Theobroma Cacao or the cacao tree is native to the deep tropical regions of South Amercia from Mexico to the Amazon. Yet it grows in tropical environments all over the world.
The Cacao bean is the dried and fully fermented seed of Theobroma Cacao from which cacao solids are extracted. These beans are the basis for chocolate.
The botanical name Theobroma comes from the Greek and literally means “food of the gods”. Cacao beans were both a ritual beverage and a major currency system.
Ceramic vessels with cacao residues have been found back to 1900 BCE in Mexico, and several mixtures are described in ancient texts for ceremonial, medicinal and culinary uses. These mixtures often contained maize, chilli, vanilla and honey with the cacao. It was also ground and mixed with tobacco for smoking by the Aztecs.
Using Ceremonial Cacao for ritual and ceremony radically changes the way cacao is handled from the time it is harvested, all the way into your cup. The Cacao trees are grown and harvested sustainably, employing regenerative agricultural practices. It is done with connection to the earth, community and the plant is held in reverence for all that it is. We continue these practices once the Cacao has arrived at Kaya Cacao. We see Ceremonial Cacao as a channel to our whole being and as such we treat it as a whole being.
Ceremonial Cacao is generally made from heirloom strains of Cacao seeds from Central and South America.
Ceremonial Cacao remains whole and has not been defatted and is minimally processed to maximise its health benefits (unlike conventional Cacao or cocoa powder). Ceremonial Cacao is the highest care process and is deeply honouring of the plant, Mother earth and all involved. This means taking the utmost care with every step of production, from selection of cacao seedlings, to growing conditions, fermentation, sun-drying, roasting and product finishing.
Cacao paste is the term used to refer to cacao beans that have been ground up. The grinding process creates enough heat to melt the cacao butter, so it comes out much like a nut butter, or a liquid fudge. When it cools, it hardens into solid form.
Cacao hosts an array of incredibly powerful active ingredients. Cacao has one of the highest ORAC scores which is used to measure antioxidant levels in food. It is ready to nourish your body on every level. The cacao bean contains polyphenols (epicatechin, procyanidins), alkaloids (theobromine, theophylline, caffeine), fats (cocoa butter, containing stearic triglycerides and cannabinoid-like fatty acids), minerals including magnesium, and vitamins.
Theobromine: this chemical acts as a vasodilator, meaning it relaxes smooth muscle. Benefits of this chemical include enhanced blood flow and oxygenation to the brain in addition to long-term antioxidant properties. It is a neurotransmitter that enhances arousal, mood and concentration and potentiates the reward chemical dopamine.
Serotonin: Cacao aids the body in naturally producing its own serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter commonly known as the 'feel-good chemical.' It is known for its ability to combat stress and improve our mood by promoting the feelings of comfort, content, happiness, relaxation, and overall well-being.
Anandamide: in Sanskrit, ananda literally means "bliss," making anandamide the "bliss chemical" in chocolate. Anandamide is a neurotransmitter found naturally in cacao and also in the human brain (the only two places it is has currently been discovered).
Research shows that the flavonoids in Cacao products accumulate in the brain regions involving memory and learning, particularly the hippocampus.
Phenylethylamine (PEA): better known as "the love chemical." When ingested, PEA stimulates the central nervous system to release the body's natural opium-like compounds called endorphins. PEA signals the body to promote the sensation of alertness, focus, and mental acuity, all while elevating one's mood, speeding up metabolism, and boosting memory.
Magnesium: every cell in the body contains this mineral and requires it to function. Magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. It helps to maintain normal nerve and muscle function, supports a healthy immune system, keeps the heartbeat steady, and helps bones remain strong. It also helps adjust blood glucose levels. It aids in the production of energy and protein. Magnesium helps increase energy, calms nerves, aids in digestion, and relieves muscle aches and pains (and that is just the beginning).
Cacao was tested and found to regulate the cellular pathways of inflammation, metabolism and proliferations, effectively modifying the inflammatory process in these
Cacao has one of the highest ORAC scores which is used to measure antioxidant levels in food. It is ready to nourish your body on every level.
These statements have not been evaluated by the TGA or FDA.
studied and worked with both in and out of ceremony. The keepers and masters of the medicine are also revered.
