Other Bean, Same Routine: Exploring the Boundaries of Specialty Cacao 

Discovering the potential of barista-grade drinking chocolate at World of Coffee with Ander.

BY VASILEIA FANARIOTI
SENIOR ONLINE CORRESPONDENT

Photos courtesy of ander

As I was walking the halls of World of Coffee Athens last week, I came across a stand that was brewing ground cacao beans in a V60. It was the first time I’d seen such a thing, and I quickly wondered what this was all about.

A hand places an ander® bottle next to two others on a concrete block. The bottles contain ground cacao. The circles on front of the bottles are different colors based on region and flavor profile.
Each origin is represented by a custom color-sprayed sphere, representing their specific flavor profile and visualizing the sum of flavor descriptors linked to the ground cacao beans in the jar.

The passionate people behind Ander, a Belgian company, are aiming to usher in a new era of specialty cacao. Based in the suburbs of Belgium, Ander is a roaster of cacao beans and the creator of barista-quality cacao beverages that match the level of quality and attention found in specialty coffee. I immediately wanted to know more, so I sat down with co-founder Frederik to hear their story.

Filter Cacao and Barista-Grade Drinking Chocolate

Ander was founded by two brothers, Tom and Frederik Depoorter. They asked themselves why high-quality cacao beans were not consumed as a beverage like coffee. Through research into the nuances and similarities between coffee and cacao beans, Frederik and Tom discovered that cacao and coffee have many similarities: the impact of climate, terroir, and altitude, as well as flavor profiles and aromas. Their product development encompassed exploring flavor profiles through fermentation and drying techniques.

The cacao fruit on a tree. Three large lemon-shaped fruits have color varying from yellow to deep orange. Green moss grows alongside on sections of the dark tree trunk.
Ander is rethinking the ways cacao beans can be experienced, with an emphasis on each cacao’s origin and quality.

“We’re looking back at two difficult years of product development to research the possibilities, understand the DNA of the cacao bean, evaluate roast and extraction profiles, and grind classifications. And ended up creating the world’s first filter cacao and barista-grade drinking chocolate,” Frederik says.

Ander is rethinking the ways cacao beans can be experienced. They’re inspired by specialty-coffee roasters and baristas focusing on clean, transparent beverages that add value through origin storytelling and potential impact at origin. Ander is committed to light roasting, with cacao beans as their number-one ingredient.

The two Depoorter brothers with V60s, ander® products, and bags of beans piled high behind them.
Tom (right) and Frederik Depoorter preparing Ander filter cacao in conical brewers.

Ander Creates Quality Flavors with Light Roasts

Like many specialty-coffee roasters, the team at Ander favors light roasts. They select their quality cacao beans with a befriended award-winning bean-to-bar chocolatier; the criteria they use includes transparency, quality, flavor, and consistency. Cupping the beans and using both coffee and chocolate flavor wheels helps determine the best roast profile that is used to maintain the defined taste of origin, nutrients, and antioxidants.

Instead of aiming for a dominant chocolate flavor, they prefer highlighting each bean’s specific qualities. This creates an array of taste experiences ranging including spices, floral notes, fruitiness, fresh acidity, sweetness, and nuttiness. All of this is the result of conscious decisions to use light roasts. 

Frederik explains, “A dark roast creates a more one-dimensional flavor experience and is often used in search of ‘consistency’ and to eliminate defaults common in lower-quality cacao fruit crops, rushed processes (where the fruit pulp isn’t valued enough for its impact on flavor development), or a lack of attention to agroforestry.”

A Moccamaster, ander® bottle, and a pink mug with cacao drink being poured into it from a glass server.
The ground cacao won the 2023 Specialty Non-Coffee Beverage Stand Alone award during World of Coffee Athens this June.

Experiencing Cacao Bean Origin

Ander is dedicated to creating small batches of pure drinking chocolates with only the bare minimum ingredients: cacao beans, cacao butter, and unrefined sugar. No powders or additives are necessary. Emphasizing the importance of ’cacao beans first’ with a light roast, their drinking chocolates provide an authentic origin experience.

Meanwhile, their filter cacao is a unique beverage that mimics specialty coffee. After being roasted and ground down to the correct classification for pourover or immersion brews, it gives baristas many options. To brew, they can use V60, Clever dripper, flat-bottom brewers, batch brewers, and even a Moka pot.

“Filter cacao is as good as caffeine-free, but packed with theobromine, a natural long-lasting steady kick of energy without coffee jitters,” Frederik adds, “making this beverage a good choice ’round the clock. … And the perfect add-on to specialty coffee in terms of shared bean DNA, hardware, similar brew recipes, barista skills, and origin experiences.”

A steam wand, scale, bag of cacao, and yellow scoop with cacao powder. A barista is using the steam wand and a metal pitcher.
With the filter cacao, baristas get the possibility to expand their menu options and revenue opportunities.

Other Bean, Same Routine

The specialty-coffee landscape has changed dramatically over the past few decades. Baristas and small roasters are pushing the boundaries of what coffee can be. The same transformation is possible when it comes to cacao beans. Ander is shifting toward a drink that celebrates its full potential, health benefits, and unique flavor profiles. 

“We call it ’other bean, same routine,’ but with a whole set of new flavors,” Frederik says. “We push ourselves to develop our products with the barista in mind, from the use of coffee brew recipes and hardware to showcasing and celebrating barista skills and metier. We’re always searching to be able to pour instead of shake, steam instead of stir.”

These specialty cacao drinks have the potential for bars to stand out against other establishments while also expanding their revenue opportunities. It seems this is just the beginning of the journey for specialty cacao. As brewers and baristas explore more possibilities, the industry will continue to evolve to better serve its customers with unique flavors and experiences. We are excited to see what comes next for Ander!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Vasileia Fanarioti (she/her) is a senior online correspondent for Barista Magazine and a freelance copywriter and editor with a primary focus on the coffee niche. She has also been a volunteer copywriter for the I’M NOT A BARISTA NPO, providing content to help educate people about baristas and their work. You can follow her adventures at thewanderingbean.net.

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