The beans that chocolate and coffee come from may seem alike, but these two have different origins. They actually have too many differences, probably much more than you initially expected. As processed goods, chocolate and coffee have their own distinct taste, texture, and aroma. The contrast between them increases when you compare them in their raw form as beans.
Do Chocolate And Coffee Come From The Same Tree?
The first way to differentiate chocolate and coffee is to trace the trees from which their beans are harvested. Cacao or Theobroma cacao, the pure form of chocolate, comes from a unique-looking tree that is taller than a coffee bean tree.
Cacao trees are also called the trees of the gods based on the story from Aztec mythology that tells how the cacao tree was introduced from the heavens by a god called Quetzalcoatl. Thus, drinking chocolate that came from the cacao tree is said to bless the drinker with the wisdom and strength of the gods.
Cacao trees are mostly found in tropical regions and climates, similar to coffee trees. Specifically, these trees are native to Latin America, Southeast Asia, and West Africa. They grow within the range of 15 to 25 feet.
Cacao trees do not have fruits, but they produce pods similar to leguminous plants. These pods carry the cacao beans. At the end of one year, a single cacao tree is expected to have produced around 20 to 30 pods.
On the other hand, coffee trees are relatively shorter compared to other bean trees. A coffee tree can grow within the range of 6 to 15 feet. A cacao tree can definitely tower over a coffee tree, but the latter has a much larger yield of beans. A coffee tree produces up to 4,000 coffee beans per year on average.
As the cacao trees produce pods containing the cacao beans, coffee trees produce actual fruits. These fruits are considered cherries, and the coffee beans can be extracted from the fruit.
Coffee trees are abundant in tropical regions, particularly in tropical countries close to the equator, such as Colombia, Guatemala, the Philippines, and Indonesia.
Coffee Bean Or Seed? The Thing That Separates Coffee From Cacao
There is one interesting detail that sets cacao and coffee beans apart. However, in this case, we should stop calling coffee beans “beans.”
In the previous section, we mentioned that cacao trees do not bear fruit. Instead, they have pods that hold cacao beans inside. Each cacao pod is estimated to have around 20 to 50 cacao beans.
Meanwhile, coffee trees produce fruit known as the cherry. Each of the coffee’s individual cherry fruit contains two coffee beans. Based on the fact that coffee beans are found inside the cherries, coffee beans are technically seeds and not beans.
There is a thin line that separates a bean from a seed. All beans are considered seeds, but not all seeds are beans. There are a few criteria to call a seed a bean. The definition of a seed is loose since the term connotes anything that can be sown to grow a new plant, like sunflower, watermelon, and grape seeds.
Seeds are encased inside the plant’s reproductive organ, which is the fruit. As for the coffee plant, its seeds are found inside the cherry. Therefore, coffee beans are indeed seeds, but why is it wrong to call them beans? This can be answered by explaining how a bean is described as a subgroup of seeds.
Beans are produced by leguminous plants, in which the seeds are stored in pods instead of fruits. Some of the known bean plants that are pod-producing are butter, haricot, kidney, mung, navy, red, and soybeans.
Other popular leguminous plants that carry beans are the vicia (faba), pisum (pea), lens (lentils), and lablab (hyacinth). That being said, the term “beans” are not exclusive to the family of legumes. All plants capable of making pods that are not considered leguminous can already be described as beans.
The best example of a bean plant that is not related to the legume family is none other than the cacao plant itself. To note, leguminous plants should not only have bean pods to be called as such.
Another distinct structural trait of a legume is the root nodule, wherein the symbiotic relationship between the plant and nitrogen-fixing bacteria takes place. Cacao plants do not have root nodules.
What Do Raw Chocolate And Coffee Beans Taste Like?
Processed cacao and coffee taste delicious. However, eating them as raw beans is a bad idea. Cacao and coffee beans right after harvest should taste bitter. They also have a soil-like texture, which is why they cannot be eaten like how we eat peanuts as snacks.
The roasting process brings out the likable taste of the cacao and coffee beans. Although, when it comes to making chocolates using cacao beans, additional sweeteners are needed to achieve the traditional chocolate taste that we all love.
