Cacao vs Cocoa: What is the Difference?

by Nelson Bay Health Foods Admin on July 03, 2024


Chocolate is chocolate right?  Well, actually its not, and Cacao and Cocoa are not the same thing either.  It’s a common misconception you can be forgiven for thinking and a question we get asked a lot in our health fooda shop.  So, I thought it was time to share the facts and clear a few things up for you. 

Cacao and Cocoa both start from the same place, the Theobroma cacao tree. This tree, native to South America, produces seed pods which are cracked open to remove the seeds known as cacao beans. 

However, its the way these cacao beans end up and the process they go through that creates the difference between cacao and cocoa.  Lets take a closer look at them individually.


Raw cacao is made by cold-pressing un-roasted cacao beans. The process keeps the living enzymes in the cacao and removes the fat (cacao butter). Eaten raw it is quite a bitter form of chocolate however it boasts a pretty impressive list of health benefits.

  1. High in antioxidants which help fight cancer-causing free radicals
  2. Contains cognitive boosting flavonoids which help lift your mood
  3. Lowers insulin resistance
  4. Reduces blood pressure
  5. Protects your nervous system due to its high resveratrol content, a potent antioxidant also found in red wine, known for its ability to cross your blood-brain barrier to help protect your nervous system
  6. It is rich in essential minerals and vitamins, magnesium, iron, potassium, calcium, zinc, copper and manganese.

Cacao nibs are the beans chopped up into small pieces.

Cacao butter is the fatty part of the bean and its exceptionally good for baking with and adding into home-made moisturisers. 

The rest of the beans are milled into a fine dark cacao powder. 


Cocoa looks the same but its not.  Cocoa powder is raw cacao that’s been roasted at high temperatures. Sadly, roasting changes the molecular structure of the cacao bean, reducing the enzyme content and lowering the overall nutritional value.

Some cocoa is also put through a chemical solution to make for a richer, less acidic taste.

So there you have it, natural versus processed.  No guessing which ones we stock in our store! So if you are ready to make the change over to Cacao come see us, we have a super delicious range from cacao powder, exotic chocolate bars to cacao nibs and even cacao butter.