Cacao Nibs

Cacao originated in the Amazon River basin and is now grown in tropical regions around the world. The genus name Theobroma means “Food of the Gods” in Latin. The cacao tree produces pods containing 20-60 seeds usually called ‘beans’. Inside the pods these seeds are covered with a mucilaginous pulp that is carefully fermented to separate the seeds from the pulp. This art of fermentation reminds me of brewing beer where variations in temperature and moisture content create significant differences in the flavor of the bean.

Cacao pods growing on a cacao tree.
Cacao pods growing on a cacao tree.
Split open cacao pod showing mucilage covered seeds
Split open cacao pod showing mucilage covered seeds

I use cacao nibs to make Chicaoji. Cacao ‘nibs’  are simply cacao beans that have been cracked into little pieces. They’re usually used to make chocolate. Cacao is called a “super food” because it is very high in antioxidants. You may have heard how dark chocolate is good for you. Well, raw cacao is the “good for you” part. The milk, sugar, and other additives to chocolate (the -olate in chocolate refers to milk) only dilute the benefits. Cacao by itself tastes slightly bitter and the goji berries weave a sweet and sour complexity into the flavor. Agave nectar’s sweetness balances raw cacao’s flavor. I use raw cacao because roasting may diminish the benefits.

My cacao source: Pacari

I use organic cacao nibs from PacariSKS Farms, makers of Pacari Organic Chocolates, to make Chicaoji.  Pacari is a family owned business that works with  small scale family farms in Ecuador. They use organic production methods and are the only chocolate company that has the Demeter Biodynamic Certification.

Read the Pacari story to understand why I use their raw cacao.

Where to buy cacao: Healthy Goods (aka Live Superfoods)

I recommend Healthy Goods (aka Live Superfoods) in Bend, Oregon if you want raw cacao (without buying Pacari’s 30+ pound minimum order), Healthy Goods is an excellent source for all sorts of organic, raw, vegan and generally healthy foods, personal care products, supplements, books and so forth. I bought cacao from Live Superfoods when I was buying cacao in single pound quantities.

Live provides information about raw cacao you might find interesting. Briefly: they explain about the antioxidants, neurotransmitters, essential minerals, and fats in raw cacao. Also, they provide some history of and uses for raw cacao.

I’ve always liked very dark chocolate and took to cacao nibs right away when I discovered them. I enjoy eating them on all sorts of food, in trail mixes, and just out of hand. The first time I tasted cacao nibs and goji berries together was the spark that inspired Chicaoji. See the story of Chicaoji.