Ceremonial Cacao Information
What is Cacao?Cacao is simply the raw bean-like seeds of the Theobroma cacao tree. The true magic of most cacao becomes diluted beyond recognition when it is processed into chocolate with added fat and sugar. Unlike these conventional chocolate bars or even raw cacao powders, the active ingredients and butter are preserved in ceremonial cacao whilst the bean is gently fermented and ground into a rich paste. For cacao to be ‘ceremonial grade’ it must be grown, dried, and prepared in a way that preserves its biochemical and energetic qualities. Ceremonial cacao usually comes from the rare and delicate Criollo (wild/native) variety, rather than the much more common and hardy Forastero. This means it should be fair-trade, sustainably resourced, and lovingly produced (which much cacao used in the confectionery industry certainly is not).
What are the health benefits of Cacao?
Cacao is deeply nourishing for our physical bodies. It is loaded with beneficial antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, trace elements, and neurotransmitters to the point that the line between food and medicine becomes blurred. Raw cacao has the highest concentration of antioxidants known in any food, 40 times that of blueberries. The small beans are packed with magnesium, chromium, manganese, calcium (more than cows’ milk!), zinc, copper, iron (the highest plant-based source!), and potassium, as well as vitamins C, E, B2, B1, B5, B3 and B9, omega-6 fatty acids, and more. Cacao also potentiates the effects of other superfoods such as medicinal mushrooms and spirulina.
Cacao triggers the release of dopamine, soothing symptoms of PMS, fatigue, and depression. It is the only plant found to contain anandamide, an endogenous cannabinoid that fits into the cannabinoid receptor sites of cells in the nervous system, which is known as the ‘bliss chemical’ as it is linked to feelings of joy. It also contains the ‘happiness hormone serotonin and the mood-enhancing amino acid tryptophan, which is essential for serotonin production in the body. Further enhancing the feelings of euphoria it induces, cacao contains Phenylethylamine (PEA), known as the ‘love molecule’, and Oxytocin, the ‘bonding hormone. It significantly increases blood flow to the brain and heart, creating heightened mental agility, awareness, and focus. It’s also an aphrodisiac and energy-enhancer, that helps to stimulate the liver and detoxify our physical (and emotional) bodies. Cacao is effective for lowering high blood pressure and has been used to treat high cholesterol, heart disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, bladder and kidney disorders, asthma, diarrhoea, low weight, poor digestion, and many other conditions.
What does Cacao have to do with spirituality?You’ve likely heard about the physical benefits, but you might be wondering, what on Earth does cacao have to do with spirituality? You’ve probably eaten more than your fair share of chocolate bars and not once have you been overwhelmed by divine inspirations and otherworldly connections. But cacao has a long and mystical history. Though the sacred use of the plant was almost forgotten, it is returning. Although the concept of animism seems foreign to most people today, many ancient and indigenous cultures considered plants to have spirits or consciousnesses associated with them referred to as devas in Sanskrit. Certain plants with substantial medicinal benefits were known to be master or teacher plants (now often referred to as entheogens) and included Ayahuasca, Chakruna, San Pedro, Peyote, Tobacco, and Salvia. These plant devas were respected and approached with humility and offerings by shamans seeking their help with healing and divination. Cacao is one of these plants.
An Ancient Tradition
Cacao has been used ceremonially for thousands of years and is deeply rooted in ancient Meso-American culture and mythology. The first evidence of cacao cultivation comes from the Olmec tradition around 4000 years ago in the region known today as Mexico. Later, for the Maya and Aztecs, the cacao tree would serve as a metaphorical conduit by which souls could travel between worlds. The drinking of frothy cacao played a central role in rituals of birth, death, and rebirth on Earth, and was used by warriors for sustenance, courage, and fortification before battle. Cacao was associated with the gods and healing, fertility, and ecological harmony. Some of the spiritual names of cacao from various cultures include ‘food of the gods, ‘rainbow medicine’, ‘medicine of the heart’, ‘wisdom keeper’, and ‘sacred seed’. Knowledge of how to prepare, roast, and press the beans was initially entrusted to women, and the plant's spirit was often considered feminine and associated with the goddess Ixcacao. There are many myths and legends surrounding cacao, but they all seem to have a common thread telling of how, when man becomes careless with nature, cacao comes to help restore balance.
Cacao can have beautiful spiritual effects. When respectfully consumed with the intention of self-transformation, cacao works in a unique alchemy. It can act as a powerful heart-opener, connecting us to our intuition, the natural world, and unseen guidance. It can show us the way forward when we’re feeling stuck, transform fear, aid us in recognising and releasing blockages, patterns, and unlock limitations buried deep in the subconscious, and balance emotional turbulence and self-care issues. Cacao can also awaken powerful creative energies and enhance our divine inner vision. Ultimately, cacao teaches us about cosmic balance, and how to begin to live more in alignment with the laws of the Universe.
