Long before chocolate became the delicious commodity we know it to be today, cacao was more than just a sweet treat, it was and still is sacred. But what exactly makes cacao ‘ceremonial grade’?
Ceremonial cacao is made from heirloom strains of cacao seeds that naturally grow in their native habitat of Central and South America. The cacao is handled with utmost care and respect every step of the way from from the ground to your cup.
It’s grown and harvested organically, ethically & sustainably and doing so directly benefits the growers, their families and the local community within which its being grown. Ceremonial grade cacao is different to standard drinking chocolate, which is usually made from cacao powder and has had the cacao butter (fat/oil) separated and removed. Ceremonial cacao on the other hand has not been de-fatted and is minimally processed at low temperatures in order to maintain its enzymes and nutritive qualities.
Generally speaking, ceremonial grade cacao should be:
- Grown using organic, sustainable farming practices and promoting favourable living conditions for farmers and their families. Being a sacred plant medicine, the spiritual energy of the bean starts with the cultivation of the pod and carries through to the final product.
- In its pure form. This means no additives or preservatives should be present.
- Cultivated in the geographical area of the ancient Mesoamerican civilisations (i.e. Peru, Ecuador, Mexico)
- Of the Criollo Cacao variety, one of the original varieties used by Mesoamerican cultures.
Ceremonial grade cacao is made using the whole Criollo Cacao bean. The process involves removing the beans from the cacao fruit and separating the cacao bean from the pulp. They are then fermented and sun dried at low temperatures so as not to denature all the nutrients. The dried beans are then ground into a velvety paste which results in what we call ceremonial grade cacao. This cacao paste is usually moulded into blocks that one can cut and weigh into doses and prepare with water as a ceremonial beverage.
At Sol Alkhemi, we adhere to the following criteria in order to make sure that our ceremonial cacao is of the highest standard:
Fair & Sustainable Trading
Our cacao is grown in Peru by small groups of organic farmers that have formed a local cooperative. They employ sustainable, organic farming practices that promote favourable living conditions for themselves and for their families. It’s of utmost importance to us that all aspects of growing and trading our cacao benefits the local communities from which our products are sourced.
Organic, Non GMO & Heirloom
We make sure our cacao is organically grown using heirloom cacao trees. The local farmers don’t use or support anything GMO nor do they use any pesticides or chemical fertilisers. This cacao is also cultivated in it’s natural habitat, the original landscape of the Mesoamerican civilisations that have used cacao as a sacred plant medicine for thousands of years.
Natural Processing Methods
Our cacao is minimally processed. The beans are extracted from the inside of the Cacao fruit which contains both the beans (seeds) and a white pulp. The beans are separated from the pulp and left to ferment for 6-7 days. After fermentation, the beans are sun-dried for 3-4 days and are cleaned. Once dried, the Beans are ground into a cacao paste. We add goodness like adaptogenic herbs to this paste and form them into tableya (chocolate tablets) for easy dosing.
How Can We Use Ceremonial Cacao?
In addition to being delicious and nutritious, cacao is a sacred plant medicine that when shared with respect and acknowledgement for its traditional custodians, is a powerful tool for heart opening, self exploration, meditation and connection.
It is important to be aware of and understand the difference between a traditional indigenous cacao ceremony and the cacao ceremonies that have recently become popular today.
Traditional rituals are sacred and not to be practised by anyone outside of the specific tradition’s lineage without their explicit permission. It’s therefore of utmost importance to be clear in our thoughts, words and actions when sitting with the spirit of cacao. When sharing cacao in our daily lives, we:
- Give thanks to the spirit of cacao and it’s traditional wisdom keepers
- Acknowledge that we are not partaking in a traditional, ancestral ceremony
- Honour the land within which the cacao was grown
- Give back to the communities who keep these traditions alive
If you want to find out more about how you can give back if you benefit from cacao, as well as learn more about its wisdom keepers, head over to this article by Eduardo Antonio Morales.
In our daily lives, with full reverence and respect for it’s traditional origins, we can sit with ceremonial cacao as part of our daily practice. It’s a useful tool for ritual and ceremony, deepening your spiritual practice and for enhancing creativity.
Cacao contains a myriad of active ingredients that increase serotonin and stimulate dopamine and noradrenaline which collectively lower stress and increase pleasure, motivation and happiness. It also contains anandimide also known as “the bliss chemical” and phenethylamine (PEA) which functions as a natural anti-depressant that stimulates focus and energy. All of this makes cacao an ideal guide and aid for deep spiritual work, meditation & yoga, opening our hearts, expressing gratitude, creative pursuits and connecting deeply with ourselves and our community.
You can find our more about how you can sit with cacao as part of you daily practice in our blog post here.