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Cacao vs Cocoa

Other than some vowel movements (!) what’s the difference between Cacao and Cocoa?

CACAO in its unprocessed state is a powerful superfood high in antioxidants (fighting oxidative damage in your body as well as slowing in the aging process), it’s high in flavonoids (can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers plus many other benefits) and is an excellent source of minerals including magnesium, manganese, selenium, chromium, iron and calcium.  See Cacao Health Benefits for more info. 

COCOA is cacao that is highly processed, heat refined and alkalised, In short, the processing that takes place to transform cacao into cocoa, strips it of its health benefits. 

Read how cacao paste is made below and how this is developed into cocoa to understand the process more fully. 

How is Cacao Paste made?

Cacao beans grow inside cacao pods.  Once matured, the cacao pods are hand-picked, split open and the beans are scooped out and separated from the pod.  At this stage the beans are covered in the cacao pulp – a white fleshy fruit around the bean.  The beans are sun-dried (as opposed to heated) and are fermented for 3-4 days week which ensures all living enzymes and medicinal properties are retained in the bean.  During this stage, the pulp will fall off the beans and fall through holes in the fermentation boxes losing approximately a third of the gross cacao weight. 

The beans are now dried under the sun.  This is a technical process that carefully balances temperature, time and humidity to retain the optimal quality of the bean.  Once ready (usually 6-7 days) the beans are husked to remove any twigs or unwanted parts and are then ground into a paste known as Cacao Liquor which hardens into Cacao Paste – what you receive when you order your Smile Cacao

How does Cacao become ‘Chocolate’ as we know it?

In the form you receive your Smile Cacao it
is absolutely pure.  Nothing added, nothing taken away.  After this point, the processing that takes place transforms it from a pure product into a completely new product – what we know of as chocolate. 


The cacao butter present in cacao paste (compromising approximately 50% of the paste) is removed.  The beans are roasted at high temperature.  This brings a 

sweetness but also reduces the enzyme content and removes 90% of the nutritional value.  


The beans are ground down to a powder, have sugar, fat and processed powdered milk added and sometimes bicarbonate soda to alkalise.  This is what we know as the ingredient ‘Cocoa’ used in chocolate making. Store bought chocolate can contain anywhere from 10% (in the US) to 85% cocoa.  Most chocolate contains between 25-40% of this processed ingredient.  Chocolate manufacturers will then combine the cocoa with ingredients such as milk solids, sugar, emulsifier, vegetable fats and flavourings to produce ‘chocolate’.

As you can see, pure, raw, organic cacao paste, grown in indigenous soils using the Criollo bean, is a very different product to store bought chocolate!  It is also worth noting that it is highly unlikely that a standard chocolate manufacturer would start with the prized Criollo bean to go through this processing considering
its low yield, high pricing and absolute finesse in its field.  However, the same processing will occur, most
likely with Forastero bean, grown in non-native regions, to produce chocolate as we know it. 

Here at Smile Cacao, we only sell cacao in its absolute pure form – nothing added, nothing taken away.  Purchase and enjoy your pure Smile Ceremonial Cacao HERE.