Cacao and cocoa are terms often interchanged by many people. However, there is a definite difference between the two.
Cacao refers to the plant or beans and is the main ingredient of chocolate, cocoa powder, cocoa butter, and other products. They are often priced and categorized based on aroma and flavor. Cacao products are made from cold pressing non-roasted seeds.
Cocoa, on the other hand, is a powder made from roasting the cacao plant's seeds in high temperatures. Cocoa powder is essentially what you know as chocolate powder you use in baking or when making hot chocolate. It is the main ingredient of chocolates. If you are looking for a strong cocoa flavor you can look for "100% cacao" on the label.
Cocoa butter is another product made from the cacao bean, and it is an ingredient used in making chocolate. Cacao butter contains the fat from the cacao fruit and is white in color.
Cacao nibs are another food that is made from the cacao plant, these are cacao beans that have been chopped into tiny pieces. These are similar to chocolate chips but have a more intense flavor as it does not have other additives as chocolate does.
So, does cocoa or cacao have any health benefits? Of course! Eating more cacao can improve your mood as it contains phenylethylamine, which is sometimes called the “love drug” -- this chemical is associated with elevated mood and higher energy levels.
Both cocoa and cacao are used in baked goods, smoothies, snack mixes, and even ice cream.