July 03, 2018 · Written by Foodtolive Team

What is the Difference Between Cocoa and Cacao

Ever wonder where your favorite delicious chocolates come from? Chocolates are a treat that we all love but the main component of your favorite indulgence holds the basis of how it will affect your health. Chocolates are made from both cacao and cocoa. The difference between them lies in the way they are processed and the number of nutrients they contain.

Every chocolate comes as a seed in a pod on a tree that is called Theobroma cacao tree. The evergreen tree is a native of Central and South America. It’s pod-like fruit yields from 20-50 seeds or beans. From these beans that the chocolate actually comes from. The beans that are harvested is called cacao beans. After harvesting these beans, it will then be determined whether it will become cacao or cocoa. They came from the same source of a tree but will take on a different journey on how they will be processed. Cacao and cocoa come in different forms such as powder, nibs, chips, bars, and butter.


Cacao powder


Dating back to the Olmec civilization, humans have enjoyed a long relationship with chocolates. In fact, the word cacao was believed to be derived from the Olmec people that lived to what is now south-central Mexico. The Mayans followed the Olmec people in their fascination with the cacao. When a Spanish conqueror landed on Aztec civilization, he founded cacao in the center of their culture and took it to Europe and eventually to the world.

Once cacao beans have been harvested, its process starts by drying and fermenting the beans then it is heated in a very low temperature. The heat separates the fatty part of the beans from the rest. What is left is then milled into a fine dark powder. The cacao powder is good for making baked products such as cookies, cakes, and brownies.

Cacao nibs are beans that were chopped into pieces. It’s a little less sweet because it has no added sugar or preservative but you can still enjoy munching it. Best of all the nutrients and antioxidants are still much intact. You can use it to make mix trail or as toppings for cakes or as a good substitute for chocolate chips.

Cacao butter is the fatty side of the beans which is separated during the process. It’s white in color and rich in texture. It has the smell and a bit taste of white chocolate. You can use it also for baking.

The process made in cacao are all minimal without additives that result in keeping the enzymes undamaged and retain its health benefits. Nowadays, cacao generally refers to as vegan chocolates.


Cocoa powder


Cacao that was used by early Americans were a bitter and spicy event and usually consumed as a drink. It was the European that added refined sugar in cacao drink which eventually evolves by making solid chocolate bars. Today, cacao is widely known as cocoa, which started as a British slang word for cacao.

Cocoa also starts the same way as with cacao when harvested from the pods of a tree but during processing, these beans are heated up at a very high temperature. This makes it a bit sweeter in flavor but heating it at a high temperature also stripped it off with much of the nutrients.

In 1828, a Dutch invented a process of removing a lot of fats from the cacao. The residue is then grounded into powder and treated with alkaline salts to make it more suited to mix with water. This was done to make the taste richer and less acidic. The product is called cocoa powder and the process is called “Dutching” or Dutch-processed. Unfortunately, further processing only caused a decrease in all of its wonderful nutrients and antioxidants.

The process involves in heating heavily cacao beans to become cocoa matters immensely when it comes to delivering its health benefits to our body. Heavy processed cocoa means that it has less nutrient content as compared to cacao which is minimally processed that has a more powerful nutrient and health benefits.

Cocoa is not at all bad for you but the real thing to watch out for is the added sweetener, sugar and dairy to it that companies use to lessen the production cost and intensify the flavor. It is best to stick to the plain version of cocoa. Healthwise, cacao is more beneficial and ideal for you. Knowing all these differences between cacao and cocoa will give you insights to be empowered to make the right choice.