Cacao in comparison to Coffee Beans (Health Benefits, Farming & Brewing)

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Cacao and coffee beans are two of the world’s most extensively eaten crops. They have a similar history, traits, and function while yet being different. These are the various aspects to consider while picking between cacao and coffee for production or consumption.

A Comparison between Coffee and Cacao

Coffee beans, for example, are often brewed, while cacao beans are used to produce chocolate. Yet, despite their names, coffee and cacao are both seeds from the same fruit. They are also cultivated in comparable areas across the globe, albeit at various elevations.

Traditional cacao brewing techniques, in addition to the current sweet chocolate, may give a nutritious, energy-boosting alternative to coffee. Both are inherently bitter, but with different processing processes, preparations, and additional ingredients, they produce varied tastes. Both include psychoactive stimulants, namely caffeine, making them popular pick-me-up beverages.

Other aspects that may influence your selection include health advantages, ethical issues, taste profiles, cultivation complexity, processing and preparation problems, and availability. What is ideal for you will be determined solely by personal choice, purpose, and physiological tolerances, all of which are discussed in this article.

What exactly is cacao (and cacao nibs)?

The basic materials needed to manufacture chocolate are chocolate liquor and cacao butter. They are both derived from the seeds of the cacao tree (Theobroma cacao), which grows in the tropical belt at heights ranging from 30 to 100 meters (100 to 1000 feet) above sea level. It takes 2-5 years for the trees to yield their first fruits, and only up to 30% of them mature.

While experts now know that there are 10 unique genetic families, three broad variants are still used to classify various forms of cacao. Forastero, criollo, and trinitario are the three original kinds, with each cacao pod having between 20 and 50 seeds. Besides from output, each cultivar has several categories of quality, distinguishing between ordinary and fine-flavor cocoa.

Ordinary forastero and mid-grade trinitario varietals account for around 95% of worldwide cacao output, making criollo chocolate (its own separate genetic family) a very uncommon gift. Cacao harvesting begins with the same difficult effort of gently extracting the pods from the tree using a machete. The pods are broken apart to expose the delicious flesh and seeds of the fruit, which we will continue to refer to as the beans.

Both the beans and the pulp are piled together, covered with leaves, and allowed to ferment. Fermentation elevates the temperature of the cacao beans, sterilizing them and generating the chemicals that influence their taste character. Common-grade beans ferment for five to seven days, while excellent tasting grades, which are often criollo-heavy, ferment for just one to three days.

They are sun- or smoke-dried after fermentation to a moisture level of 6 to 7%, which is perfect for avoiding molding during transit. They are packed and sold to purchasers after the drying process is completed. Cacao beans are roasted, crushed, and winnowed to extract cacao nibs, which are processed into cocoa mass and boiled into chocolate liquor. This is the main component of chocolate, and it may be further divided into cacao powder and cacao butter.

What exactly is coffee (as well as coffee beans)?

Coffee is a beverage made from the ground roasted seeds of the Rubiaceae family coffee plant Coffea. It is a shrub or small tree species native to high elevations (1,000 to 6,500 feet or 300 to 2000 meters) and is found north of the equator in tropical and southern Africa and tropical Asia. Coffee cherries are berry fruits that develop in 7-8 months on certain varieties.

Each fruit contains two seeds that are often referred to as coffee beans. The three most common commercial coffee kinds are mass-market Arabica, caffeine-rich Robusta, uncommon and fruity Liberica, and blended Excelsa. Each variety, like cacao, may be further classified into grades and then origins, all of which can be traced back to North Africa.

Picking mature coffee cherries for their beans requires just as much effort. Hand-picked cherries are meticulously selected for consistency in quality and taste. Fermentation of the beans is not required since it just helps to facilitate bean separation. The beans are next dried in the sun for four days, forming a parchment coating that is removed by winnowing.

The only thing left are the green coffee beans, which are now ready for roasting.

The Primary Distinctions Between Cacao and Coffee

Cacao beans have around 50% fat in comparison to coffee beans, which contain 14% fat. Coffee beans, on the other hand, contain around 50% carbs (sugars), while cacao beans comprise just 20%. Cacao beans are likewise dried to a moisture level of 7% to 8%, although coffee beans have a slightly higher moisture content of 9% to 12%.


Processing is when cacao and coffee beans begin to differ significantly. The processes are technically identical, but their processing details and functions vary. As previously stated, fermentation is critical to the development of cacao taste, but the coffee cherry may skip this phase entirely.

When it comes to roasting, the roles are flipped. Coffee is roasted at greater temperatures than cacao, in excess of 200 C (400 F), which causes the sugars in the beans to caramelize. The coffee beans expand and explode as they heat up, a process known as the first or second crack. At this period, the beans are quickly producing tastes, which may vary in seconds.

Cacao beans also acquire their taste while roasting, however this is done primarily for the other benefits that roasting produces. Cacao has a weight that is ten times that of a coffee bean, which adds to its lengthier roasting time. The tastes that emerge during roasting are influenced by the compounds generated during the post-harvest fermentation phase as well as the roasting temperature.

Participants in a Brazilian research preferred the flavor of cocoa roasted from 90 to 110 C (194 to 230 F) for 20 to 50 minutes. Overdoing the roasting procedure at high temperatures such as 160 C (320 F) or prolonged roasting results in an undesired burned and bitter flavor.


Overall, the production of coffee beans is easier since fermentation is not required and the finished product is available after roasting and resting the beans. The step of de-gassing the carbon dioxide from the beans follows. The stages that follow are mostly determined by the barista’s preferences and the customer’s wishes.

Cacao, on the other hand, necessitates a difference between the hot beverage created by the ancient Mesoamericans and the contemporary chocolate enjoyed today. Traditional hot cocoa beverages, which some consider a healthier alternative to coffee, are easily made by blending or crushing cacao nibs with water and adding flavorings as desired.

