What is a Ceremonial Cacao?
“Isn’t it just hot chocolate?” If we had a cacao seed for every time someone asked this question, we could fill Lake Atitlan!
So you’re probably wondering, what is a ceremonial cacao? And how is it different from regular chocolate?
The short answer is simple: quality. To offer you a bit more depth to this question, let’s start here: intention.
When is the last time you drank hot chocolate with intention? Perhaps you never did, because there was never an intention behind the product in your cup. Ceremonial cacao, however, is created with the intention to serve your intention.
Cacao is a medicine for the heart and the mind. Theobromine, the main active compound, is a vasodilator that works especially on the heart center. This becomes a gentle medicine for heart opening. Anandamide, also known as the “bliss molecule”, creates a sense of well-being. Phenylethylamine, also known as the “cuddle molecule”, creates a deeper sense of love and connection. This could be with other people, something that you’re doing, or simply with the Divine.
Simply put, ceremonial cacao is a means of opening ourselves to the sacred within our hearts and minds. Through this connection, you become more in touch with feelings of love and intention. No wonder the ancient Mayans used cacao as part of their fire ceremonies to open them up for offering their prayers.
There are 5 Main Keys to Ceremonial Cacao:
1. The genetics of the cacao
Believe it or not, this process began thousands of years ago when the first people were selectively breeding cacao to favor those with the highest medicinal properties. Most of the cacao you find in your average chocolate bar or hot cocoa drink has actually been bred to favor greater yields, and thus higher profitability, as opposed to medicinal properties.
2. Where it comes from/ how it is grown
The majority of chocolate in the world comes from monoculture. This means that only one crop is grown, and it often is associated with deforestation, synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, pollution, loss of biodiversity, and labor exploitation. On the other hand, ceremonial cacao is grown in diverse food forest systems that live symbiotically with the larger ecosystem. This means that the medicine in your cup is also medicine for the Earth.
3. How it is processed
Each cacao seed is no larger than your upper thumb knuckle. In ceremonial cacao, each one of these seeds is hand processed with love. Each seed weighs about 1 gram, and in a ceremonial dose of cacao, there are about 20 grams of cacao. This means that in a single cup of cacao, there have already been twenty counts of attentive love for this medicine. Let’s compare this to chocolate where everything is processed by machine. Hand processing infuses the medicine with love and care, even before it reaches you.
4. How it is prepared
Once the medicine reaches you, it’s your turn to infuse it with ceremonial magic. The way you prepare cacao can also enhance its medicinal properties. Having a clear mind will help you bring more love into it. Also important are the other ingredients you use: spices to enhance the medicine, natural sweeteners, and additional supplements.
Let’s compare this to chocolate. Again, chocolate is often created in a factory by machines. It is often prepared with white sugar, which is harmful to your body, not to mention extra fats. Again, there is no intention in the way most chocolate is prepared other than to add ingredients that your body is hardwired to crave, which will make you buy more of it.
5. The setting in which it is consumed
At last, the cacao has been cultivated, processed, prepared, and it arrives in your cup. Your intention in consuming the medicine is the final step that makes cacao ceremonial. This is often done by, at the very least, taking a moment to set an intention before drinking the cacao. This can be something as simple as “To enjoy the moment”. Oftentimes, people use cacao to set a very strong container either for themselves or others. Cacao is often paired with numerous heart-opening activities, such as prayer, sharing circles, ecstatic dance, and singing.
This is not to say that there is anything inherently wrong or unceremonial about eating chocolate bar. It’s all relative. Our intention with Cacao Source is to infuse loving intention into every single step of the cacao– from the soil where it is grown to the ceremony in which it is drank.
If you would like to delve deeper into this topic, we recommend you check out our online short course: Seed to Ceremony. There we offer a deeper perspective on each one of these key points.