Chocolate and coffee: Similarities and differences between cocoa and coffee beans

Schokolade und Kaffee: Gemeinsamkeiten und Unterschiede von Kakao- und Kaffeebohnen
Few foods are loved - and consumed - as much as coffee and chocolate. Both are made from beans. But while these are often confused, apart from the name, they don't have that much in common. We will illuminate the differences and similarities between the two beans for you and of course also give tips on pairing chocolate and coffee.

Two beans and their differences

where everything begins

Coffee and cocoa beans come from two different plants. The cacao tree is an evergreen tree whose fruits grow directly on the trunk. Cocoa trees grow along the "cocoa belt" at the equator - a maximum of 20 degrees north or south of it. The situation is similar with coffee, which can also only grow near the equator. The cocoa pods have different colors (which, by the way, says nothing about the cocoa varieties) and different sizes; there are about 25-50 cocoa beans in one pod. The coffee beans, on the other hand, come from coffee cherries, which produce two beans per cherry.

types of cocoa and coffee

When it comes to coffee, a basic distinction is made between two types: Arabica and Robusta, from which more and more types have developed (e.g. Typica, Castillo, Caturra). The situation is similar with the cocoa beans. For a long time, researchers assumed that there were only 3 varieties - Forastero, Trinitario and Criollo. In the meantime, however, more than 10 "main varieties" have been found and researchers assume that they will find many more. In addition, there is a very resistant, high-yielding, bred variety: CCN-51. This is known for its "performance", but at the same time it is quite neutral in taste. In contrast, other types of cocoa - especially fine flavor cocoa beans - bring unique flavors that are extremely exciting and delicious.

cupping craft coffee

Two beans and their similarities

Wake up with chocolate and coffee

Even if coffee beans and cocoa beans come from two different plants, the two plants have one fundamental thing in common: coffee and chocolate or cocoa beans have a stimulating effect. In coffee it's caffeine and alkaloids and in cocoa beans it's theobromine. And both theobromine and coffee are considered health-promoting in certain amounts.

From the bean to the pleasure

Both the harvest and the processing of cocoa beans and coffee beans share similarities. The beans can be harvested for the first time in both plants after about 5 years. Around the time of the harvest, the farmers have to regularly check whether the beans are ripe and finally harvest them by hand. You can find out more about cocoa cultivation here . After the cocoa pods have been harvested, they are opened, the cocoa beans are removed from the pods and placed in wooden fermentation boxes for fermentation . A series of chemical reactions take place during fermentation, which play a key role in the development of the flavors in the chocolate.
There are many processing options for coffee: wet, dry, anaerobic and much more. This removes the flesh from the beans while developing varying degrees of flavors that significantly detract from the taste of the "final" bean. The beans are then dried in the sun before being ground, peeled, cleaned and sorted.
The post-harvest process is crucial for both beans, as this is where the first course is set for flavor development and the quality of the end product.

The roast does it

At least as important - if not more so - is the roasting of coffee and cocoa beans. It is essential for the final flavors in chocolate and coffee. For this purpose, both coffee roasters and chocolate manufacturers develop special roasting profiles, depending on which aromas they want to enhance or process in the beans.
By the way: while one speaks of "dark" for both chocolate and coffee, two very different aspects are responsible for this. While a "dark," heavy roast for coffee means that "dark" flavors were created during the roasting process—like caramel, roasty, smoky—dark chocolate is "dark" when its cocoa content is high. In this case, the roasting has no effect on the "darkness" in the chocolate, only an increasing cocoa content. Even dark chocolate can taste mild, depending on the type and processing :-).
By the way, you can find out here which steps in chocolate production influence the formation of aromas .

chocolate africa

Chocolate and coffee: yay or nay?

Knowing how, a pairing of chocolate and coffee is definitely a yay! For this it is important to keep in mind the respective aromas of chocolate and coffee. The easiest way is usually to look for similarities. For more advanced pairings, you can also look for exciting contrasts. How does both work? Dark and bitter notes can be balanced with sweetness or salty flavors, acidity can be balanced with sweetness and spiciness. There is no "one bean fits all" here, instead you can grab some of your favorite coffees and try them with your favorite chocolates. For example, strong, dark coffees pair beautifully with white chocolate; a medium roast in the coffee goes well with milk chocolate. You can counteract a sour espresso with nougat chocolate and look for similarities with dark chocolate. Does the coffee have honey notes? Then choose a dark chocolate that comes across as a bit sweet and fudgy. Is the coffee more floral? Then try a flowery chocolate with it...

How do you find the perfect chocolate and coffee pairing?

Armed with a pen and paper, the best thing to do is as follows: smell the chocolate and the coffee and write down what you smell. Take a piece of chocolate, let it melt on your tongue and note which flavors you like. It is also exciting to pay attention to the structure, the melt and the aftertaste. Have you noticed the aromas and are you ready for your perfect power? Then take another piece, let it melt and add a sip of coffee to the melted chocolate. Pay close attention to what happens next: do the flavors complement each other? Or do they contrast? Is there perhaps even a new, third taste? Do chocolate and coffee go together? Then you can just keep going. Is the station wagon just so mediocre? All the better: a reason to try out other combinations. We recommend testing 1-2 combinations every morning. This is not only delicious but also a great start to the day including a little mindfulness exercise ;-). You are really interested in mindfulness :-D We have written down for you how you can carry out a small, fine chocolate meditation .

By the way: we not only offer classic chocolate tastings but also tastings with wine or craft beer pairings . Want to try pairing at home? Here we have listed tips for the perfect wine and chocolate match .

Reading next

Welche Rolle spielt der Kakaogehalt in Eurer Schokolade?
Ist Criollo wirklich King? Alles, was Ihr über Kakaosorten wissen müsst