The Difference Between Cacao and Cocoa


Insights from Honduras Chocolate Company - The Difference Between Cacao and Cocoa 

You have probably heard the terms cacao and cocoa used in a variety of circumstances. From nibs, to powders, to beans, both terms can imply different things for different people. Therefore, it is completely understandable how these two terms can be rather confusing. While enjoying a wonderful piece of chocolate doesn’t require these insights, knowing the difference between cacao and cocoa can help you better appreciate the process and quality. Thus, we at the Honduras Chocolate Company would like to share some insights about how the terms cacao and cocoa are often used.

First Things First – The Process of Making Chocolate 

Before explaining the difference between cacao and cocoa, it helps to appreciate the entire process of making chocolate. Terminologies vary through the process that moves from plant to product, and therefore, understanding each step can clarify when some may use the term cacao or cocoa. As a result, you will be more accurate when talking about the types of chocolates and related products you love.

As you may know, cacao comes from the seeds (often called beans) of the Theobroma cacao tree. This tree produces large pod-like fruit that contain up to 60 cacao beans surrounding by a sticky, white pulp. The first step of the chocolate-making process involves removal of most of the pulp and allowing the seeds to ferment over several days. Subsequently, the cacao beans are then dried before being considered for roasting.

At this point, the dried cacao may be either roasted or directly ground into powder. If roasted, the cacao beans take on a sweeter and less bitter taste that is more typical of chocolate flavors. In either case, beans are then crushed with the hulls removed leaving cacao nibs. The nibs can then be ground further into a non-alcoholic liquor, which is used to make chocolate. Though specific variations may exist, these steps reflect the basic process for converting cacao beans into wonderful chocolate delights.

When Does Cacao Become Cocoa?

While it would be nice if everyone used the same terms for the same steps of cacao bean processing, this simply is not the case. For some purists, cacao refers only to the beans and pods before they are fermented. For manufacturers who choose not to roast the dried cacao beans, their products are often called cacao to imply a more natural, less processed offering. Thus, cacao nibs and cacao powder are cacao products that have not been roasted. Because of this, these offerings tend to be more bitter in nature.

For chocolatiers, the use of the terms cacao and cocoa can also vary. Some define the transition from cacao to cocoa as occurring when the non-alcoholic cacao liquor is processed. If pressed to remove the cacao butter fat, cocoa powder is the resulting product. Other chocolatiers combined the liquor directly with vanilla, sugar, or other ingredients like milk to make chocolate. Thus, once this processing occurs, the term cocoa is preferred.  

At Honduras Chocolate Company, we use the term cacao for a couple of reasons. First, every step of our process involves the use of organic, natural ingredients only. And in fact, there are only two ingredients…cacao and cane sugar. Likewise, our patented flash-roasting process locks in the cacao bean flavors without overly damaging its contents unlike more prolonged roasting techniques. This approach offers a natural, pure, and delicious chocolate the way it was meant to be. And to honor this purity, we prefer the term cacao when describing our products.

Cacao or Cocoa? The Bottom Line You Need to Know

As you can appreciate, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to knowing what someone means when they use the term cacao versus cocoa. As a general rule, cacao tends to imply a less processed, more natural product derived from the cacao bean. But where someone draws the line can vary based on the type of product and the overall process used. At Honduras Chocolate Company, we embrace the concept that cacao should portray a more organic and natural chocolate product. And for this reason, this is why we prefer the term cacao in describing our delicious chocolates.

From cacao powder to chocolates, the Honduras Chocolate Company strives to provide the purest and most delicious cacao products on earth. If you have already had the pleasure of enjoying one of our chocolates, you appreciate the quality and purity in every bite. And if you have yet to sample our delicious offerings, come check us out. You will quickly appreciate why using organic and natural cacao ingredients makes all the difference in the world.  






Michael Wiesner