Because DON’T YOU DARE mistaking the two of them!
Chocolate experts will be at your throat in no time. Ignoring the difference between cocoa and cacao should be added to the 7 Deadly Sins, and you should be punished for that. Especially in the chocolate industry, people care A LOT about the proper use of terminology, and won’t be afraid to make you aware of your fallacies. God only knows how many times I have been reprimanded no matter trying my best.
Give me a break! Chocolate terms are mostly a guessing game. The real meaning of Artisan chocolate? Good luck with that. The boundary between a Chocolate Maker and a Chocolatier? Yeah, go figure. What does Single Origin stand for? Call me when you find out. If you have read one of my latest posts “The 3 most confusing chocolate terms explained“, you heard my frustration. There are always more details that can be added, different points of view to be considered, theories that often differ from practice, confusing regulations, self-made explanations. I will feel less lost in the dark forest with Dante (No doubt, I’m Italian).
ONE THING I have to admit, though.
Despite me getting annoyed with the obsessive research for accuracy surrounding chocolate terminology, the difference between Cocoa and Cacao is a paranoia that you should really give an answer to. Because this is among the few PRECISE and CERTAIN definitions in the chocolate world that we can rejoice ourselves with. Therefore, chocolate snobs have all the rights to get mad at you for not doing your homework. ( Honestly, I used these two terms interchangeably for some time too. I know, I will burn in the flames of Hell!).
Here they are:
– Cacao = raw.
– Cocoa = processed.
Simple as that. In fact, cacao refers to the beans found on the Theobroma cacao tree. Before the beans are fermented (usually the first step after harvesting), they can be called cacao. Once they are subjected to any process after harvesting, then they become cocoa beans. This is just AWESOME, and we can all go to sleep well in our beds now ….
WAIT A MINUTE!
Fermentation is the process that comes right after harvesting and it HAS TO BE DONE in order for any edible products made out of cacao beans not to taste like crap. So, do we consider fermentation the process that turns cacao beans into cocoa beans, or do we close an eye because it is strictly necessary for us to enjoy chocolate?
This might be the reason why the (usually) universally accepted process that sets the boundary between cacao and cocoa is the one after fermenting, which is ROASTING. This is the distinguishing characteristic that raw/virgin chocolate makers take so much pride in: they don’t roast their cacao beans, meaning that the latter are not exposed to intense heat and can maintain all the healthy benefits usually associated with chocolate.
I’m not even going to enter the debate on the REAL difference in health benefits between regular and so called raw chocolate. It’s a battlefield with already too many victims. And I have no interest in being among those, thank you.
Now the interesting questions are:
Can there really be anything like RAW CACAO on the market? I would say NO. Raw cacao can be found only inside the cacao beans still to be fermented, and it won’t probably meet the market’s palate. Or human palate in general. So be suspicious of any ‘raw cacao’ label.
Are chocolate makers that don’t roast their beans allowed to call it RAW CHOCOLATE? I would say YES. It’s not that they are selling it as Raw Cacao. They call it Raw Chocolate, which is like saying that it’s made out of Raw Cocoa, because cocoa beans are not roasted. So it makes sense to me.
Are chocolate brands really aware of the difference? I would say HOPEFULLY! In my dreams, I can confidently choose between Cacao Powder and Cocoa Powder because the producer perfectly knows that the first is less processed than the second.
To sum up, my conclusion is that what we see on the market sold as Cacao is the edible product closest to the cacao beans on the Theobroma Tree. While Cocoa is definitely synonymous with a more processed food. Universally accepted boundary? Still nowhere to be found.
As you can see, Cacao Vs Cocoa is truly a neverending paranoia.
Do YOU care about the difference between Cacao and Cocoa?
I did NOT get paid and did NOT receive any kind of favor for writing this article. These are my honest opinions at your service.