An Introduction to Ceremonial Cacao
Also known as Sacred Cacao, this plant medicine has many benefits for our physical & spiritual well-being. However, to experience the effects & power of cacao, there are 4 main criteria that must be followed in the creation of ceremonial cacao. It must be:
- 100% Pure Cacao
- Intentionally Produced With Love & Respect
- Grown, Harvested & Processed Properly
- Single-Origin Sourced
100% Pure Cacao, Nothing Added or Removed
To begin with, it's important to understand that ceremonial cacao is 100% pure. There is nothing removed from the whole cacao beans, and nothing added back in. In contrast:
- Cocoa powder has been defatted & industrially processed
- Chocolate has sugar, additives (like soy lecithin) and is most commonly made by re-combining cacao in different forms
- Many products labeled 'cacao' still have the cacao butter removed. You can tell if the nutrition profile has fats at far less than 50% by weight
- 100% pure cacao has the right balance of nutrients & compounds that make it the medicine it is in ceremony as well as a superfood!
The Power of Intention
The intention we hold is the foundation to everything we do. It is the underlying values & beliefs that inform our actions. For ceremonial cacao, it's vital that the intention behind it is one of love & respect.
For the Earth, the Farmers & Our Communities
To get the highest quality cacao, we must begin with that intention. This includes how we treat the earth, the people who grow the cacao, the people who process it, and how we treat the cacao itself. At embue cacao, we hold the intention of love & respect for each of these aspects. Sometimes that's a practical one (like organic growing practices or specific fermentation rates to optimize the flavor) and sometimes it's more energetic (like how we pay our farmers or respond to every customer email personally). Either way, for ceremonial cacao, it must permeate each step of the process, because that energy is infused in the cacao itself.
When you buy embue Ceremonial Grade Cacao, you are receiving the best quality cacao available. If you don’t already have cacao for your ceremony, I encourage you to purchase yours from our store here:
Ceremonial Cacao: From Bean to Bar
To produce consistent quality ceremonial cacao, each step must rely on best practices in farming, fermentation & finished processing. This creates a system of transparent steps that we can benchmark to understand quality, instead of simply relying on the term "ceremonial cacao". Anyone can say they have high quality cacao, but the details of each step reveal whether the art & science of bean to bar processing is being optimized.
Unlike foods such as banana's or apples, cacao undergoes at least 4 major post-harvest alchemical changes before it begins to resemble its finished form.
On the Farm
There are 6 primary influences to the growing of ceremonial cacao:
- Climate & Weather
- Adequate ground mulch
- Rain & Irrigation
The combination of all these factors is the first step in ensuring ceremonial quality cacao. Cacao growing is an ancient practice that requires intimate knowledge of the plant, it's climate and the inter-connected nature of its needs (like the tiny midges in the leaf litter that pollinate the tree).
Once harvested, it is absolutely essential that there are professional standards for bean fermentation & sun-drying. These precise protocols track moisture content, sugar levels, heat and eventually, the look of the bean when finished. Specific protocols include all of these variables, as well as rotation schedules, all of which are dependent on the specific cacao & batch being worked.
Like any high-quality product, it's essential to start with the best of the best!
In The Shop
After being fermented & sun-dried, the cacao enters a bean-to-bar chocolate shop to be run in small batches. Here, they are sorted, roasted, winnowed (removing the husk) and then ground. The roasting & grinding have the biggest impact on the final product. The fire element in roasting is a critical step in flavor development and hygiene, and has been practiced for centuries by various cacao cultures (in contrast to the modern, trendy, 'raw' movement). The grinding gets the particle size down small enough that it makes a beautifully incorporated drink. No need for a gritty, unpleasant experience drinking your ceremonial cacao!
Beyond Fair Trade
Continuing with the theme of love & respect from above, it's important that the farmers earn a living wage and that this can be verified. This creates a positive feedback loop to create high quality and take care of the communities where this sacred plant grows.
At embue, instead of relying on vast multi-national fair-trade companies that take part of the cut, we have direct relationships with our source and still pay over 25% higher than fair trade minimums prices.