But, in order to make sweeter chocolates, the cocoa mass and chocolate liquor must go through extra procedures. Cacao mass is heated to create chocolate liquor, which is then pressed to separate the cacao solids from the cacao butter. The residual bulk may then be ground into cocoa powder and combined with sweeteners to produce hot or cold chocolate drinks.

If the chocolate liquor is to be used to make eating chocolate, it is passed through a conching machine and typically injected with more cacao butter to aerate and smooth the texture. The basic dark chocolate recipe calls for 65% chocolate liquid, 5% melted cacao butter, and 30% sugar by weight. After that, the mixture goes through a laborious tempering procedure to stabilize the cacao butter.

Chocolate gets its resilience, texture, sheen, melt-in-your-mouth consistency, and refined flavour from this.

Market Area

Another point of convergence for cocoa and coffee is their commercial position. They are both cultivated in comparable demographic areas, notably in nations near the tropical belt. They include nations in Africa, Central and South America, Oceania, and South and Southeast Asia. The difference is in the crop-suitable altitude.

Cacao grows well at lower elevations, but coffee grows best at higher elevations. The farms are kept small in order to limit epidemics, and the job is very labor-intensive. Most cacao plantations in West Africa are held by small-holder farmers, therefore cocoa harvesting is a family affair. The high labor demand accounts for the majority of the cost of manufacturing and often necessitates the use of juveniles and immigrants.

Coffee Associations Throughout the World According to January 2022 figures, Brazil produced 3.2 million of the 10,616,125 60-kg bags manufactured worldwide, while Vietnam produced 2.8 million. They account for more over half of world supplies, with the remainder distributed among 53 other nations.

According to a 2020 research on cocoa production, Africa accounts for around 75% of global cocoa output. The Ivory Coast alone accounts for 60% of that total. In contrast, a2019

Farmers and Farming

Most cocoa and coffee producers are impoverished for a number of reasons. Coffee and chocolate growers face a variety of challenges, including unpredictable commodity prices and unequal trading ties between production and consuming nations. Coffee and cacao are commodities that are traded on the open market, which exposes them to significant price volatility.

To sell their commodities, small farmers must offer competitive prices, or even the basic government price. This implies they only get a little portion of the final product’s worth. The risks involved with chocolate and coffee cultivation lead small farmers to seek other income streams or perhaps a more profitable job abroad.

Trade justice initiatives such as Fair Trade and direct trade groups are seeking to change market conditions for small producers in response. Direct trade initiatives are popularizing upmarket speciality coffees and cacaos, enabling some ambitious growers to demand higher prices. Governments are finally participating by investing in local processing and manufacturing units that can capture more of the value of the supply chain.

Cacao and Coffee Health Benefits

Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, coffee and cacao were renowned and ultimately spread across Europe. Coffee stories most likely spread via expeditions into the Near East, while chocolate came by crossing the oceans from Central America. Both drinks were said to have invigorating and energetic properties, leading to suggestions that they may be used as therapeutic elixirs.

These effects are now linked to psychoactive stimulants such as coffee and theobromine, as well as the presence of antioxidants. The specific quantity present in each varies depending on the kind of coffee or cacao, although coffee normally includes more caffeine than cacao, which contains a trace of both caffeine and theobromine. The latter is a gentler stimulant that delivers its impact gradually over a longer period of time than caffeine’s energy surge, avoiding the inevitable crash.

Coffee’s health advantages and hazards include increased ADHD attention, a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, liver cancer, and Parkinson’s disease. Insomnia, sadness, jitteriness, anxiety, scotomata, and heartburn are all possible side effects.

Cacao is regarded as a superfood, and several documentation from ancient Mexican societies demonstrate its usage in the treatment of different ailments. Cacao beans are also high in flavonoids, which make up a large component of cacao’s antioxidants. Cocoa consumption has also been linked to a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, enhanced memory retention, soothing effects, mood enhancement, and perhaps lower blood pressure. It also contains electrolytes and is regarded as a great post-workout energy source.

Yet, like with coffee, too much may be harmful to your health. This is because chocolate has a lot of calories and should be taken in moderation. Since dogs cannot absorb theobromine, it is hazardous to them. Despite the many stated health advantages of cacao, recent research have found it less conclusive; this is due in part to modern cacao processing and chemicals removing many of its good characteristics.

Which is preferable, coffee or cacao?

Your choice determines if coffee or cacao is best for your requirements. In terms of agriculture, coffee and cacao are grown in comparable areas, however altitude plays a role. Coffee is easy to process, but cocoa takes a few more stages to be transformed into contemporary chocolate.

This is not to claim that making cacao or coffee is easy. The tastes might vary greatly depending on the roasting and chocolate-making procedures used.

In terms of nutritional and physiological advantages, cacao provides a softer energy boost with a decreased chance of caffeine’s bad side effects. Please keep in mind that theobromine is toxic to dogs and that all varieties of chocolate should be kept away from them. According to studies, modest doses of dark chocolate are a good source of energy and nourishment after exercises. Nevertheless, since cacao has more calories than coffee, it should be used with greater caution.

It all boils down to personal choice when it comes to flavor. Cacao and coffee beans may have dramatically diverse taste profiles and depth of flavor depending on how they are grown, roasted, and prepared. Consumers now have access to a wide variety of coffee and chocolate alternatives as a result of globalization. Nonetheless, the rapid availability of a particular kind of coffee or chocolate might still be an issue.

In the Philippines, for example, both tablea, a commercially accessible cacao mass, and the less common Coffea Liberica, locally known as kapeng barako, are widely available. Yet, whichever path you choose, there are several options to consider.

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