The difference between cacao and cocoa

The difference between cacao and cocoa

  • 1 November 2020
If you have ever compared the price of cacao powder and cocoa powder , you would have noticed a huge difference in price. Despite having very similar names and being made from the same plant, there are actually important differences between the two.

Chocolate health benefits


Chocolate is one of the most popular foods worldwide. Often considered as a sweet treat, chocolate actually has many documented health benefits - Such as improving cognition and other brain functions and being a good source of minerals like zinc, magnesium and iron. This is why some consider cacao to be a superfood.

Usually, the claims that chocolate is healthy and has great health benefits, refer to cacao rather than cocoa, specifically chocolate with a high cacao content.

How cacao powder and cocoa powder are made


Chocolate is made from the Theobroma cacao tree which is native to South America. The seeds or cacao beans grow in large, colourful pods. Both cacao and cocoa start out as cacao beans. After harvest, they are separated from the sticky pulp in the pod. They are then laid out and fermented for several days by naturally present microorganisms. Fermentation helps develop the distinctive and delicious chocolatey aromas and flavours that we all love.

What happens next determines whether the beans become cacao or cocoa. When making cocoa powder, the cacao beans are dried to prevent mould growth and then roasted after fermentation. The shell is removed from the inner cocoa nib, which is then ground into chocolate liquor or cocoa mass. Chocolate liquor can be separated by cold pressing into cocoa butter and cocoa solids/powder.

Cacao powder is made from beans that have not been roasted at high temperatures. After the beans are dried and fermented, they are heated at a low temperature. The heat separates the fatty part of the bean, the cacao butter, from the cacao solids, which is milled it into a fine dark powder to make cacao powder.



The differences between cacao powder and cocoa powder



So the main difference between how cocoa and cacao powder is made is the roasting step of the process. Roasting changes the nutritional benefits and properties of cocoa.

What effect does processing the beans at lower temperatures mean?

  • Cacao powder is more bitter than cocoa powder

  • Cacao powder contains more nutrients and more antioxidants - these beneficial substances are sensitive to heat and are partly destroyed when making cocoa powder. Cocoa beans lose some of the nutrients when roasted

  • Cacao is used in raw, natural products because it is less processed and seen to be a more pure form that is closer to its natural state

  • Cacao powder is more expensive than cocoa powder - It's much harder to extract the cocoa powder and solids from the cacao plant when it's not roasted, so cacao products are usually more expensive than cocoa products. Cacao nibs and cacao powder are usually sold at health food stores and speciality shops, whereas the significantly cheaper cocoa powder can be purchased at most supermarkets

  • Cocoa powder is a bit darker than cacao powder because of the roasting temperatures





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