The Importance of Sourcing Single-Origin Cacao
The vast majority of cacao products out there are produced by combining cacao from large regions and processing it all together until all the unique nuances are lost. That's how we get generic chocolate flavor. In contrast, single-origin cacao has as much nuance as fine wine.
Unique Taste & Energetics
When you use single-origin ceremonial cacao, you'll notice a wide range of flavor profiles and energetic experiences. This is because ceremonial cacao is all about optimizing a particular small batch of cacao, from fermentation through roasting. Having single-origin cacao means we can focus on each batch, instead of having wide generalizations that produce a homogenous end product. It's easier to connect with the cacao when the origin comes through more clearly, and this is only possible when it's from one origin that has expertise in handling their own unique situation.
Why Ceremonial Cacao Can Be Affordable
Understanding everything that goes into producing this premium product, it can be tempting to think it must be extremely expensive. While this can be the case with some providers, it's important to know that this medicine can be affordable to all. While industrially produced chocolate will always be cheaper (and inferior!), ceremonial cacao doesn't have to break the bank.
Medicine For The People
Being able to use ceremonial cacao for your daily ritual or community ceremony shouldn't be cost prohibitive. An important part of ceremony is its accessibility to various audiences. The growing interest in ceremonial cacao has highlighted the vast differences in what some providers charge for the same quality cacao. The true benefits of using ceremonial cacao come from regular use over time, as this can be a game-changer in our daily experience of life. So, an important aspect of ceremonial cacao is it's affordability as a true medicine for the people.
For this reason, embue cacao has always been one of the most affordable ceremonial cacao products available. We are often 40% less expensive that comparable competitors, and sometimes up to 85% or more! Not only is this something that is essential to our mission, it's also how we built our business. We have focused on organic growth instead of paid ads and a direct relationship with our source, so that allows us to keep our overhead low and prices reasonable.
As consumers get more sophisticated about what they're looking for, what questions to ask about their cacao, and what options there are, affordability will become an increasingly important factor for those who regularly work with this plant medicine.
Does Cacao Contain Caffeine?
There is often confusion about whether or not ceremonial cacao contains caffeine. This is because cacao is a naturally stimulating food, but that energy source comes primarily from Theobromine, a bitter alkaloid.
While theobromine & caffeine have some things in common, cacao compared to coffee is:
- More focused on the heart (compared to the central nervous system)
- More grounded and less jittery feeling
- A superfood source of nutrients & essential minerals
- Around 50% by weight healthy fats, which helps the body integrate the stimulating effects
Cacao does contain both caffeine & theobromine. However, the amount of theobromine is 5-10 higher than the caffeine, making it the primary psychoactive compound in cacao.
- The caffeine content in cacao ranges from about 0.1 - 0.3 % by weight
- A cacao drink containing 1-ounce of pure cacao has around 60mg of caffeine, which is close to a strong cup of black tea (avg. 47 mg caffeine), and only about 2/3's the amount in an 8-ounce cup of coffee (95mg caffeine)
- The theobromine content in cacao ranges from about 1-2% by weight, so a cacao drink with 1-ounce of pure cacao has around 450mg theobromine
Using Ceremonial Cacao
Now that you understand what ceremonial cacao is, the next step is figuring out what to do with it!
Have Your Own Cacao Ceremony
Ceremony is all about Set & Setting. As with all plant medicines, set & setting is a vital component of cacao ceremonies. It's the intention we arrive with and the attention we put on the experience.
If we're busy, distracted, or waiting for cacao to do something to us, that's the energy it will reflect back to us. If we're present, receptive, and showing up with reverence for the cacao, it will open doors for us that can be profound.
Now here are your next steps:
If you don’t already have ceremonial grade cacao (or if you want to upgrade to the world’s best), purchase yours here: Ceremonial Grade Cacao
Read our post on How to Have Your Own Cacao Ceremony
Once you’ve experienced cacao ceremony for yourself, if you want to learn more about this amazing practice and what it can do for you and others, learn more about our signature cacao ceremony training, Into the Heart
Cacao Ceremony Tips
Read some of our articles that discuss enhancing and deepening your cacao ceremony.