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What is Cacao? Cacao vs Cocoa

As a nation we are becoming increasingly responsible in the way that we shop.

Take our favourite confectionary product, chocolate, for example - research by the Fairtrade Foundation reveals that more UK consumers now recognise the FAIRTRADE Mark than ever before, and in 2008 we munched our way through in excess of £37.5 million worth of this more ethical variety of chocolate.

Today, more and more of us are also switching to raw chocolate – chocolate made from cacao, as opposed to ordinary cocoa. But what is cacao and how exactly does it differ from the more familiar cocoa that we’ve grown up with?

What is Cacao?

So, what is cacao? Cacao is made from the seeds or cacao beans that are found in the fruit of the Theobroma Cacao, known less formally as the cacao tree - a small, evergreen tree that belongs to the Malvaceae family and is native to Central and South America.

After the cacao beans have been fermented and sun-dried, they are transported to all corners of the globe, where they are ready for transformation into a large variety of different cacao products, including both raw cacao powder and cocoa powder.

To make the nation’s favourite cacao or chocolate products, the cacao beans must be first processed. And, it is the manner in which the cacao bean is subsequently processed that determines whether the resulting product is a pure, raw cacao product or a simple cocoa product.

Cocoa Products

To make ordinary cocoa and cocoa based products, such as milk and plain chocolate, the cacao beans are first roasted at high temperatures (sometimes up to 130 degrees Celsius) and then crushed into small pieces.

Next, these pieces are ground into a creamy paste that is used, along with cacao butter (a pale yellow vegetable fat extracted from the cacao bean, known as theobroma oil), dairy products, such as cow’s milk, and refined sugars, to create the final product. Cocoa powder is made in a similar way, except that the roasted cacao beans are ground into a fine powder instead, before being mixed with sugar, milk and often a long list of artificial additives prior to packaging.

Cacao Products

Cacao products, such as raw cacao powder and raw chocolate, on the other hand, are processed to an absolute minimum and never heated above 45 degrees Celsius, leaving an optimal retention of their naturally occurring nutrients.

And, unlike cocoa powder, raw cacao powder is totally free from refined sugars and artificial sweeteners, dairy products or any other unwelcome additives, for an entirely pure and natural product, whilst raw chocolate bars are sweetened to perfection using natural sweeteners, such as organic lucuma powder, stevia sweetener or organic coconut sugar.

Cacao vs Cocoa

As we’ve already seen, cacao is a raw, natural product that’s not only pleasingly free from artificial additives, refined sugars and dairy products; it also retains an optimal number of the valuable nutrients that tend to be destroyed or depleted during the aggressive processing of cocoa and cocoa based products.

Cacao typically contains:

  • Vitamins – in particular vitamin C
  • Minerals – such as iron, chromium, anandamide, theobromine, manganese, magnesium, zinc and copper
  • Dietary fibre
  • Essential fatty acids – including omega-6 fatty acids
  • PEA (phenylethylamine)
  • Tryptophan
  • Serotonin

Raw cacao has a intense aromatic chocolate flavour and is a key ingredient in today’s delicious range of raw chocolate recipes, raw chocolate bars and raw chocolate snacks.

For these numerous and highly compelling reasons, we believe that, in the battle of cacao vs cocoa, pure, unadulterated cacao wins hands down.

Cacao is considered by many to be one of the finest, most nutrient-dense foods in the world. Raw cacao can be used in precisely the same way as cocoa, with utterly spectacular results.

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