Cacao Vs. Cocoa. Is there a Difference?

Ever been to a candy store only to pick up a bar of chocolate that says “Made from Raw Cacao”? Leaving you wondering if it was some kind of spelling mistake?

The price tag in its own should be a good indication to tell you that it isn’t a mistake. There are differences between Cocoa powder – the one’s we grew to love and lean towards in-terms of flavour, and Raw Cacao.

Raw Cacao (unprocessed and un-roasted) are jam-packed with nutrients and minerals which;

  1. Shields our nerve cells from damage
  2. Decreases the risk of cardiovascular issues
  3. Reduce blood pressure
  4. Decreases risk of stroke
  5. Full of Antioxidants 

Sounds amazing right? But before you go chomping down on that Hershey’s Chocolate bar, you need to first understand that there are differences between bars of chocolate, and the quantity of cocoa will determine the health benefits associated with consuming Cacao.

So back to the question, is there a difference between the two, and how do they differ?

Here’s a quick run through;

Cocoa Powder

Hailing from the same “Theobroma Cacao Tree”; native to the African region, Cocoa powder is the bi-product of the pod-like fruits known as a “Cacao Bean”, after it has gone through several processing treatments such as; Fermentation, drying, roasting, crushing and grinding. After which, they are transformed into the Cocoa powder we are all familiar with.

However, cheaper Cocoa powder tend to go through various forms of heat treatment with the addition of other synthetic chemicals to improve the overall flavour and increase yield. Needless to say, this significantly decreases the essential minerals and vitamins found in its raw counterpart, making them “less-healthy”

Then again, labelling "Cocoa" as unhealthy right from the get-go isn't justifiable nor as simple. To explain further, we need to understand the the number of treatment processes it goes through can also affect the overall quality of the Raw Cacao.

High quality Bean-to-Bar chocolatiers, who receive theirs raw, do conduct their own fermentation processes in-house, after which, they too are termed to be “Cocoa”, only referring to the nibs itself as “Cacao”. Yet, fermentation of the nibs alone does not affect the nutritional value, keeping it relatively intact. In other words, depending on where you shop yours, Cocoa can be just as healthy as compared to their “Raw” state.

Shopping tip: If you ever find the need to get yourself a pack of high-quality Cocoa for your baking needs, go for one which reads “Unprocessed Cocoa”.

Cacao Powder

This has to be as raw as you can get them – aside from getting the fruit whole.

Lighter in colour and aromatically nuttier, Cacao powder isn’t something “at the tip of your tongue” when shopping for a good bar of chocolate. In terms of flavory, some deem it to be completely different from Cocoa powder; this is mainly due to the roasting process that gives cocoa its “Signature” chocolatety flavour. But, don’t be deceived by the word “Raw”. The taste of Raw Cacao is nowhere Off-Putting. Fruity-Caramel is a good way to describe it.

The process to create Cacao Powder is relatively simple; The beans from fruit are fermented, dried for several days, lightly roasted (in some brands), followed by crushing them into nibs, and finally - grinding them into a fine powder. Thus, yielding what we know as Cacao Powder.

So if it’s good for you, why not make a chocolate bar out of it? Simple, Cacao is rarely used on its own to make bars of chocolate because it’s simply not something many are used to. And of course, with little treatment, that all so chocolatety flavour we grew to love, isn’t as intense. Thus, even high quality chocolatiers use a combination of both to create their works of art.

In a Nutshell

In summary, is one better than the other? Sadly, the answer is a Yes and a No. Cacao is definitely the way to go if you’re looking to reap the benefits of all those amazing antioxidants, nutrients and minerals found in Raw Cacao. However, when it comes to Cocoa, the answer isn’t as straight forward. There are many consideration factors when determining the quality of Cocoa. Price point can be a determining factor when choosing a good quality pack of cocoa powder, yet, this alone is not enough. The ingredient listed at the back, and for some which do come with an explanation of how it was processed, can be a good starting point. Just remember, the lesser it’s processed, the more you stand to gain.

It’s also good to know that, although Cacao carries a heavy punch when it comes to nutrition, you shouldn’t expect to find bars of them made in it’s pure form. That’s an almost impossible task. Most, if not all products use a combination of both in order to achieve that decadent chocolate flavour we all love. It all boils down to the Cocoa powder used. Just keep a lookout for products that uses a combination of “Unprocessed Cocoa” and “Cacao” in their ingredients. That’s always a safe bet.

Give Cacao A Try!

Never had the privilege of tasting Cacao in it's raw form? Give our "Organic Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Oat Cookies" a go! We made ours from a perfect blend of Dutch Unprocessed Cocoa & Organic Raw Cote l'voire Cacao. An Intensely Chocolately and Decadent Low-Calorie Snack!