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Cacao vs. Cocoa : Is there a difference?


Is there a difference between Cacao and Cocoa?

You'd be forgiven for thinking 'Isn't it all just chocolate?'

And yes, ALL Chocolate has the same origin: the seeds (or beans) of a Cacao (Theobroma Cacao) tree. 

They grow in a variety of beautiful colours, from deep reds & yellows to shades of blue and green.  

Cacao pod on tree

The beans are contained within large, pod-like fruit that grow on the tree. 

Each pod contains 20-60 beans surrounded by the tart-sweet sticky cacao flesh, or ‘fruit.’

Fresh Cacao Fruit

If you were to take a raw cacao bean straight from the pod, it would not taste anything like the chocolate you have come to know and love - the fresh beans contained within the white flesh are purplish in colour and very bitter in flavour.  All beans that go on to become Chocolate in any form, go through some sort of processing.


Not all Chocolate is made equal...

Whilst all chocolate originates from the Cacao pod, not all chocolate is made equal. 

The final taste, nutritional value and texture of the chocolate will depend on how the Cacao bean has been processed.

Cacao and Cocoa sound very similar,  and whilst they both begin as Cacao beans growing in Cacao Pods on Cacao trees, they are actually two quite unique products in terms of taste, texture, nutritional value and cost, because of the way they have been processed.

The kind of processing that they go through, determines whether they will ultimately be labelled as Cacao or Cocoa.  

The Stages of processing that Cacao beans go through are as follows (Stages in BOLD are extra stages that only Cocoa goes through):

1. Fermentation

2. Sun-Drying

3. Roasting 

4. Winnowing (removes outer skin and breaks up the bean into nibs)

5. Grinding to Cacao Liqor

6. Pressing (extracting the cacao butter)

7. Dutching (not all chocolate goes through this process)

8. Milling >  powder


So, what's the difference between Cacao & Cocoa?

"CACAO is used to refer to the product closer to it's natural state, whilst  after it has been heavily processed and refined it is commonly called COCOA" 



Cacao is the word used to describe the most unrefined, natural products of the Cacao tree, closest to their natural state, eg. dried, fermented beans, and Cacao nibs and unroasted powder.

Cacao is lighter in colour and more fruity in flavour before it is roasted at high temperatures to become Cocoa.


Cacao pod, nibs and beans




Cocoa is the word used to describe the product that results from the processing of Cacao beans with high temperatures and sometimes chemical agents in a process called ‘Dutching’  in which the beans are treated with an alkalizing agent which makes the colour darker and give them a milder taste compared to natural cacao..

Most Chocolate products on the market today are made from Cocoa, rather than the more natural Cacao.

As well as being darker in colour and milder in flavour, the resulting Cocoa has also been stripped of many of it’s health-giving nutrients.




Cacao is an amazing powerhouse of a food, containing a huge amount of complex chemical compounds, including an incredibly powerful antioxidant that helps to support cellular health & immunity, plus a HUGE amount of Magnesium and many other essential vitamins and minerals.

The Aztecs, Mayan, Peruvians, Incans & even tribes in Africa have known about the amazing properties of Cacao for centuries.  They ingest preparations made from the magical cacao beans, and have been doing so since as early as 460AD. 

Raw Cacao has so many health supporting properties and value, that it was used as a form of currency, and there are actually vaults of raw cacao buried all over the world. 

The Ancients believed that raw Cacao enabled them to tap into higher mental and physical clarity, and even solve problems more clearly and confidently.

That’s why, as far back as 1519, Hernando Cortes, the great Spanish Conquistador who defeated the Aztec empire and claimed Mexico for Spain, regularly consumed Cacao in the form of a soupy hot chocolate beverage.  It’s because he could feel the physical and mental strength it  bestowed upon him.

Those Ancients were definitely onto something, and a lot of recent scientific studies suggest that Cacao is indeed something of a wonder-food!


Chocolate is Good Mood Food!

According to a UCL study on Cacao and Mood, eating dark chocolate may positively affect mood and relieve depressive symptoms.

This is thought to be due to the psychoactive ingredients contained in Cacao known to produce a feeling of euphoria.  Cacao also contains phenylethylamine, a neuromodulator believed to be an important mood-regulator. 

The high concentration of flavonoids in Cacao, (antioxidant chemicals which have been shown to improve inflammatory profiles,) have also been shown to play a role in mitigating the onset of depression

The closer Cacao is to it's natural state, the more concentrated the mood & health enhancing ingredients contained within it are.

And that's good news for you!  


Real Chocolate is Good for You!

There are many Chocolate products available nowadays made with Cacao rather than Cocoa, which means that Chocolate can actually be a nutritionally dense, health giving treat.  Which is great news for you!

You can make your own raw chocolate with raw cacao ingredients, or buy it ready made into bars.


 Cacao is amazing!




Cacao powder 

Cacao Powder

Cacao Nibs 

cacao nibs

Cacao Butter

Cacao Butter

 Raw Chocolate Bars

Raw Chocolate Snacks