For the past 6 months, I’ve been on a cacao journey. Learning about, tasting, and experimenting with this heart-opening plant medicine has been wonderful. With Valentine’s Day approaching and the chocolate buying frenzy, you’ll thank yourself for reading this! Chocolate became a symbol of love and romance for a reason, because it emotionally, physiologically and psychically creates feelings of openness and pleasure within us!
Like most anyone, I really enjoy chocolate. When I quit eating dairy products, I had to look at every chocolate label and much to my disappointment, I had to leave most bars on the shelf. Then I started to buy bars without refined sugar. My selection narrowed. Then I really only wanted to buy chocolate that was fair trade, single-origin, and artisan-made. Now I’m basically just having ceremonial cacao as an intentional treat.
On Netflix, there is a documentary series on the dark side of food called “Rotten”. I highly recommend it! Even if you are plant-based or vegan, you can still be responsible for causing human and animal suffering by not knowing where your food comes from.
The episode on chocolate is called “Bitter Chocolate”. It will make you think twice about buying that Hershey’s or Mars Bar. Who knew that 3 big companies basically get the profits for chocolate sales worldwide! It was a real eye-opener and you feel compassion for cacao farmers. In attempts to grow more cacao, many national forests have been cut down or burned to grow cacao. Child labor and slavery are a sad part of chocolate farming in some areas and a chocolate bar labeled as fair trade may still be implicated.
After learning about the horrors of modern chocolate production, I started learning about the history of chocolate in Meso-America, cacao’s homeland.
I found out there is still chocolate being grown and celebrated there the same way it had been before the Spanish conquistadors came to exploit it. Cacao is used ceremonially and communally in a heart-opening way.
In the fall I was able to attend a couple of cacao ceremonies and experience the communal drinking of hot cacao. How does this differ from hot chocolate? In so many ways!
What’s the difference?
Cocoa (pronounced ko-ko) is a highly processed powder that has been roasted at high temperatures and sometimes processed with alkali. The fats of the cacao nibs have been removed. Cocoa powder could come from cacao from several locations and is usually made on an industrial level. To make chocolate, they add the cocoa butter back in and usually add refined sugar and milk.
Cacao powder (pronounced ka-kow) is a less refined version of cocoa. It may also have the fats removed. Sometimes it will be labeled as organic and be in the superfood section of health-food stores. Look for brands that are sustainably harvested and ethically produced. You can also find cacao nibs.
Ceremonial Cacao is produced by indigenous farmers who have a spiritual connection to the land. The cacao pods are grown and harvested sustainably and then the cacao bean is fermented, and ground either raw or lightly toasted. After that, Cacao paste is then made into a block or bar, where shavings are taken to have a hot drink. The cacao was used in ceremonies all the way back to the time of the Olmecs and Aztecs. Cacao has theobromine which means “food of the gods” and this is a gentle stimulant that opens up blood vessels. The fats in cacao help make this a nourishing drink that tempers the stimulants. Without the crash of refined sugar, the bliss lasts longer.
I recently hosted a cacao ceremony with friends. We made a flower mandala, placed a cacao pod on it, and lit some candles. I spoke to the ladies about the differences between ceremonial cacao and chocolate and where it comes from. We all took sips together and said our intentions. Cacao is going to do so much more for you than wine will, without making you drunk and hurting your liver.
I’ve been having a cup of ceremonial cacao on some afternoons when I have a quiet moment for myself. I can drink it with just hot water now!
Ceremonial Cacao I like
HeartBlood Cacao – has blocks and shavings from Guatemala, the home of cacao!
Firefly Chocolate – has easy to use discs. Great Tantric Rose blend!
I have also heard great things about Keith’s Cacao and I hope to order from them soon!
Here are my chocolate and cacao buying tips!
- Try going to a cacao ceremony. Events occur around the new or full moon and you can find them on Eventbrite.
- Buy dairy-free chocolate! No need to hurt cows to satisfy your chocolate cravings.
- Try buying chocolate that says “Bean-to-Bar”. Chocolate is produced in the same country where the beans are grown.
- Learn more about chocolate growing regions in the world. Africa is changing in some regions to offer better prices to farmers but it is still rife with corruption and people living in abject poverty.
- Try some raw chocolate
- Buy cacao nibs
Some companies I like:
Lagusta’s Luscious – Artisan made vegan chocolates. She has a dessert book out too!
Miami Fruit – You can buy cacao pods sustainably grown in Ecuador from them and have them shipped to your home!
Righteously Raw – Delicious bars and treats like macaroons.
Sacred Chocolate – raw, single-sourced origin, vegan sweetened with maple syrup, cute heart shape!
Navitas Organics – a superfood company that sells cacao powder and cacao butter for your own homemade creations. Check out my Rose Maqui Chocolate or White Chocolate Dragonfruit Bark!
See if your favorite chocolate is on this list by Food Empowerment Project:
If it’s not on there, think about trying something new!
Sending you all so much warmth and cacao love!
I love your newsletters! They are so aesthetically pleasing and I can tell you put a lot of love into them!
All the cacao looks great, can’t wait to have some again!
Susan Schaefer says
Hi Cristina. Having lived in Bogota in 1973 and spent time in Guatemala, I have been an avid fan and user of cacao. I love this entry. One of my favorite ways to enjoy it hot is with turmeric and cayenne powder (ginger is nice too) in small quantities using unsweetened oat or almond milk. I sometimes make tofu loaf and use cacao and a jigger of whiskey along with flax. I am going to be one of your followers and fans. Big hugs, Suze
Hi Suze! Thanks for visiting! I would love to hear more about your time in Central America. Wouldn’t more in-person cacao experiences and travel be fun?