Cacao and Cocoa: What is the Difference?

Cacao and Cocoa: What is the Difference?

If you’ve ever made hot chocolate, you know that cocoa powder is an essential ingredient in making sure that mug of decadence hits the sweet spot. Recently, however, cacao powder has made its mark as a healthy alternative to the chocolaty, childhood delicacy that we all enjoy, but may not want on a daily basis. So what exactly is the difference between cocoa powder and cacao powder? The answer lies in the beans – the cocoa and cacao beans, that is. 

What is cacao? 

First off, the cocoa and cacao beans are actually the same bean but processed differently! So who came first? Cocoa or cacao?

 It all begins with the Theobroma cacao, or cacao trees, that are native to Central and South American regions. These trees produce fruit that resemble large pods containing cacao beans that are the foundation for our beloved chocolate. When opened, you are welcomed with a glob of white, fleshy pulp that doesn’t look too appetizing, but don’t fret! The cacao beans are nestled inside the pulp, just waiting to be harvested. Once collected, they are ready to be processed into cacao powder and cocoa powder. 

The process 

The cacao beans are covered for a few days to ferment, which is what creates the familiar flavor and aroma that we all know. Once they are fermented, the cacao beans are then dried and cold-pressed into a powder, which further enhances that dark chocolate flavor. 

Making cocoa powder is a similar process with just a few tweaks. After fermentation, the cacao beans are dried and roasted to develop the sweet, chocolate flavor. Since it is roasted at a high temperature, the increased heat decreases the unique antioxidants that are found in its raw state. These roasted beans are then crushed and ground  into cocoa powder. 

Long story short: cacao powder is made of cacao beans that are fermented and cold-pressed while cocoa powder is made of cacao beans that are fermented and roasted at a high temperature. 

 Both cocoa powder and cacao powder are used in baked goods, drinks and other fun treats, but we use cacao powder because of its unprocessed nature and the nutritional benefits that it provides. It nourishes our body while still providing that chocolate-y flavor that we all love! 

Here are 5 reasons why we love cacao powder:  

  • Cacao powder is a stress reliever! Cacao powder contains high levels of valeric acid and magnesium, which plays a huge part in reducing stress levels and helping you feel more at ease. No wonder chocolate is the cure to everything! 

  • Cacao powder is an energizer. Theobromine (sounds like Theobroma, right?) is a plant-based molecule that is a principal compound found in cacao powder and acts as a stimulant like caffeine, but without the negative side effects. Instead, theobromine relaxes your body while simultaneously helping you stay alert and focused. 

  • Cacao powder helps improve gut health. A healthy gut promotes a healthy life. Having good gut health is key to living a healthy lifestyle due to its crucial role in digestion and our immune system. Cacao powder’s fiber content will greatly benefit your digestive health and keep your gut working the way it should. In fact, researchers have found that just two tablespoons of cacao powder provides 3.6 grams of dietary fiber. Integrating more cacao powder into your diet will be your gut’s best friend! 

  • Cacao powder can lower your blood pressure. Have you ever heard of ‘flavonoids’? Despite its sci-fi sounding name, flavonoids are a group of nutrients found in almost all fruits and vegetables. The flavonoids packed in cacao powder are shown to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. 

  • Cacao powder will kick those sugar cravings to the curb. The stress-relieving elements in cacao powder will boost your serotonin levels, helping you feel fuller longer. Not only does this help you veer away from the snack drawer, but the addition of magnesium in the raw cacao will stabilize your insulin and reduce your sugar cravings. 

  • How can you enjoy cacao powder?

    If we look back to the Pre-Columbian civilizations, like the Maya, we’ll find that the first use of cacao powder for human consumption was by drinking it. In fact, Theobroma cacao in ancient Greek translates to “food of the gods”, emphasizing its importance to the Maya as a religious drink that was used for spiritual ceremonies. Today, the many nutritional benefits of cacao have made it a popular, healthier alternative to the sugar-packed foods that we see in the market. 

    Like the Maya, we enjoy drinking cacao in our morning mix, as we find it the best way to preserve the health-boosting nutrition while still enjoying its sweet, earthy taste. A sugary cup of hot chocolate can feel good in the moment, but sipping on a delicious mug of cacao will help you feel good all day, everyday.

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