Cacao is the raw, unadulterated form of cocoa. The cacao tree grows in tropical areas of the world, with more than 70 percent growing in western Africa. The tree produces both fruit and seeds and it’s the seeds that are fermented, roasted, sweetened, and ground into a paste to create cocoa. The cocoa can exist as a powder or be used to make silky smooth chocolate.
When eaten in its raw form — before all of that fermentation and sugar — cacao is considered a superfood, containing a ton of antioxidants along with iron, calcium, and magnesium. The taste is bitter, because sugar hasn’t been added yet, and a bit fruity. You can find cacao in its natural state in the form of nibs, which are just the crushed-up seeds; powder; or even as chocolate bars. The flavor of cacao is reminiscent of cocoa, but depending on your taste preferences you may miss the sweetness.