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Research Reveals Why Some People Prefer Black Coffee and Dark Chocolate

dark chocolate

People who prefer their coffee black also tend to prefer dark chocolate, according to new research that may have implications regarding both consumer preference and human health.

The reason those preferences are aligned, according the study author,  Northwestern University Associate Professor of Preventive Medicine Marilyn Cornelis, is due to a common genetic variant.

The research shows that coffee drinkers who more quickly metabolize caffeine prefer black coffee for its bitter taste. The same genetic variant exists for people who prefer more bitter dark chocolate over smoother milk chocolate.

However, the preference is not strictly a matter of taste, but rather psychoactive stimulus. Cornelis was also behind the 2018 study that found that people who prefer black coffee for its bitterness do so because they associate it with the mental boost they get from the caffeine.


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“Our interpretation is these people equate caffeine’s natural bitterness with a psycho-stimulation effect,” Cornelis said in an announcement of the most recent studies. “They learn to associate bitterness with caffeine and the boost they feel. We are seeing a learned effect. When they think of caffeine, they think of a bitter taste, so they enjoy dark coffee and, likewise, dark chocolate.”

Both studies used data from the UK Biobank project. The most recent paper, “Genetic determinants of liking and intake of coffee and other bitter foods and beverages,” was published last month in Scientific Reports.

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2 Comments

Tionico

Methinks I must be wierder than I had thought.

I never could drink coffee of any sort until a friend prepared a handroasted hand brewed (french press0 cup for me that knocked my sox off. coffee was always BUTTER< which I could not abide. Taken comlletely aback, he sent me home with six different green coffees, I dug out my retired air popcorn popper, and went to work. Discarding that joke of a method, I now have some serious equipment and have learned how to roast, then brew, coffee that is NOT bitter. Extra side note: caffeine has never affected me at all. .
As to chocolate, I've always liked it, darker is better, but again most of what was "out there" (Nestles and Hershey), and eventually Girardelly a slight iprovement) had to be sweetened to be edible, but was still bitter. Not that attracive. Then I was exposed to quailty chocolate, Again, the darker the better, and NOT bitter. The Guittard out of San Francisco, and Callebaut's out of Belgium are excellent. Both have on offer rich dark quality stuff that is not bitter. I eat too much of it….. probably. But for the absolute best I've had anywhere I always turn to Creo Chocoate, in Portland Oregon. Handmade bean to bar, as dark as you want it (they have a 100% dark that is NOT bitter at all) or as light, other flavours artfully blended for some very tsty special treats. Yes it is dear, but so what?

I suppose the findings of this study have some merit, when considering the mass produced chocolate and coffee "out there'. I can see how those whom caffeine affects would make that mental connexion between bitter and the caffeine "rush". Personaly I just like the rich unadulterated flavours of both coffee and chocolate as long as it is good quality product and NOT bitter.

José del Bosque

I don’t mean to be a spoiler, but since I’m a coffee roaster that usually has to cup many coffees, I have acquired a natural inclination for black coffee (whether filtered, manual brewing or espresso). Nevertheless, I just can’t eat dark chocolate, and prefer always a lower % of cacao in a chocolate bar (50-54% at the most).
On the other hand, my wife is a chocolate expert, and only goes for darker chocolates, but she usually drinks her morning coffee either with sugar, or sugar and milk.

I think it ends up on what you have come to accustom yourself, and perhaps a natural inclination for certain products that lead you to want to try them as natural and at its best possible. I’m not sure if that is genetic or just adaptation.

Cheers!

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