What's the difference between Ceremonial Grade Cacao & Cacao Powder?

What's the difference between Ceremonial Grade Cacao & Cacao Powder?

Ever wondered about the real difference between ceremonial grade cacao and cacao powder? You've read the benefits of cacao or seen some companies promoting their product either has or is "ceremonial grade cacao", and you're thinking..what's the difference?


Is it the same stuff just a higher grade in the same way that wagyu is a better grade of beef than unbranded beef? Or is this just another marketing scam?


Don't stress, You're not the first and won't be the last person to assume that (I did too!).


Especially in a world where everyone is trying to sell you something and you can't believe everything you read online, its hard to actually know.. what should I believe? Whats the real deal?


In honor of complete transparency we do use both ceremonial grade cacao and (organic) cacao powder in our Brain Juice blend. But the purpose of this article is not to say which one is better but simply to educate you as to the difference as they are actually very different forms of the same plant. After all, it wouldn't make sense to say one is trash when we use both, right? 


First I do need to highlight though that when people say "ceremonial grade cacao", they are often referring to cacao paste. So now removing the "ceremonial grade" label, we're left simply comparing cacao paste to cacao powder (now the difference is becoming easier to see)


Once we understand how each version of cacao is made, this will highlight the major difference. As cacao powder is a derivative of cacao paste.


So here we go;

  1. Harvesting: It all begins in the tropical regions where cacao trees grow. Farmers carefully handpick ripe cacao pods from the trees. These pods are like treasure chests, hiding the cacao beans inside.

  2. Fermentation: Once the pods are harvested, the beans inside need a little magic touch to develop their rich flavor. Farmers scoop out the beans and put them in big bins or heaps covered with banana leaves. Then, nature works its magic as the beans ferment for several days. This process brings out their deep, chocolatey flavor.

  3. Drying: After fermenting, the beans need to dry out before they can transform into powder. Farmers spread them out on trays or big mats under the sun to soak up the warm rays and dry out completely. It's like giving them a sunbath!


Now is where we start to see difference in process. For forms that will end up as cocoa (not cacao), the beans will be roasted at high temperatures. Where as cacao is either lightly roasted or in the case of making ceremonial grade cacao paste, will often be left raw.

    4. Cracking and Winnowing: Then beans are cracked open to reveal their inner nibs. These nibs are like little pieces of chocolatey goodness! The outer shell, called the husk, needs to be removed. So, the nibs go through a winnowing process, where they're separated from the husks. It's like separating the wheat from the chaff!

   5. Grinding: Now, it's time for the magic transformation! The nibs are ground into a thick, creamy paste called chocolate liquor or cacao paste. No, it's not alcoholic—it's pure cacao bliss!


This is the end of the processing when making cacao paste. In many cultures where ceremonial grade cacao holds spiritual significance, such as in indigenous communities of Central and South America, the cacao may be blessed or honored in special ceremonies before being consumed. This imbues the cacao with a deeper sense of meaning and reverence.


 Now when cacao powder is the desired product we continue the process.

   7. Separation: This paste is then pressed to extract the cacao butter, leaving behind a solid mass known as cacao cake.

   8. Milling: The cacao cake is finely ground into a fine powder, and voila! Cacao powder is born.  



 Starting to make sense now? 


So basically Ceremonial Grade Cacao paste is the rawest form of cacao you can get (unless you want to suck on the nibs straight out of the pod, which I wouldn't blame you for either). Arguably having the highest amount of health benefits that one can attain from consuming cacao. 


So what's the difference in benefits and when would you use ceremonial grade cacao and not cacao powder? 


  1. Richer Flavor Profile: Cacao paste retains the natural oils and fats present in cacao beans, giving it a richer, more intense chocolate flavor compared to cacao powder. The higher fat content contributes to a smoother texture and enhances the overall sensory experience of chocolatey goodness.

  2. Higher Nutrient Density: Since cacao paste contains the whole cacao bean, including both the cocoa solids and cocoa butter, it retains a higher concentration of nutrients compared to cacao powder. This includes antioxidants, minerals such as magnesium and iron, and mood-enhancing compounds like theobromine and phenylethylamine.

  3. Balanced Fat Content: Cacao paste contains a balanced ratio of cocoa solids and cocoa butter, which helps create a smooth, creamy texture in chocolate-based recipes (like Brain Juice) without the need for additional fats or emulsifiers. This natural balance of fats contributes to a satisfying mouthfeel and allows for greater control over the texture of finished dishes.

  4. Emotional and Psychological Benefits: The rich, indulgent flavor and creamy texture of cacao paste can evoke feelings of pleasure, comfort, and satisfaction, making it a comforting treat for both body and soul. Its mood-enhancing compounds may also promote feelings of relaxation and well-being, helping to alleviate stress and uplift the spirit.


 And that pretty much wraps it up. The quality of the cacao you're consuming is vitality important for the potential benefits but both cacao paste and cacao powder have different applications when it comes to cooking and consumption.

I hope this has been helpful, feel free to shot me an email if you have any questions, I'd love to connect with you and spread more love on the power of cacao.

big love,


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