Ask the Alchemist #36

See, I drink a mug of the stuff every day. And since it takes twice as much product to brew a cup of cocoa vs a cup of coffee… and it seems that ground roasted cocoa on the average costs twice as much as ground roasted coffee, I’m paying 4 times as much for a cup of cocoa than it costs for a cup of joe. Crazy. Why is cocoa so much more expensive than coffee? …and… Is there anyone who sells the ground roasted cocoa in quantities of 2 lbs or larger?

Why is lamb so much more expensive than beef?

Why are walnuts so much more expensive than peanuts?

Why is fresh baked artisan bread so much more expensive than sliced white bread?

Do my semi-rhetorical questions kind of answer the question? There is no one answer, but it stems from the many reasons. The base price of cocoa is more expensive. It’s more expensive because the process is more lengthy and has a higher risk of failure (fermentation vs. just drying). The coffee market is larger than the cocoa market. The coffee process is more automated than cocoa. There is more coffee produced so the net cost per unit goes down.

Now, I’m going to put a question back at you. Why are you comparing cocoa to coffee? Sure, they SEEM to be similar and it’s a natural comparison, but really, why? Cocoa and coffee are actually radically different. Cocoa is about 50% oil. It has to be fermented. It does not extract in water very well (which is why you have to use double compared to coffee). All that makes me feel it is a rather unfair question.

Now, the unfairness of the question aside, or maybe the unfairness of the comparison aside, I’m not seeing where cocoa is twice as expensive as coffee. Sure, if you want to compare quality brewing cocoa to Folgers, ok. But if we are going to pretend they are similar then let’s compare to a good quality, freshly roasted artisan coffee. When I do that, the price range I find is $11-18/lb. And my Brewing cocoas range from $11.25 – $13.75 per pound. That seems comparable to me. The better option in my opinion is to buy whole roasted beans (just like you should be buying whole roasted coffee) and grinding it fresh (NOT in a burr grinder). In which case there are LOTS of options for larger amounts both Retail and Wholesale.

That you have to use twice as much is not the cocoa’s fault – it’s based on our perception of the flavor. We have to use that much because it’s 50% oil. You have to make up the difference in mass somewhere and that is it.

As for who sells Brewing cocoa in 2 lbs or larger, well, I’m not going to go looking at my competition and see if I can drive business away from myself (smiling here) but what I will do is say DONE – all Brewing cocoas I offer have 2 lb choices – at a discount of course.

So, similar to what I say in my Brewing cocoa descriptions – “keep in mind this will not give you classic ‘hot chocolate’. Brewed chocolate is a different, yet very enjoyable, animal – enjoy it for what it is, not for what it is not.” It is not coffee. It is not like coffee. It really should not be compared to coffee. Enjoy it for what it is, not for what it is not!

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