We honour and respect the Wisdom keepers and Traditional peoples and Elders that have held and devoted themselves to this wisdom and Mother earth in this way. We honour that they shall always be honoured and revered from start to finish when it comes to Cacao or any medicine that they share. We pause here in reverence and gratitude to the path they have walked to keep the frequencies of the earth and these medicines alive and well.
Our wish in sharing this education with you is for you to take away a deeper respect and reverence for Sacred tools...
... their guardians and custodians. For you to have a deeper appreciation and respect for the land that you are on and its medicines and for the care of Sacred practice, ritual and humanity.
Kaya Cacao chooses wholeheartedly in sourcing and working with cacao in full integrity, in a way that contributes to the keepers of the medicine and Mother earth. We remind you we must not take any Traditional, Aboriginal or Indigenous practice or medicine without consent, or in any way that damages the wellbeing of their communities.
Kaya Cacao sources from and focuses on communities within Peru in fair trade and sustainable practice whilst contributing to Nanna Marina Cruz and her community to preserve Sacred Cacao wisdom in ways that benefit all.
Each time we sit with Ceremonial Cacao we first have reverence for its wisdom, its Medicine keepers, the communities that have shared it with us and their lineage and life devotion. We encourage our entire community to learn about the history of Cacao so you too can create a connection like this for yourself.
To us this looks like offering gratitude, reverence and reciprocity, in setting our intention and wishing it for the greater good of all and those who have shared the medicine with us. In giving back and staying open to always learning and sharing.
Above all, the people involved in bringing this Cacao to you are properly compensated and tend lovingly to their work.
We want to make it very clear that the way in which we hold Ceremony is by no means meant to replicate or replace traditional Mayan Ceremonies. We pay deep respect to Mayan Cacao ceremonies, and we are in no way providing or replicating a traditional ancestral practice.
Your Personal Honouring
We invite you to find your own way to honour and reflect on those Cacao wisdom keepers, perhaps lighting a candle when your ceremonial cacao arrives to say thank you, or offering a prayer to the earth, or pouring some of your cacao onto the earth to say thank you ( it does burnt he grass and some plants - so be mindful if you need to). We would like to honour in our hearts, to become a guide or healer within Mayan traditional practices is a lifelong path that only those of Mayan descent can attain. "Mayan’s have a strong opinion not to associate cacao with any type of tantric, aphrodisiac, or sexual modality. Even more importantly, not to mix with any drugs or alcohol, for health and spiritual reasons"
We hope this supports your understanding of Ceremonial Cacao and your appreciation and respect for the lineage of Cacao Medicine Keepers and their communities.
Further reading and resources that we have referenced.
Bletter, N. and Daly, D. C. (2006) Cacao and its Relatives in South America: An Overview of Taxonomy, Ecology, Biogeography, Chemistry, and Ethnobotany. In Chocolate in Mesoamerica: A Cultural History of Cacao., edited by Cameron McNeil, pp. 31-68. University Press of Florida, Gainesville.
Cartwright, Mark. “Chocolate in Mesoamerica.” Ancient History Encyclopedia, Ancient History Encyclopedia, 24 Mar. 2020, http://www.ancient.eu/Chocolate_in_Mesoamerica/.
Ewbank, Anne. “Archaeologists, Mayanists, and Hershey’s Collaborated to Reveal This Ancient Vessel’s Secrets.” Atlas Obscura, Atlas Obscura, 13 Sept. 2019, http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/mayan-chocolate.
Hall, G. D., Hurst, W. J., Stuart, D., Adams, R. E. W. and Tarka, Jr., S. M. (1990). Cacao Residues in Ancient Maya Vessels from Rio Azul, Guatemala. American Antiquity 55:138-143.CrossRef Google Scholar
Museum, Metropolitan. “Bowl (Tecomate).” Metmuseum.org, 2014, http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/318472.
Museum, smithsonian. “Large Molinillo.” National Museum of American History, 2018, americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_867633.
Sleuth, Gourmet. “Molinillo – Mexican Chocolate Whisk (Stirrer).” Gourmet Sleuth, Published by: Gourmet Sleuth, 16 Mar. 2018, http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/articles/detail/molinillo.