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Cocoa Butter and Cocoa Powder

cocoa fruit
Cocoa fruit

The Theobroma cacao evergreen tree produces an American football-shaped fruit growing out of main branches of the tree. From this fruit’s seeds you can make Cocoa Butter and Cocoa Powder! It is interesting to note that tiny flies (Forcipomyia midges) are the natural pollinators for this tree, not bees, butterflies or the wind!

The large fruit produces up to 60 seeds or beans. These beans are then fermented, dried, roasted, and separated from the hull to produce the cocoa nibs. The nibs are then ground to a powder. When this powder is melted, a chocolate liquor is formed. The chocolate liquor is then pressed to separate the cocoa butter (fat) from the cocoa powder (non-fat material). The cocoa butter can then be further refined to reduce the cocoa scent.

Cocoa butter has been defined as an antioxidant and is stable for up to 5 years. The non-fat material contains most of the caffeine and theobromine (see Figure below) while the butter contains only traces of these very important molecules.

Figure 1: Chemical structure similarities between theobromine and caffeine.  

The fatty acid content of cocoa butter is approximately: 22-27% C16:0, 31-37% C18:0, 29-35% C18:1, 2.6-3.4% C18:2, and 0.8-2% C20:0. The values vary based on the Cacao variety, as with any oil or butter. (See reference: Jia et al., 2019)

cocoa tree
Cocoa tree


Jia, C.-H., Shin, J.-A., and Lee, K.-T. (2019). Evaluation model for cocoa butter equivalents based on fatty acid compositions and triacylglycerol patterns. Food Sci. Biotechnol., 28, 1649.