Where is our Cacao sourced?
This cacao was harvested from the Suchitepéquez Mountains of the Guatemalan Pacific front: the largest area of cacao forests in Central America during Pre-Columbian times. For millennia, the art of agriculture and hybridization was mastered in these mountains.
Through generations of alchemy, this cacao’s flavour has been crafted to be fruity, acidic, rich in fats, and offer caramel bittersweet aromas typical to fermented ceremonial grade cacao.
The 15 women of this collective reestablished an old regional tradition of cultivating cacao in a beautiful way that provides their community with abundance and stability. The recent success of their delicious production allows them to develop their artisan workshop and propose an authentic quality of single-origin cacao.
- Diversre criollo hybrids
- Fermented for 7 days in banana leaves
- Women's collective
- Fruit forest village
- Abundance of rivers
- Altitude 550m
- Suchitepequez region
At Cacao Source, they view cacao as the poster child species for reforestation. It thrives in a 50% sunlight and 50% shade habitat, meaning it can grow under the canopy of native trees that support wildlife. These trees could also be huge overstory trees, such as cashew, mango, or avocado, which can also provide food and later, timber for building.
How much cacao should I have?The appropriate dose is going to vary person by person. More sensitive people will need less to reach the desired effect. In general, a ceremonial dose of cacao is 28-42 grams (1.0-1.5 oz). (There are 15 g of cacao in a tablespoon.) A ceremonial dose will create a jolt of energy, which may allow you to go more deeply into your experience. It is not, however, recommended to take this quantity frequently.
If you are ready to integrate cacao into daily practice, try 20 grams. This will help you receive all the positive effects of mood regulation and nutrient uptake. As with all psychoactive chemicals, it is also recommended to take at least 1-2 days off each week.
Before you begin to integrate cacao into your life, please be advised: If you are currently taking antidepressant medication, cacao may create migraines. Start with a very small dose of cacao (5 g). Talk with your health professional if you are interested in switching to cacao as alternative medicine.
Cacao increases your heart rate. If you are already experiencing a heart condition, also start with just a small amount, and do not combine it with intensive exercise.
Cacao is a diuretic, so be sure to drink plenty of water to balance your hydration levels.
We recommend avoiding regular milk as it can create indigestion when combining it with high amounts of Theobroma Cacao. It also has too much calcium, affecting the absorption of nutrients found in Cacao. Cacao is recommended on an empty stomach, either first thing in the morning or between meals. Avoid food for an hour after.
Ceremonial Cacao Recipe for 1 person
- Daily intention dose 20 grams
- Meditation dose 28 grams
- Ceremonial dose 45 grams
HOW TO MAKE A CUP OF CEREMONIAL CACAO
Measure one mug of water or plant-based milk for each dose of cacao. Add to a pot and apply heat.
Heat water BELOW boiling temperature (high heat denatures the medicinal compounds of cacao).
Finely chop 20-45 g (1 – 1.5 oz) of cacao and add it to the warm water.
Additional complimentary flavours include ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, tahini, cayenne pepper, salt, and honey. Add these to your hot cacao mixture.
Mix cacao thoroughly. This can be done with a blender, a whisk, or by shaking a tightly sealed jar. (With all my cacao and ingredients in the pan, I use a matcha whisk while gentling heating, and then pop it into a Vitamix or Nutri-bullet)
Enjoy your cacao in a ceremonial space. Set intentions and bless before drinking.
Our favourite morning recipe for an active workday with morning journaling and intention setting:
- 20 grams of finely chopped Cacao smudged with Palo Santos
- 1/2 cup of plant-based milk
- 1/2 cup of nearly boiling water
- ½ tsp of Cinnamon
- ½ tsp of Dried Ginger
- ½ tsp of Cardamon
- ½ tsp of Tumeric
- A pinch of Star anise
- ½ tsp of Ashwagandha
- ½ tsp of Maca powder
- ½ tsp of Lions Mane Powder
- ½ tsp of Reisi Powder
- ½ tsp of Cordyceps
- 1 drop of rose water
- 1 drop of vanilla essence
- Honey, Agave or Maple Syrup to sweeten if necessary.
Mixed together in a pan whisking gently with intention, when it's hot well before boiling, I pop all this in the Vita-Mix until it's well mixed & frothy, and bubbly on top.
With true ceremonial cacao, every block is a little different. That’s because it’s not tempered to standardize the appearance like in modern industrial chocolate. It’s just ground and poured into a mould to solidify. All the swirls here are natural patterns from the cacao butter. It is not removed like factories do to make cocoa or cacao powder. We offer cacao as close as possible to the ancient traditional preparation. It’s important to us that the cacao is also toasted over a wood fire, not heated in a modern oven.