Cacao vs. Cocoa: Basic Differences between Cocoa and Cacao

When you go to a coffee shop on a cold winter afternoon, what’s the chocolate-flavored hot drink that will be one of your first choices? Cacao vs. cocoa? Though the barista probably won’t notice if you have or haven’t used the correct word, in writing it’s important to remember that cacao and cocoa refer to different things. Read on to never confuse these two words again.

Cacao vs. Cocoa

Key Takeaways

  • Cacao is a plant, native to South America
  • Cocoa is a powder made from roasted seeds of this plant.

Cacao vs. Cocoa: Basic Differences between Cocoa and Cacao

Cacao vs. Cocoa: the Definition

Defining Cacao

Cacao refers to the raw beans harvested directly from the Theobroma cacao tree. These beans undergo minimal processing, such as fermenting and drying, to retain most of their natural properties. They are often cold-pressed into cacao nibscacao paste, or cacao butter—forms that preserve a high content of nutrients, enzymes, and antioxidants.

Defining Cocoa

Cocoa, on the other hand, comes from cacao beans that have been roasted at high temperatures and often ground into a fine powder. This process leads to a change in flavor and a reduction in enzyme content. Cocoa powder is commonly used in baking and in making chocolate products. In some contexts, “cocoa” might also refer to the hot beverage made from cocoa powder and milk or water.

Cacao vs. Cocoa: the Differences

Cacao can also refer to the beans of the cacao tree. When you call something a cacao product, e.g. powder, you mean that it is made from non-roasted cacao seeds. This is where the difference between cacao and cocoa is even more apparent: to make cocoa products, the seeds must be roasted at a high temperature.

Cocoa can be both a noun and an adjective. As a noun, it usually refers to that hot chocolate-flavored drink you can order in a coffee shop in your neighborhood. As an adjective, it describes products that are related to or made from cocoa, such as cocoa butter or cocoa powder.

Since these two words are related so closely, it’s possible to meet them in the same sentence. One example would be stating that, in order to buy pure cocoa powder, you need to look for a label that says “100% cacao“.

How do you remember which is which? One of the things you can do is look at the words cocoa and roasted. Both have only one “a” in them, so you can easily associate them with each other. This way, you won’t forget that cocoa refers to roasted cacao seeds.

Cacao vs. Cocoa Examples

Examples of “Cacao” in Sentences

  • The finest chocolate is made from high-quality cacao beans.
  • During my trip to Ecuador, I visited a plantation where cacao is grown and harvested.
  • The cacao tree produces pods that contain seeds which are processed to make cocoa powder and chocolate.
  • Many health enthusiasts praise the benefits of raw cacao for its antioxidants and minerals.
  • Cacao nibs are a popular ingredient in health foods, often added to smoothies and desserts.
  • The history of cacao dates back to ancient civilizations that used it for ceremonial purposes.

Examples of “Cocoa” in Sentences

  • She added a spoonful of cocoa powder to the cake batter to give it a rich chocolate flavor.
  • A warm cup of cocoa is comforting on a cold winter day.
  • The recipe calls for unsweetened cocoa to balance the sweetness of the sugar.
  • Many skincare products include cocoa butter because of its moisturizing properties.
  • The difference between cocoa and cacao often lies in the processing method and temperature.
  • Cocoa beans are the fermented and fully dried seeds of the cacao tree.
  • The children were excited to make their own cocoa mix with marshmallows and a pinch of cinnamon.