Did you know that cacao is packed with more calcium than cow's milk?
Indeed, the tasty bean is one heck of a super-food.
But what is cacao, and is it the same as cocoa?
What is Cacao?
The tropical evergreen cacao tree or Theobroma cacao produces green/yellow fruit pods containing large and densely populated cacao seeds. In theory, the white beans are the purest form of chocolate, yet they need to be processed to produce cocoa. The fresh cacao beans are high in natural fats which are either turned into cocoa butter for the production of chocolate and beauty products or fermented and roasted to create cacao.
Is Cacao a Good Alternative to Caffeine?
Cacao contains a compound called theobromine, which has a very similar molecular structure to caffeine. Theobromine acts as a diuretic and stimulant but is much less potent in its side effects. In many ways, cacao is a source of energy, but some researchers suggest that the energising effect last longer and doesn’t come with the usual ‘crash’ effects of caffeine.
Cacao is loaded with iron, magnesium and antioxidants. The naturally occurring serotonin and L-tryptophan compounds, along with carbohydrates, encourage the body to create serotonin, which makes us feel happy. Cacao also contains flavonoids which have been linked to benefitting neurological function and reducing fatigue.
Pure or raw cacao is slightly bitter, it hasn't had the addition of refined sugar, which is added to most chocolate products on the high street. Your average chocolate bar will contain none of the good stuff unless it contains cocoa solids. One way of getting pure or raw cacao into your diet is by adding cacao nibs to smoothies, cake recipes or cereals. Not only are cacao nibs the healthier option, but a more exciting one too!
The Epicurious Hedgehog works with smallholder farmers in Mbeya, southwest Tanzania to grow its delicious cacao nibs. Farmers such as Roza Daudi. has been farming cacao in Busoka village, since 2001 and as a 43-year old widow, it's her livelihood. Roza's three-acre farm produces up to 1,500kg of cacao every year, which we buy at a higher price. Our customers can feel good about what they're eating, knowing where the cacao has been grown and produced.
For an instant hit of the healthy snack, our Chocolate-covered Raw Cacao Beans are a tasty pick me up when you need it. Chose pure cacao because it is an excellent source of four 'bliss chemicals' – serotonin, tryptophan, tyrosine and phenylethylamine and tastes great! As a source of magnesium, raw cacao is an essential mineral that most us in the West ordinarily take in supplement form.
Asante Mama produces our Chocolate-covered Raw Cacao Beans in Mpigi, Uganda. Set up by entrepreneur Pamela Anyoti Peronaci to tackle extreme poverty and encourage economic development through agriculture. Asante Mama offers thousands of families in rural Uganda the means to earn decent livelihoods by offering free seedlings, training, support and a guaranteed market. One of her farmers is Rose, who grows our cacao. The collaboration provides her with the income she needs to pay her children's and grandchildren's school fees and build her family a better home.
There are many ways to incorporate cacao into your daily routine, but for a morning boost of the good stuff, we love cacao nibs in smoothies.
Incredibly easy to make, try our recipe!
- 1 tablespoon of manuka honey (or local honey)
- 1 Banana
- 1 tablespoon cacao nibs
- 200ml oat/rice/soya/dairy milk
Blitz in a blender until combined and enjoy!