What IS Cacao?
Cacao is made from the edible seed of the Theobroma Cacao tree. These seeds, or "beans", are the base ingredient in all modern chocolate.
Used in its 100% pure form in a ceremonial setting and with personal intention, cacao can have many positive effects on the user (more below about this).
*Note: Cacao is NOT a psychedelic plant medicine. However, it is considered an entheogen, which literally translates to "God/Divine Within", because cacao, and this group of plants (and fungi) has the ability to connect us to the Divine Spirit within each of us and all of creation by creating a non-ordinary state of consciousness.
It has been named Theobroma Cacao by Linnaeus: Theobroma, which means "food of the gods", and cacao being a derivative of a combo of names used by the ancient civilizations of Mesoamerica. It has been highly revered by ancient civilizations for several thousand years for its magic and healing qualities.
Where does Cacao Come From?
Our all-time favorite naturally grown, ceremonial grade cacao comes from an ethically-sourced location in rural Guatemala. It has been chosen by us for ceremonial use because it meets our standards in quality, ethics and intention.
Cacao is grown in Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, northern South America, Indonesia, Hawai'i and the largest producer is the Ivory Coast of Africa. It grows on a small under story tree which bears multicolored pods that contain a white, fruity pulp that encases the seeds, or "beans". The fruit is also AMAZING.
What is a Cacao Ceremony?
There are many ways to facilitate a cacao ceremony. Here is what we offer, in a nutshell:
A ceremonial dose of cacao (approx. 40 grams) is enjoyed in the form of a warm drink. The use of cacao in this way can facilitate a pleasant or even blissful state. Each person will have a unique experience and each ceremony will be different from the next.
Our ceremonies may include song, drumming, journeying, guided relaxation, meditation, chanting, sound healing, discussion, connection and sharing. Many people feel a shift in their overall well-being after participating in our sacred ceremonies.
Cacao is an ancient medicine plant that helps to connect each participant to their own inner guide. It is a facilitator of sharper focus, greater awareness, creativity boosting, and can be supportive for emotional and energetic healing on an individual or collective level. It can be extremely supportive to those making efforts to raise personal, and therefore, collective consciousness.
Cacao is a much gentler plant medicine than many other popular ones being used for modern healing purposes. Cacao works in a very subtle way and is a great experience whether or not you are familiar with plant medicines.
There are a few reasons why you may not want to consume an entire ceremonial dose of cacao, but in small doses, cacao can be a wellness enhancer for nearly everyone.
If you have a serious heart condition, you may not want to drink the whole ceremonial dose, as cacao increases heart rate slightly and dilates blood vessels which lowers blood pressure.
The second reason you may not want to consume a ceremonial dose is if you are on a high dose of an MAOI anti-depressant Rx. Your doctor will likely have warned you against consuming certain foods while taking this medication, especially fermented foods.
Thirdly, keep cacao away from pets such as dogs, cats and parrots. These animals do not have the digestive enzymes to break down the cacao and it can be lethal to them!
Pregnant women may wish to consume closer to a half-ceremonial dose, but studies have shown that mamas that consume a small daily dose of cacao while pregnant have happier babies (and happier mamas too).
What Else can I do with Cacao?
Cacao is delicious and healthful and can be incorporated into your daily diet in many creative ways! It is super high in magnesium, off the charts in antioxidants and contains many other minerals and beneficial compounds.
The benefits of regular enjoyment of ceremonial grade cacao are many and may include: increased focus and stamina, expanded creativity, heightened emotional awareness, heart to heart connections, connection to your own inner truth, increased blood flow, muscle relaxation and reduction in pain and inflammation.
We have personally enjoyed cacao in our ceremonial hot drinks, as well as in smoothies, desserts, energy balls, and of course, all by itself (the whole beans) as a snack (amazing with a banana or stuffed inside of dates!).
It is also incorporated into many beauty products for skin and hair due to its rich butter and high antioxidant content.
What is the Difference Between Ceremonial Grade Cacao, cocoa, and chocolate bars?
There are several factors to be considered here. The variety of cacao used to create any product is an important starting point. We look for ceremonial grade cacao that is made from criollo cacao, or heirloom species, as opposed to newer hybridized species. Some hybridized varieties include Trinitario, Forestero and Arriba Nacional. These hybridized species were developed to yield larger crops, to be disease resistant and to grow in a wider range of climates.
Secondly, how is the cacao grown? We support cacao producers who grow their plants among other species in a natural rain forest setting, as opposed to orchard grown mono-cultures. When cacao is grown in a wild way, it minimizes the need for human interference and chemicals, as these plants are less likely to be attacked by disease or pests. The soil in the jungle is naturally rich and bio-diverse which results in a more potent and nutritious cacao.
Ceremonial grade cacao is minimally processed, meaning that the beans are: fermented, sun dried, lightly hand-toasted, and hand-peeled. These processes are carried out with loving care to ensure that each bean retains the greatest amount of medicinal properties possible. The final step in the creation of our ceremonial grade cacao is that the whole beans are ground into a paste and then packaged and pressed into blocks. Nothing is added or removed. THIS is very important.
Chocolate producers that are producing cacao on a massive scale for worldwide distribution are unlikely to be following any of these practices.
Cocoa products are highly-processed cacao and lose much of the nutritional and medicinal compounds. Most chocolate products are made from cocoa and cacao byproducts. In the processing of cacao into cocoa, the beans are pressed and/or heated to extract the cacao butter. The butter is then sold as a valuable byproduct for both food and beauty products. What is left over is known as cocoa solids. This is then turned into cocoa powder, sometimes using alkalizing agents to remove bitterness and neutralize pH, which is then known as Dutch-processed cocoa.
Last but not least, ceremonial grade cacao is created from start to finish with the intention of being enjoyed in a ceremonial and sacred way. It is possible to use any cacao product to make a cup of chocolate...however, we know that every plant has a spirit and when that spirit is honored and acknowledged for the teacher that it is, then the student will receive the greatest benefits.