At Meraki Cacao, it’s our aim to create a delicious treat using healthy ingredients. We choose to use raw cacao nibs as our main ingredient, which we stone grind before creating our bars.
Cacao, pronounced ‘Ka-Cow’, has been revered for centuries by the indigenous populations of the South Americas, particularly the Aztecs and Mayans. It was originally made into a bitter drink that was shared during religious ceremonies. Our Aztec bar reflects the flavours used in such drinks. The cacao bean was also used as a currency to trade with, given to warriors as a post-battle reward, and served at royal feasts.
What’s the difference between Cacao and Cocoa?
Cacao and cocoa start off as the same. Cacao beans come from the Theobroma cacao tree, which is native to South America. It is the way that they are processed that determines whether they become cocoa or remain as cacao. There are three varieties of beans, Forastero, Criollo, and Trinitario, all of which have differing tastes and qualities. We like to use the Criollo variety as it is a very high quality ingredient and produces a wide range of richer flavours. Our supplier sources it from Peru where it is grown organically and sustainably.
All cacao beans are fermented first to develop their flavour and texture. If the beans are then roasted at very high temperatures and processed, this is termed cocoa. Cocoa has the more familiar taste and less bitter than cacao. The processes involved in producing cocoa means it loses much of its nutritional value.
Raw cacao beans are not roasted at these high temperatures, but processed at low temperatures. Cacao on its own can be quite bitter, but it retains much of the nutrients it is so highly prized for. Cacao has amazing health properties. Here’s a ten reasons why we choose to use it and why you should love eating raw cacao:
- High in fibre which can help digestion
- High in antioxidants – antioxidants absorb free radicals from pollution or the environment which can cause cell damage, leading to illness.
- High in polyphenols especially flavonoids – these nutrients can lower blood pressure as well as improve blood flow to the brain and heart. Flavanoids can also increase insulin sensitivity, improving blood sugar control and reducing inflammation in the body. They can also improve your mood, reduce stress and make you feel happier.
- High in potassium – potassium also reduces inflammation and reduces the risk of heart disease
- High in Iron – cacao contains the highest plant source of iron. Levels are higher than those found in meat or spinach. Combine eating cacao with a source of Vitamin C for greater iron absorption. Iron is needed to help carry oxygen around the body and reduces fatigue, boosts our immune system, improves concentration and muscle function.
- High in Protein – needed for growth and to maintain and repair tissues.
- High in Magnesium – magnesium can be deficient in western diets and it’s important for healthy hearts, increased brain function, healthy bones and teeth.
- High in Calcium – needed for healthy teeth and bones
- High in theobromine – a recent study by the British Lung Foundation found that theobromine in cacao can help aid persistent coughs. Allowing a piece or our cacao bars to slowly dissolve in your mouth or making a hot cacao drink out of our bars could help to soothe irritating coughs.
- Healthy source of fats – we need healthy fats for our nervous system, immunity, growth and a healthy metabolism
Of course cacao products can be high in calories and also contain a lot of sugar. For this reason we have designed our bars to be enjoyed in small amounts. We have also carefully chosen to use the most nutritious unrefined sweeter available, to complement and boost the nutritional value of our cacao bars. Our sweetener is Palmyra blossom nectar and we will talk about why it’s so amazing in our next blog.