Open any self-respecting wellness devotee’s pantry and you are sure to find at least one version of cacao.
Also known as Theobroma cacao (Greek for "food of the gods”) it is the modern-day must-have kitchen staple. We top our chia puddings with it, use it in and on brownies, and pitch scoops of it into our smoothies.
But what is cacao and other than tasting good, is it actually good for us?
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CACAO & COCOA?
Cacao comes from the same South American plant as cocoa, the cacao plant. Cacao plants have two edible parts: the seeds (or beans) and the fruit. Cacao seeds are fermented, ground into a paste, sweetened, and commonly used to flavour or create chocolate products.
The big difference between cacao and cocoa is the method in which the pods on the plant have been processed.
Some say cacao is the purest form of chocolate and may be higher in antioxidants and some minerals than more processed varieties of the plant. So it goes without saying that choosing cacao over cocoa is always the healthy choice.
You have cacao beans, nibs and powder lurking in your panty, but how do they differ and what are their uses?
Cacao bean: If you open up one of these pods and you’ll find the cacao bean that tastes like bitter chocolate. It is the dried and fully fermented seed of Theobroma cacao, from which cocoa solids and cocoa butter can be extracted.
Cacao nibs: Peel off the outer shell of the cacao bean, roast it, and crumble in to small pieces and you’re left with cacao nibs. Imagine eating a 100% dark chocolate bar – that is what cacao nibs taste like. They're intense and crunchy, with fruity notes and a strong bitter aftertaste that reminds us a little of espresso beans. You can snack on them straight out of the pack or add them to yogurt, smoothies or sprinkle on top of your acai bowl.
Cacao powder: Cacao powder is made from a dried paste of pressed cacao nibs, which concentrates that dark chocolate flavour even further. This is the most common form of cacao. The idea is that because the beans are processed at low temperatures, much of the nutrition is retained.
Cocoa powder: Almost the same as cacao powder, the butter and oils are separated, and the leftover beans are crushed. The difference seems to be in the temperature. Cocoa is heated to a higher temperature, which means you’re left with a less bitter taste, but also alters the nutrient profile. You might also find some brands add powdered milk or sugar to give it a sweeter taste.
WHAT’S TO LOVE ABOUT IT?
Raw, organic cacao beans brim with iron, calcium and magnesium, and are the most potent source of cacao-derived antioxidants, boasting more antioxidants than blueberries. A genuine superfood, cacao is the reason dark chocolate is considered to be good for us, benefiting our cardiovascular health, mood and energy levels.
Which is why WelleCo NOURISHING PLANT PROTEIN Peruvian Chocolate is formulated using certified organic cacao powder as its star ingredient. When combined with organic sprouted brown rice and pea protein, it is the ultimate go-to and all-in-one protein powder for powering a fit and energised body.
HOW TO COOK WITH CACAO
Blend into smoothies for added texture and bountiful health benefits, steep with coconut milk for a healthy latte, or scatter onto your breakfast bowl of granola. Cacao nibs add chutzpah to chia puddings or healthy brownies and make an interesting addition to slow-cooked savory dishes for additional depth of flavour.
Here’s how we take our cacao…
@bos.kitchen's Raw Chocolate Bar.