Raw Cacao vs Cocoa - The Fermented Foody

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Raw Cacao vs Cocoa

There’s much confusion about the difference between cacao and cocoa. Let’s clear it up right here! 🙂

Raw Cacao vs Cocoa

Raw cacao and cocoa begin life at the same source.

Cacao (or cocoa) beans (yup, they’re referred to with both names, but the products made from it differ!) although generally referred to as legumes, are technically the seeds of the Theobroma Cacao tree. The pod-shaped fruit is botanically referred to as: baccate-like (berry-like) and each pod produces approximately 35-50 seeds surrounded by a sweet pulp. The pod and the pulp surrounding the cacao seed, in this case, constitute the fruit of the cacao.

Raw Cacao – The Story of it’s Production:

Here is a summary of what happens to your cute l’il cacao pods before they pitch up in your home as nibs, powder or butter.

  • The Cacao beans start out white.
  • The beans are removed from the pod and fermented.
  • During fermentation, the enzymes break down proteins and amino acids and turn the beans brown.
  • The beans are run through a mill. Milling crumbles and cracks open the skins, and starts to remove them.
  • The beans are then hand sifted to remove the remainder of the skins. This produces the nibs .. the purest form of chocolate.
  • The nibs are dried at under 120 degrees Fahrenheit, which  means they are still raw.
  • Cacao butter and powder are made from the nibs.
  • To do this, the nibs are ground into a paste.
  • The paste is then poured into a press.
  • The press slowly squeezes the oil out of the paste. This is pure cacao oil, called raw cacao butter when it solidifies.
  • What remains is called a press cake. A dry cake that’s cooled, then put through a stone grinder that turns the cake into a powder. The powder is then sifted to become a fine quality, raw cacao powder.

Raw Cacao – The Superfood

So let’s dig down and explore why raw cacao is seen as a superfood.  In truth, many whole foods not labelled as such can be considered superfoods, since each holds their own unique nutritional value. However, it’s worth noting that scientific tests carried out on cacao have revealed it:

  • Is rich in flavanols – higher, in fact, than any other food polyphenols (also known as phytochemicals)
    • These phytochemicals gives cacao it’s antioxidant properties, which in turn gives the body an ability to repair damage from free radicals
    • They may also provide effective protection against UV radiation and subsequent skin ageing, with routine use, both topical or orally
  • Is an extremely rich source of magnesium (the primary mineral) also manganese, copper and iron
  • Improves blood flow and arterial elasticity
  • Can aid skin health and reduce skin ageing
  • Decreases blood pressure
  • Protects from heart disease and strokes
  • Improves brain function/Reduces cognitive decline
  • Produces anti-inflammatory actions
  • Boosts mood
  • Offers possible antitumour promoting properties

The fact that blood flow is increased and oxygen flow improved means that it’s considered to be a boost to the body’s ability to work out and also recover afterwards.

Cocoa Powder

Raw cacao also has a zero sugar rating.When raw cacao powder is heated to high temperatues (ie above 120 degrees Fahrenheit) it becomes cocoa, commercially used in products such as hot chocolate and baked goods. Heating to this level, reduces beneficial enzymes and lowers the overall nutritional value. It’s also worth bearing in mind that it’s wise to check the product label to see what else has been added (artificial flavouring, preservatives, sugar etc) before buying in.

So that’s the story of the ‘ickle beans and sufficient good reason to start using it in your diet. 😉

(I’ll write an article about carob powder at some point, so you can compare the two!)

See you soon!

Raw Cacao Vs Cocoa






Sources for scientific references:




Cuatrecasas J. Cacao and its allies: a taxonomic revision of the genus Theobroma. Contributions from the United States National Herbarium. 1964;35:379–614. [Ref list]

About the Author Sarah Jackson

I love to experiment with food, write poetry, read, walk in nature, take iphone photographs, sing, cycle, watch good movies, documentaries, dramas and comedy.

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1 comment
Lindsay Jakl says

There’s also a great book called Naked Chocolate by David Wolfe And Shazzie

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