Cacao or Cocoa? And why it matters

In a handful of years cacao has evolved from 'cocoa' - the powdered confectionary item - to 'raw' meaning it is unprocessed; its nutrition bioavailable and abundant. 

We are living in exciting times, witnessing rapid shifts in cultural awareness around the impact of mass production. We've still got a long way to go, which is why we're passionate about sharing our experiences in the cacao industry and why our mission is to protect and preserve the land and people where our cacao grows.

The key difference between cacao and cocoa is how its processed. Cacao powder is made when cacao beans are pressed to separate the butter from the solids. Cocoa is then heat-treated which results in the loss of nutrients, whereas raw cacao has been cold-pressed, preserving its vitality. This is not to say that all cacao companies are equal. There are even some 'Ceremonial Grade Cacao' brands out there who are part of this destructive supply chain.

This brings us to the next part of the story.

The bitter truth

Western consumerism has had a devastating impact on cacao farmers around the world. To illustrate just one example, Ivory Coast in West Africa produces 44% of the world’s cacao and farmers get paid less than $1 a day.

This shocking statistic is just one of many, which is why it's so important to support brands who are transparent in their practices. There are some amazing companies out there making a positive difference in the industry, such as Tony's Chocoloney whose mission is to make chocolate 100% slavery free.

The real difference between cacao and cocoa goes much deeper than which one is healthier. Some sustainable chocolate companies may still refer to their product as 'cocoa' whilst many 'raw cacao' brands still source from non-ethical centralised cooperatives. Look for those who are sourcing directly from families or communities, who give back to the land and people and speak honestly about their product and practices. 

When we spoke to Tess Martin, founder of Cacao Mama International, she shed light on the issue.

"We need to support small, localised, independent and artisanal brands as much as we can. A lot of these small companies are very active in creating grassroots initiative because they uphold a different level and standard for what they pay their farmers. The impact of the money they put back into supporting the village is huge. It changes the future of the entire community."

“These companies are not in competition with each other.” Tess continues. “A lot of them actually become friends, working together to grow their businesses because they hold a bigger vision.”

We are proud to support the Ashaninka community in protecting their rainforest and preserving their way of life. To learn more see our articles 'The Ashaninka Way of Life' and 'What is the Difference Between Ceremonial Cacao and Cacao Powder?'

If this issue interests you read our interview with Tess Martin - she's amazing!


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Article by Laura Roberts
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