'Coca' vs 'Cocoa': What's the Difference?

By Amy Gilmore, updated on July 21, 2023

Do you need to know the difference between 'coca' vs. 'cocoa?' You've come to the right place!

Here is the short answer:

  • 'Coca' is a noun for the South American plant drug manufacturers use to make cocaine.
  • 'Cocoa' is a powdered processed form of cacao, the raw bean used to make chocolate. 

These words sound similar, but they have very different meanings. You do not want to accidentally tell someone you want a bag of 'coca' instead of 'cocoa.'

So, read the rest of this post. Aside from giving you definitions, synonyms, pronunciations, and grammar tips, you will learn some interesting facts about each term that will help you remember the difference between them.

What is the Difference Between 'Coca' vs. 'Cocoa?'

While these words sound alike, they have different pronunciations and definitions. Furthermore, knowing which to use and when may save you from some trouble.

  • 'Coca' is the plant used to make the highly-addictive street drug cocaine. However, it is also used to make some of the most effective local anesthetics, and hospitals still use surgical preparations containing compounds derived from the plant.
  • 'Cocoa' is a processed powder form of the cacao plant. It is also a chocolate powdered drink that you mix with hot water or milk.

How to Use 'Coca' vs. 'Cocoa'

You know the meanings of 'coca' and 'cocoa,' but let's look at when you use each.

  • Use 'coca' when discussing the processing of the plant into the powder drug form sold on the streets.

For example, you could say:

The special operations team rescued the prisoners from the gangs forcing them to process the coca plants.

  • Use 'coca' to refer to the street drug cocaine.

For example, you might hear someone say:

Last week police officers found two kilos of uncut Columbian coca in the middle of a field. 

  • Use 'coca' to describe the drug that is commonly associated with Columbian warlords.

For example, you might hear someone say:

Coca is a significant source of income for Columbian warlords. 

  • Use 'cocoa' when talking about the powder form of chocolate.

For example, I might say:

I need a can of cocoa powder for the chocolate cake I am baking. Would you mind picking it up from the store?

  • Use 'cocoa' for a chocolate powder drink you mix with milk to make chocolate milk.

For example, you could say:

Will you pass me the cocoa powder? I want to make a glass of chocolate milk.

  • Use 'cocoa' to order the hot chocolate drink.

For example, you might say:

Would you like hot cocoa? I am going to make one for myself. I can make one for you too.

Definition of 'Coca': What Does 'Coca' Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of 'coca' is:

  • A variety of South American shrubs from which cocaine is derived

It can also mean:

  • Dried leaves from a coca plan that contain cocaine alkaloids

Definition of 'Cocoa': What Does 'Cocoa' Mean?

The same source defines 'cocoa' as:

  • A processed powder from the cacao plant that has had a portion of the fat removed

It can also mean:

  • A hot beverage made with cocoa mix and hot water or milk.
  • A medium brown color
  • Cocoa or cacao bean

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Coca' vs. 'Cocoa'

Pronunciation is essential when it comes to these terms because the meanings are very different.

So, here is a pronunciation guide for you to follow. 

  • Use this phonetic spelling to pronounce 'coca':


  • Use this phonetic spelling to pronounce 'cocoa':


Sample Sentences Using 'Coca' vs. 'Cocoa'

Before you go, here are some sentences using 'coca' vs. 'cocoa.' Read through them to see each term used in different ways.


  • Coca manufacturers and distributors go to elaborate lengths to get their products from Columbian jungles to the United States.
  • There are entire towns that rely on the income they produce from coca cultivation.
  • When coca leaves are ingested without being processed they are less potent.
  • We are working with a private security team to recce coca camps because they are often heavily guarded and booby-trapped.
  • Workers who handle raw coca leaves get high and begin to feel the numbing effects of the plant.
  • The use of the coca plant leaves as a stimulant dates back thousands of years.
  • Workers in the mines in Peru and Bolivia still chew coca leaves as a stimulant, so they are able to work harder for longer.


  • Cocoa is one of the most widely loved ingredients in the world.
  • We always keep several boxes of hot cocoa in the house during the fall and winter months.
  • Cocoa is one of my favorite drinks. It is almost like there is nothing a hot cup of cocoa can't solve.
  • Have you tried Janet's homemade cocoa mix recipe? It is the best I've ever tasted.
  • If you bake frequently, it is a good idea to keep a jar of cocoa powder in your pantry.
  • Cocoa cold foam cold brew coffee is my favorite, but they only have it for a brief period each year.
  • I brought you a jar of Trader Joe's mint chocolate cocoa powder.


  • The cocoa trade can be just as ugly as the coca trade.
  • The conditions endured by the people who cultivate coca and cocoa are similar.
  • The people picking and processing coca and cocoa are often paid pennies or enslaved.

Recap of the Difference Between 'Coca' vs. 'Cocoa'

Finally, let's recap what you learned about the difference between 'coca' vs. 'cocoa':

  • 'Coca' is a plant chemists and drug manufacturers use to develop the white-powered drug known as cocaine.  
  • 'Cocoa' is a processed powered form of the cacao bean that has had some of the fat removed and sugar added. 
  • 'Cocoa' is also a drink mix that people use to make hot chocolate. 

With terms that are similar to these, it can be challenging to keep them straight. So, instead of risking a mistake like using 'coca' instead of 'cocoa,' come back to review this lesson if you ever need a refresher.

You can also check the correct definitions and usages of hundreds of other words in the confusing words section here. Plus, each post contains usage tips, definitions, pronunciations, and examples to help you learn and remember how to use the terms they cover.

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Written By:
Amy Gilmore
Amy Gilmore is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. She has been a professional writer and editor for the past eight years. She developed a love of language arts and literature in school and decided to become a professional freelance writer after a demanding career in real estate. Amy is constantly learning to become a better writer and loves sharing tips with other writers who want to do the same.

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