the industry and cocoa economy were briefly depicted. An overview of the classification of cacao as well as studies on phenotypic and genetic diversity was presented. Cocoa agronomic practices including traditional and modern propagation techniques were reviewed. Nutrition-related health benefits derived from cocoa consumption were listed and widely reviewed. The specific action of cocoa antioxidants was compared to those of teas and wines. Effects of adding milk to chocolate and chocolate drinks versus bioavailability of cocoa polyphenols were discussed. Finally, flavor, sensory, microbiological, and toxicological aspects of cocoa consumption were presented.
Keywords: Cocoa; antioxidants; contamination; flavor; genetic diversity; health benefits.