Cocoa and coffee are very popular worldwide due to their characteristic taste and aroma. So it’s no wonder that some people ask if cocoa beans and coffee beans are somehow related. Their processing method and use are extremely similar, but do they share a common origin?
Let me provide you with some information on the subject.
The answer is no, cocoa beans and coffee beans are not from the same family. Although there are many similarities in the processing and use of cocoa and coffee, we are still talking about two completely separate types of plants. Cocoa beans grow inside the cocoa pod, which is the fruit of the Theobroma cacao plant. The cacao plant is native to America, in the Amazon region. The coffee bean is the seed of the coffee cherry, the fruit of a tree or shrub belonging to the genus Coffea. The homeland of coffee is in Africa, more precisely Ethiopia.
According to the Smithsonian magazine, coffee and cocoa may have shared a common ancestor about 120 million years ago, from which they then evolved separately.
What’s the difference between cocoa beans and coffee beans?
The coffee bean is actually the seed of the coffee cherry fruit, of which there are more than a hundred varieties. The best-known of these are Arabica (Coffea arabica), and Robusta (Coffea canephora).
The red coffee berry is edible and contains two coffee beans per fruit. Fresh coffee beans are green. The characteristic taste and aroma of coffee develop later, during roasting.
Cocoa beans are the seeds inside the cocoa pod that grows on the cocoa plant. An average cocoa pod contains approximately 30-40 beans.
It is interesting to note that cacao pods grow on the trunk of the tree and not on the branches. Cocoa beans are soft when fresh and their color can vary from pale violet to purple.
After harvesting, the cocoa beans are fermented, then dried in the sun and roasted.
You may also wish to read about some interesting facts related to chocolate.
Where do cocoa plants grow naturally?
The cocoa plant was originally native to the Amazon, then spread to Mesoamerica. According to archeological findings, the Olmecs began cultivating and processing cocoa in Mexico around 1500 BC.
Since the climate is suitable for cocoa only in areas close to the equator, its cultivation is quite limited from a geographical point of view.
Today, most cocoa is grown in West Africa, most in Ivory Coast. Cacao still grows naturally in the Americas. The biggest producers in this area are Ecuador, Cameroon, and Brazil.
The Mayans living in Guatemala and Yucatan consumed it flavored with chili and vanilla. It was treated as a classy drink served on special occasions.
Excavations in Honduras prove that an alcoholic drink was produced by fermenting cocoa beans. The cocoa bean was a high-value crop that also functioned as a means of payment.
Where do coffee beans grow in the world?
The origin of the coffee plant is Africa, more precisely Ethiopia, but over time it has spread to other parts of the world.
Today, Mexico, Ecuador, Guatemala, Brazil, Colombia, Honduras, Tanzania, India, Indonesia, and Vietnam are important coffee-growing countries.
The Robusta coffee variety accounts for a third of the world’s coffee consumption, and the rest is covered by the highly popular Arabica.
Yemen’s famous type of coffee is Mocha, which belongs to the Arabica variety.
Ethiopian Arabica is sensitive to climatic influences, so it is expensive to grow. Robusta is more resistant to environmental influences, so its cultivation is much more economical.
According to a study published in 2021 by the Royal Botanic Gardens, the future of coffee cultivation may be secured by a coffee variety rediscovered in Sierra Leone in 2018.
It is resistant to high temperatures and the effects of climate change. The taste is said to be particularly good, similar to Arabica.
Does cacao have more caffeine than coffee?
Both cocoa and coffee naturally contain caffeine.
Cocoa beans contain between 0.1 and 0.7% caffeine, while coffee beans contain much more, around 1.2%. Robusta has more caffeine than Arabica.
Based on USDA data, 100 g of brewed coffee contains 40 mg of caffeine.
97% of caffeine can be removed from coffee using chemical processes. This is how decaffeinated coffee is made. However, these processes also affect the flavors.
According to some theories, plants use their caffeine content to protect themselves from herbivores. Other scientists, however, believe that the caffeine in fallen leaves inhibits the growth of other plants competing for the same nutrients.
According to Newcastle University, research proves that the caffeine content of plants affects the behavior of bees and improves their memory. They remember the scent of the caffeinated plant for days and come back to find it.
Caffeine has a bitter taste, but the nectar of coffee flowers does not contain it in such a concentration that bees do not like it. However, it is sufficient to have a psychoactive effect.
The brains of bees and humans work similarly in many ways. Caffeine has a similar effect on humans, increasing alertness, stimulating memory, and helping to focus.
Because coffee contains more caffeine than cocoa, it can be addictive. Its deficiency results in withdrawal symptoms, which can be manifested in, among other things, severe headaches, irritation, fatigue, and depression.
However, these symptoms subside within a few days after withdrawal from caffeine.
Benefits of cocoa and coffee
Cocoa and coffee are both popular because of their delicious taste, but they can also have a beneficial effect on our health.
Coffee health benefits
Coffee contains chemicals that are beneficial to human health, such as antioxidants, which protect our cells from free radicals caused by oxidation.
Since antioxidants are also anti-inflammatory, they may reduce the risk of developing some chronic diseases, such as some types of cancer.
Coffee contains potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus, as well as B vitamins.
Some research suggests that coffee may reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease, liver and heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. It can also help prevent the formation of gallstones.
In middle-aged people, coffee consumption may protect against the development of Alzheimer’s disease later in life. These beneficial effects of coffee are more significant than the possible risks.
Cocoa health benefits
The flavanol found in cocoa has an anti-inflammatory effect, and can also lower blood pressure, and improve blood circulation and the condition of blood vessels. This can help to protect the health of the cardiovascular system.
Cocoa contains calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, and manganese, as well as B vitamins and lutein.
Theobromine is an alkaloid that cocoa contains in significant amounts. It is a stimulant similar to caffeine, but it does not have as many side effects.
Cortez, who led the Spaniards to come to America, mentions a drink called “xocoatl”, which is cacao, as increasing stamina and overcoming fatigue.
Natural cocoa contains the highest amount of flavanols. Due to the Dutch processing method, the flavanol content in cocoa is greatly reduced.
Can I brew cacao powder like coffee?
Cocoa can be brewed in the same way as coffee. It was similarly prepared in Mesoamerican cultures. The taste is similar to that of chocolate, but without sugar and with significantly less caffeine.
Is brewed cacao less acidic than coffee?
Cocoa and coffee are naturally acidic. The pH value of brewed cocoa is between 6 and 7, and that of coffee is around 5. This means that cocoa is less acidic than coffee.
The acidity of coffee depends on the degree of roasting. Lighter-roasted coffee has a higher acid content than dark-roasted coffee.
Can cocoa be mixed with coffee?
Cocoa and coffee are a tasty combination. This is how Caffè Mocha (Mochaccino) coffee drinks are prepared, which are served with milk and cream.
Cocoa beans and coffee beans come from different plant families, but there are many similarities in their processing and use. Both are known as ingredients for popular drinks.
Both cocoa and coffee have conquered the world with their delicious taste, and they can also provide us with many health benefits.