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Sep 14, 2015

Caffeine and Cacao: A Stimulating Discussion

At Dandelion, customers often ask me about the amount of caffeine in our chocolate. It’s a good question, but a complicated one; especially if you’re asking because you’d like to know how chocolate will affect you. To begin, caffeine is not the only stimulant in chocolate. Theobromine, a bitter alkaloid named after the genus of the cacao tree, is the primary stimulant in cacao—so if we only looked at caffeine in an effort to understand chocolate’s stimulating effects, we’d be missing the whole picture. That said, I’ll try to answer the question at hand by looking at some data we recently collected.

The amount of caffeine in a chocolate bar depends in part on where the beans for that bar were grown. Beans from some origins hold greater concentrations of caffeine than others, just as some beans have a higher or lower percentage of cocoa butter depending on genetics and origin (the farther from the Equator they grow, the fattier the beans tend to be). In order to better understand the properties and components of the beans we buy, we sent some samples to Adam Kavalier Ph.D, a plant scientist and the chocolate maker behind Undone Chocolate in Washington DC. Adam ran some tests and sent us his results, which means we know a lot more about the natural compounds in the chocolate we make! For information on compounds besides caffeine, check out Jenna’s post about our 100% bar.

According to Adam’s study, if you ate an entire Camino Verde 100% bar, you would consume about 350mg of caffeine. This is equivalent to approximately:

8 2oz dark chocolate (70-85%) bars* (according to the National Nutrient Database)
6 1oz shots of espresso
5 12oz cups of black tea
4 8oz cups of brewed coffee
3 2oz Dandelion Chocolate 70% Madagascar chocolate bars



A final note: Take these numbers with a grain of salt; they were used to simplify the question. The amount of caffeine and theobromine in other Madagascar bars will vary because different chocolate makers use different processes. The amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee or tea also varies based on processing.

*Chocolate bar percentages are calculated by the percent of cacao components that are in a bar. A typical mass-produced dark chocolate bar uses beans from West Africa and includes added cocoa butter, whereas our bars have no added cocoa butter and are made from beans with varying genetic makeups. Generally, the lack of added cocoa butter is why our bars tend to have more caffeine than the national average.


  1. Zam

    Have you found differences in caffeine between Central American beans and South American beans? I’m curious because Mayans were known to drink cup-fulls while indigenous from South America, tend to not consume much cacao at all. They use it topically. Curious to what you find!

  2. Jerry Toth

    To answer your question Zam, the biggest difference between origins (in terms of caffeine content) is that, on average, Latin American cacao has 2x the amount of caffeine than West African cacao (which is where the majority of the world’s cacao is grown). Here’s a link to a study that measured caffeine levels in 200 different cacao samples across 26 different countries: https://toakchocolate.com/blogs/news/how-much-caffeine-is-in-chocolate-and-why-it-feels-different-from-coffee


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