They have similar origins, both come from plants that grow in a tropical climate and arrived in Europe only a few centuries ago. The coffee plant belongs to the family Rubiaceae, genus Coffea, whilst the cocoa plant belongs to the family Sterculiaceae, genus Theobroma.
Nowadays a life without coffee and chocolate would seem very sad! Here's what we have discovered by comparing cocoa and coffee.
Venezuela, Guatemala, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico and Brazil in Central and South America; Malaysia and Indonesia in Asia; Ivory Coast, Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria and Madagascar in Africa are all countries in which both coffee and cocoa are grown.
According to legend coffee was discovered in Ethiopia — when the area was still called Abyssinia — by a shepherd living in the Kaffa region who noticed the plant’s effect on goats: they could not sleep at night. Cocoa, on the other hand, was grown by the Maya, and was then discovered by the Europeans with the arrival of Christopher Columbus.
The fruit of the cocoa plant is called cabossa, is about 10-15cm long in the form of an elongated acorn, and is yellowish-greenish in colour. Each cabossa contains 25 to 40 cocoa beans, in other words seeds, immersed in a clear, jelly-like substance, rich in sugars. Cabossas are harvested by hand, using a machete.
Coffee cherries may be hand-picked, providing a uniform harvest, or, where plantations are very extensive, the stripping method is used, whereby all the cherries are removed manually in one go or using special machines.
Coffee beans may be extracted from the fruit in three ways: through dry, wet or semi-washed processing methods. Cocoa pulp and seeds, on the other hand, are always processed using a fermentation process, followed by drying.
Any impurities are removed from the cocoa before the roasting phase. This may be carried out with classic roasters or with new systems based on cutting-edge warm air technologies.
After debacterisation and cracking the cocoa is ready to be transformed into chocolate
Debacterisation is essential for breaking down the bacterial load and preventing any type of contamination throughout the subsequent chocolate production process.
Cracking reduces the cocoa seed into smaller particles and allows the winnowing.
Alkalisation, mixing, refining and conching are the four stages when colour and structure are obtained, and the chocolate is kneaded and mixed to result in a silky and delicious paste.
The mixing phase for the different cocoa origins is comparable to the art of coffee blending: the coffee blend is made of several types of coffee, which differ in terms of species (Arabica or Robusta), variety, type of processing (washed or natural), and country of origin. Each blend is balanced and with its own very distinctive taste, aroma and body.
Then roasting, with the slow application of heat for various times and temperatures, will produce a coffee not only with a different colour but with a different aroma as well.
The cocoa conching phase involves kneading the cocoa in a conch for hours. Coffee, on the other hand, is ground differently depending on the blend’s intended use
Tempering leads to the crystallisation of the cocoa butter and generates stable butter crystals. This process creates the structure and glossy appearance of the chocolate, which otherwise would be dull, with a gritty structure, and would not melt in the mouth.
The chocolate is then poured into moulds and cooled in tunnels at a temperature of 4-7°C, ready for packing. Finally, chocolate and coffee arrive on our table, sometimes together: dark chocolate goes very well with Arabica and Robusta coffee blends, which have hints of bitter cocoa.