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Cacao Vs. Cocoa:
What's The Difference?

~ By Moses Draper

Learn about the difference between these products and why those looking to get the benefits of cacao are often misled into choosing inferior cocoa powder

In this short article, you'll learn:

  • The difference between cacao & cocoa
  • The benefits of cacao over cocoa
  • How to choose the highest quality cacao

Cacao The Superfood

There's a lot of talk these days about cacao and all the amazing benefits it has for our health & well-being. Ceremonial Cacao, the highest quality of pure cacao, used to be a niche market, but these days, the big companies have caught on and marketing has made it harder to know how to choose the best product to get the most benefits.

Theobroma Cacao - Food of the Gods

Ah chocolate, our love affair goes way back! For over 5000 years, humans have been consuming the fruit of the cacao tree, theobroma cacao. For the vast majority of this time, we've been consuming it in drink form, made with pure cacao beans, ground into a paste and then dissolved in water.

When the Western World got a hold of this sacred Meso-American plant, they began processing it further, eventually ending up with modern chocolate as we know it, generally full as fillers, sugars and preservatives.

Pure Cacao Beans

Within the fruit of the cacao tree are 30-50 seeds. After being fermented, sun-dried and roasted, these seeds are transformed and ready to be consumed. Pure cacao contains around 50% cacao butter and is an excellent source of nutrients and psychoactive compounds, such as theobromine, magnesium, anti-oxidants and mood enhancers.


Cocoa, the denatured cousin of cacao

Cocoa powder is made by taking these pure cacao beans and removing the cacao butter, which is half of the natural, whole, bean. This is done by huge industrial hydraulic presses that squeeze all of that good fat out of the beans. Usually, the resulting product is then 'dutched' which means the pH level is chemically altered .

No Longer a Whole Food

With that fat gone and additional industrial processing, not only do you lose an excellent source of nutritional quality (cacao butter is a healthy fat in our diet), you also lose the balanced nature of cacao as a whole food. The fat helps the body absorb all other nutrients and balances out the stimulating effects of cacao so they are more even and grounded.

Not Just Semantics

While terminology can often be confusing, the cacao vs. cocoa debate isn't just semantics. Cacao refers to the whole cacao bean whereas cocoa is defatted cacao that has undergone additional industrial-scale processing.

Beware The Marketing

Even though pure cacao & cocoa powder are two very different products, the bigger brands have caught on to the interest and are now marketing with the term 'cacao powder', increasing the confusion and complicating matters further. Calling it 'cacao powder' makes people think it's the whole cacao bean, when it fact it has been processed and the fat removed. It's just a new marketing term, instead of a new product.

Compare The Label

To do your homework, always make sure to check the label and read the description, as the truth lies in the numbers. The product should be made up of 100% cacao, not 'cold-pressed' or otherwise processed.
Nutritional Profile of our 100% Pure Cacao
When the cacao has been denatured and turned into cocoa powder, the fat content goes down significantly. In our nutritional label above, notice how the fats make up over 57% of the product by weight (16 grams in a 28 gram serving size). Cocoa powder, on the other hand, can be as low as 10% fat.

Cacao Butter: It's Own Superfood

The cacao butter that is removed in cocoa powder is it's own nutritional powerhouse. Healthy fats are an essential carrier to help the body absorb the nutrients in cacao. It also helps balance out the stimulating effects of cacao, making it less jittery than coffee.

Cacao Butter Contains:

  • Healthy fats, primarily saturated fats
  • Omega-3 & Omega-6 fatty acids
  • Phytosterols, known to decrease harmful LDL cholesterol
  • Anti-oxidant polyphenols
Cacao Butter is Keto & Paleo Friendly!

Don't Pay for Less

When you buy cocoa powder, you're only buying half of a whole food! Make sure you get pure cacao so you get the full nutritional benefits of cacao.

Why Ceremonial Cacao?

Our Ceremonial cacao is the highest quality you can find. We have professional protocols in place at every step of the way, from selecting premium variety seedlings, to fermentation rates, sun-drying protocols and roasting profiles. Our job is to find you the best quality cacao, and it's a job we take seriously!
Our Cacao comes in bar & powder form. Our signature bar is the classic starting point for those wanting to slow down and connect with the process of making their cacao drink. Our powder is truly pure cacao with nothing removed. We ground up the bar for those who want to scoop & go without losing any of the cacao goodies!
Try Our Ceremonial Cacao Now

In Summary:

  • Cacao is a whole food as nature made it & used for centuries
  • Cocoa powder is a further processed & denatured version that has only been around since the industrial age
  • Cocoa powder contains less nutrients and a less balanced nutritional profile
  • Make sure you get 100% pure cacao, made of only ground cacao beans
  • When possible, source your cacao from a small-scale farm that knows how to ferment & sun-dry the beans professionally
  • For those concerned about social & environmental responsibility, make sure your cacao is fairly-traded & naturally grown
Try Our Pure Cacao Now

Moses Draper, Co-Founder Heartblood Cacao

I've been working with cacao for over a decade and am passionate about sharing the love & beauty that is possible with this medicine.