Scientists in Brazil have created a hybrid cross of Theobroma cacao and Coffea arabica. The result is a plant that produces large pods that contain beans that are not quite cocoa beans and not quite coffee beans but have the characteristics of each. Essentially coffee with a high oil content it is unlikely that these seeds could ever be used in the preperation of espresso style drinks but there is potential for them to be used in much the same way that cocoa is used - conched to extract the 'butter' and then the remaining powder used to create a beverage.
The new hybrid has been given a scientific designation Theobiba cachuatl (latin for 'drink of the gods' and then the Aztec name for cocoa 'cachautl')but has not yet been given a common name - probably a marketing decision as the sales options for the new product are explored.
Unfortunately as a hybrid the plant seeds are sterile and it can only be propogated by repeating the steps of cross fertilisation between coffee and cocoa plants. On the positive side the plant is remarkably resistant to common coffee pests as it releases small amounts of hydrogen sulphide as the bean pods ripen. While this does slightly taint the beans the 'rotten egg' odour is said to dissapate over time and be barely noticeable in the processed product.
Each tree can produce up to 150 pods a season yealding nearly 500kg of fruit per tree. Experiments are also underway to genetically engineer vanilla bean orchid (Vanilla planifolia)to grow as an epiphyte on the trunk of the coffee/cocoa hybrid (really needs a name guys!) and reduce the effect of the hydrogn sulphide and impart a mellow vanilla note to the bean pods.
We await the advances of science!