When you hear the word cacao, there's every chance that the thought of chocolate enters the mind and you’re left questioning; what is the difference? On the surface, it might not look like there is much setting the two substances apart. Thanks to the look, name and packaging often sharing many similarities it can be difficult to see the difference. But, beneath the surface, there are huge contrasts between the two.
To highlight the unique properties of each, it can first be helpful to explain the different journeys that both cacao and cocoa are taken on.
The journey of Cacao
Cacao seeds can be found on the Theobroma cacao tree, which produces large, pod-like fruits that contain beans surrounded by a sticky, sweet white pulp. Once harvested, the beans go through several processing steps before they reach the shop shelves.
Firstly, the beans are fermented where microbes feed on the pulp and develop the favourable chocolate flavour and aroma. Secondly, they are left to dry and either kept raw (which we know to be raw cacao), or roasted to create sweetness.
Here is when we begin to see the difference between chocolate and cacao.
When derived from a cacao bean, after winnowing, (process of removing shell and husk) we are presented with cacao - which we often recognise as cacao nibs, or beans. Raw cacao powder is made by cold-pressing cacao beans, which retains the living enzymes and removes the fat (cacao butter). This heart healthy fat is retained in Bare cacao and has many benefits to the body as well as hair and skin.
Depending on the harvest, weather conditions, and varied complexity of the fermentation process, we will experience a difference in the flavour and strength of the cacao.
But what about cocoa?
Whilst the names may make it seem as though both have undergone the same process, there are key fundamental differences. Cocoa goes on to be roasted at high temperatures, altering the molecular structure of the cacao beans, thus lowering the overall nutritional value. It is this substance that we see mixed with other ingredients including vanilla, sugar, cocoa butter and milk - what you know to be chocolate. This is what you find in the confectionary section of shops. You may find chocolate bars labelled with a percentage (40%, 70%, 85% etc) and this is determined by how much of the cacao is used in ratio to the other ingredients added. Generally speaking, the darker the chocolate, the higher the cacao content.
What are the nutritional differences?
You may have seen endless articles boasting the health benefits of chocolate, but what you may not realise is that this is actually referring to the goodness upheld in raw cacao - although it also extends to some dark chocolate too. Cacao is known to have a higher antioxidant content than cocoa and due to its raw essence, is less processed. On top of that, cacao is thought to be the highest source of antioxidants of all foods and the highest source of magnesium of all foods.
Due to its processing and added ingredients, much of cocoa’s nutritional value is eliminated in the heating process and the percentage of cacao that remains after all the added ingredients is minimal.
Single origin and ethically sourced with absolutely no ingredients added, a cup of Bare Cacao holds endless nutrients, antioxidants and minerals to offer you all exceptional goodness in a single cup. Whilst it may not taste as sweet as your favourite chocolate bar, its natural essence means that you are able to sweeten it in a way that enables you to know exactly what is going in your drink.