From Bean to Bar
Cacao can be found in many different forms. A brief description is given below in descending order from whole food to the most processed version of cocoa.
Raw Cacao Bean: This is the bean itself that is removed from the pod in the cacao fruit. That’s where cacao’s journey begins, no matter its final form. Once beans are dried and fermented, manufacturers heat them at a low temperature. The heat separates the fatty part of the bean from the rest, a key part of the process.
Raw Cacao Nibs: These are just cacao beans that manufacturers chop up into small pieces, still untreated. They’re like chocolate chips, but less sweet, without all the added sugars and artificial sweeteners. There is still all the nutrients and antioxidant power of cacao beans.
Raw Cacao Paste: Also called Cacao Liquor, the paste is made by crushing raw cacao beans into a liquid. This liquid quickly solidifies at room temperature and the result is raw cacao paste. Because no heat is used in this process, it retains its natural properties. Cacao paste is naturally about 55% cacao butter and is an extremely smooth product great for use in any chocolate recipe. If you are looking for true dark chocolate, this is it. Not 80% or 90%, but 100% pure organic cacao. No additives, sweeteners or anything else. This product is essential for true cacao chefs who are looking for chocolate creations that are firm and silky at room temperature, or one-of-a-kind homemade healthy chocolate fudge.
Raw Cacao Butter: This is the actual fat, a clear liquid, which is naturally extracted when the cacao paste is pressed. It solidifies to a somewhat soft yellow-white butter, rich and fatty in texture (great to use even as a moisturiser).
Raw Cacao Powder: By applying a cold-pressing process to the cacao bean, most of the fat (cacao butter) is removed. With the fat removed, cacao powder becomes hydroscopic i.e. it will dissolve in liquids. Therefore, if you are looking for smoothies, hot or cold drinks, raw cacao powder is the most convenient solution.
Cocoa Powder: Cocoa starts the same way cacao does: as harvested beans from the plant’s seed pods. During processing, however, it’s heated at much higher temperatures. This results in a slightly sweeter flavor but minimises the health effects. There are two types of cocoa processing available:
- Dutch-processed cocoa powder. This variety, also known as dark cocoa, undergoes additional processing with an alkalised chemical solution to make the end product taste richer and less acidic. Unfortunately, further processing increases degradation of antioxidants and nutrients.
- Natural cocoa powder. This variety is more acidic and bitter than Dutch-processed powder. It is often in recipes that call for baking soda because the soda alkalises the natural cocoa powder. Cocoa tends to be cheaper than cacao and a bit easier to find.
The challenge is finding a high-quality option without any added sugars, dairy products, artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, or emulsifiers – “fillers” companies use to kick up the flavor and cut production costs. If you’re looking for the best of the cocoa powders, stick to plain versions. Cocoa powder “mixes” often contain added sugar and are loaded with other ingredients.
Learn how simple, healthy and creative it is to make your own chocolate (from the superfood RAW CACAO) which is free of sugar, diary, gluten and other suspicious ingredients.