Organic Cacao Powder
The cacao bean is the dried and fully fermented fatty seed of Theobroma cacao which is from the family Malvaceae. Other members of this family include okra and cotton. Pronounced "ka cow", Cacao beans are the base of all chocolate products.
Despite having similar spellings, cacao and cocoa are completely different. While both come from the same plant, it's how they're processed that separates them.
Cacao is considered the purist form of chocolate and is essentially chocolate in its most raw and natural state. Cacao can take multiple forms. When the cacao beans are separated from their pods and dried they can be chopped into smaller pieces which are called Cacao Nibs, and these are best described as very intense chocolate chips. The cacao beans may also be blended into cacao butter, which is white in color and contains the fatty part of the cacao bean. What's left when you remove the cacao butter is used to make raw cacao powder.
So what makes cocoa different from cacao? Cocoa is processed with high heat. High heat is applied to raw cacao which kills some of the cacao bean's natural beneficial nutrients. That in and of itself is not that bad, as cocoa will still contain some of the nutritional properties. The bigger issue is that most manufactures process their cocoa powder (also known as coco powder) with additional milk fat, oil or added sugar.
Our Organic Cacao Powder is pure cacao and was not processed with high heat.
Native to the Americas, the cacao tree was long believed to be indigenous to the foothills of the Andes in South America's Amazon and Orinoco basins (today this region is known as Colombia and Venezuela). But, more recent research into the patterns of Cacao's DNA diversity have identified 10 distinct genetic clusters. This study has identified several genetic clusters that originated around Iquitos in modern Peru. This latest research suggests that this is where cacao originated and was most likely first domesticated. Iquitos city is known as the "capital of the Peruvian Amazon". The city is located in the Great Plains of the Amazon Basin, surrounded by the Amazon, Nanay and Itaya rivers. It is the largest city in the world that cannot be reached by road - it's only accessible by river or by air.
There have been numerous archaeological digs that have found cacao residuals on pieces of pottery throughout Central America and Mexico. These various containers have been chemically tested and have found cacao being consumed in Honduras between 1400 and 1500 BC, and at a site on the Gulf Coast of Veracruz, Mexico in around 1750 BC. But the oldest site with cacao residue stained pots is located on the Pacific coast of Chiapas, Mexico that dates back to around 1900 BC. This shows that the initial domestication of cacao by the Mokaya (pre-Olmec people) was probably related to the making of a fermented, alcoholic beverage.
The word cacao is derived from the Olmec people who prospered in Pre-Classical Mesoamerica (1200 - 400 BC). The Olmec are considered the forerunner of the later Mesoamerican cultures, such as the Mayans (2600 BC - 1500AD) and Aztecs (1250 - 1521AD). The Olmec inhabited an area on the Gulf of Mexico that are the modern day states of Veracruz and Tabasco, Mexico. The word Cacao is derived from the Nahuatl word "cacaua" (this language has been spoken in central Mexico since at least the 600 AD). Most Etymologists are of the opinion that the word cocoa is actually a spelling mistake of the word cacao. This mistake most logically occurred because it was easier to pronounce, and subsequently overtook the correct word.
The Spanish were the first Europeans to be introduced to cacao which was in a beverage shared with the Spanish Conquistador Hernán Cortés when he met with Moctezuma (1502-1520) the ruler of the Aztec empire in 1519. Cortés wrote about the large amount of this beverage that Moctezuma consumed during their visit.
The cacao beverage was introduced to Spain in 1520's and by the end of 16th century had a growing legion of enthusiasts. By the middle of the 1600's cacao was widely accepted in both England and France and the rising popularity of the beverage led to cacao plantations being established in the Caribbean, by the French, as well as in Venezuelan and the Philippines, by the Spanish.
The cacao bean is the seed of the fruit from the cacao tree, which is a small evergreen tree that reaches a height of 12 to 25 feet. Cacao trees are only found in hot, rainy tropical areas within 20° of latitude of the equator. Ripe cacao pods are carefully chosen by their color and are harvested from the trunk and branches of the cacao tree with a curved knife tied to the end of a long pole. It's estimated one skilled person can harvest up to 650 cacao pods per day.
The cacao pod (the fruit) has a rough and leathery rind which is a little over 1" thick. The pod is filled with a sweet, gummy pulp (known as 'baba de cacao' in South America) which contains 20 to 50 cacao beans (or seeds) that are soft and their color is white to pale lavender.
The harvested pods are typically split open with a machete. The beans and pulp are removed and then placed on grates for several days to begin the drying process. During the drying process the seeds undergo "sweating" (similar to vanilla beans). As the cacao pulp begins to ferment, it liquefies and the pulp slowly slips away, leaving behind the cacao beans. Proper sweating procedures are critical, because if the sweating process is not allowed to run its course the beans will not maintain their strong bitter taste, and will instead develop a flavor similar to raw potatoes.
During the fermentation process, the temperature in the fermentation boxes can rise above 118° F, but this is not a given. It really depends on how the fermentation is done, and the key to keeping the temperature low is controlling the size of the pile. If the beans are dried in direct sun, and the box is placed on a concrete pad, temperatures can easily reach 140°F. If you're a raw fooder who is looking for cacao powder that has not been heated above 118° then you know how much more expensive that cacao powder is because it takes much longer to ferment.
After fermentation, the cacao beans are ground to create chocolate liquor. To make cacao powder, the chocolate liquor is pressed which removes most of its fat (also known as cacao butter), then ground again. The result is a fine, dusky powder.
Peru grows three cacao varieties - Amazon foreign, Creole and Trinitary and the popularity of the Creole variety is skyrocketing due to its exceptional quality. Peruvian grown organic cacao thrives in the country's agroforestry systems where it is cultivated to meet increasing demand.
Our Organic Cacao Powder is from a very high quality cacao bean and is harvested in Peru.
Use Organic Cacao powder in brownies, cakes, cookies, oatmeal and smoothies, or as a topping on finished desserts. Add to your favorite coffee to create a low sugar chocolatey mocha. We've also heard of it being used to create a no dairy ice cream when blended with frozen bananas. While it is more often used with sweets, it also has some savory applications as well, and is used as a secret ingredient in many competition chili recipes and in modern versions of classic Mexican moles.
Cacao powder is naturally sugar free and tastes somewhat bitter in this powdered form. Once your taste buds have experienced this heavenly treat you'll see why serious chocolate lovers believe it is so much more flavorful than processed chocolate.
Cacao and cannabis (yes marijuana) are the only two plants known to contain cannabinoids, chemicals that unlock specific receptors in the brain. This results in the feeling of being high or elated. Cacao contains anandamide inhibitors. The body will often release anandamide to cope with the pain of intense exercise (this is what runners describe as runners high). Cacao also contains high levels of the essential amino acid tryptophan. Getting tryptophan into your system from food produces serotonin which is our "defense shield" against stress. Cacao has been tested to have the highest level of antioxidant flavonoids in any food - more than blueberries, black tea, green tea and red wine. So cacao helps you feel good while combating stress - but best of all it tastes great.
Serving Size1 tsp
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value*