Working with Cacao in Guatemala
Learning about cacao in Guatemala

Working with Cacao in Guatemala

Ceremonial Cacao Guatemala

I recently completed 3 months of working with the wonderful team at Cacao Source in San Marcos la Laguna, Guatemala. The expertise and love that the team has for all things cacao was what piqued my interest in joining them to learn more and support the mission. I always knew that in order to dive even deeper into all things ceremonial cacao Guatemala was the place for me to learn more thanks to the Mayan wisdom keepers that have been developing this relationship for hundreds of years. 

Mariana serving cacao at Eagle’s Nest

Let’s backtrack a bit. Cacao has been a plant ally of mine for many years now. I first came across her wonderful, gentle and loving medicine back in 2016 when I lived in Mexico City. I was going through many personal challenges at that time and having cacao in my life was so nurturing. Drinking ceremonial cacao almost daily since then has helped me get through many rough moments of my life. It has also been a loving companion when celebrating the many joys I have been blessed to experience. 

I knew of the many mental, emotional and spiritual health benefits of cacao, some of which you can read here. What I didn’t know was all the amazing ways that the cacao tree is a way to preserve and regenerate tropical rainforests. The cacao tree is a powerful ally for the jungle because it thrives in rich biodiverse forests. It needs a nitrogen rich soil and is a powerful tree to have when creating a food forest in the tropics. Industrial chocolate is usually sourced from monoculture cacao plantations in Africa. Most of the time, lush jungles are cut down to make way for cacao mono-crops. The quality then is subpar, not only are the trees sprayed with pesticides, the jungle has been cut down and so the soil is not the best for the cacao tree to produce fruits mid to long term so they eventually need to cut down more rainforest, grow more trees and repeat the cycle. This is not sustainable or sensitive in the long term, and yet it’s what the big chocolate industry does to source cheap cacao. 

Juan at Spring cacao farm

Cacao Source is one of the many smaller yet mighty players that are working hard to change the way this industry works. By collaborating with small-scale, organic, local farmers in Guatemala, we ensure the highest cacao quality possible while at the same time honoring the jungle and the farmers.

Ceremonial cacao is more than just organic cacao though. It also entails the artisanal processing that turns the cacao fruit into the 100% cacao paste that is now commonly known as ceremonial cacao Guatemala. I was very happy to learn that over 50 Mayan women from various women’s collectives across San Marcos process the cacao in their homes and under their own terms. Cacao Source provides the women an opportunity to work from their own homes. They get to roast, peel, grind and make the cacao blocks when they can. They get paid depending on how much they have worked, there is no time or date expectations, the more cacao they process, the more they get paid. This allows them to continue fulfilling their fundamental roles in the family home and be caretakers while still being able to make money and sustain their families. 

Roasted Cacao Beans: Oven or Fire?
Cacao Roasting