Unsweetened cacao after roasting should still have a slightly bitter flavor, similar to dark chocolate. However, roasting has already rid the cacao of its earthiness and introduced a more desirable nutty taste.
The same roasting procedure applies with coffee beans to improve their taste. Coffee does not need sweeteners as only the roasted flavor should be enough. Depending on the roasting technique, coffee products can have different flavors. The variant of the coffee beans used should also play a role in offering a unique coffee taste.
For one, the coffee beans native in Africa have a floral and fruity taste, while those from the South American region have notes of nutty flavor.
How Are Chocolate And Coffee Related To Each Other?
At this point, we have already established that chocolate and coffee are entirely different entities. There are some ways that they can be likened, but there is no reason to have one be mistaken for another. Cacao and coffee beans originated from different fruits and pods of different plants.
Perhaps their only similarity is the location where cacao and coffee beans are found. Their trees grow only in tropical areas close to the equator. They are unlikely to grow and survive in temperate regions because their leaves and stems do not have the traits to withstand frost.
Cacao and coffee trees are native to South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. Brazil and Colombia are two of the countries with the biggest export of high-quality coffee in the world. Meanwhile, African countries such as Ghana and Ivory Coast are major cacao exporters.
The growing requirements for cacao and coffee plants are the same, as they both need warm tropical conditions to produce a huge amount of beans or seeds. However, the color, smell, and taste of the plants’ respective beans are very different from each other.
Another factor in which chocolate and coffee may be related is their effect on the human body. Both chocolate and coffee are effective energy boosters. Coffee has high caffeine content, which can keep us up all night to finish an important task.
Chocolate also provides energy, partly because of its little caffeine content. However, the amount of caffeine present in cacao chocolate is not high enough to be considered a stimulant like coffee.
Chocolate products have sugar, which should do the trick in increasing one’s energy level throughout the day. Although, sugar is only added to chocolate to adjust the sweetness. It is not a natural content of cacao beans.
The Processing Of Cacao And Coffee Beans After Harvest
The process of harvesting and roasting cacao and coffee beans is pretty much the same for both cases. It should be done properly to preserve the natural taste of the beans.
The first thing to do is gather the freshly-harvested coffee cherries from the tree. Remove the dirt and other particulates by soaking them in water. After cleaning, prepare the coffee cherries for roasting.
The cherries can evidently change their color from white to brown while roasting. Depending on what kind of coffee roast you are going for, you can choose the shade of brown in which you should stop roasting. You can have either light, medium, or dark brown roast, with the latter having the strongest flavor.
After roasting the beans, it is time to prepare them for brewing. You can have the freedom to brew the roasted coffee beans according to your preference. You can have either a hot drip brew, espresso, cold brew, or French press.
For cacao beans, all the bean pods should be carefully picked from the cacao trees. After gathering the pods, split them open to extract the cacao beans from the edible portion of the pods. Clean the beans thoroughly by soaking them in water. After cleaning, you can roast the cacao beans the same way coffee beans are roasted.
How Many Calories Do Chocolate And Coffee Have?
For the record, the calories in raw cacao and coffee beans are not significantly high. However, the additional ingredients to create a chocolate or coffee product contribute to a spike in calorie count.
A plain cup of coffee without added milk and sugar should only have between zero and five calories. When you add a teaspoon of cream and sugar to this cup, you add roughly a hundred to 200 calories. Coffee products with special cream and syrup can have as much as 600 calories per serving.
Cocoa beans also have low-calorie content, although they have a little more calories than coffee beans. You can drink a cup of pure hot cacao drink without worrying about the number of calories you are consuming. The case is different for chocolate bars and beverages, which are likely to contain loads of sugar.
In a nutshell, chocolate and coffee do not come from the same bean. The respective characteristics of the cacao and coffee beans, as well as the trees where they come from, are enough proof to show that these two beans are completely distinct from each other.
As cacao and coffee trees grow in tropical regions, it is possible to plant them on the same farm. However, this does not mean that cacao beans can be harvested as a substitute for coffee beans and vice versa. First of all, coffee beans have a very unique taste, especially after roasting.
Nonetheless, people are free to experiment with the combination of flavors of chocolate and coffee. While one cannot have the equivalent value of another, the right blend of the two flavors should do the magic.