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Cacao or Cocoa, what's the difference?


What is cacao?

Cacao is derived from the seeds (also known as cacao beans) that come from the pods of the Theobroma cacao fruit tree. There are Criollo, Forastero and Trinitario, and multiple hybrids exist of each strain.

Cacao and Cocoa are very different. Although both start out as beans from the cacao plant, cocoa is processed at a high temperature to separate the nourishing fats to create a dried powder which can be easily packaged and stored (and often packaged cocoa contains added sugar and dairy). Cocoa which is used in the majority of chocolate bars and powder that you will find in the supermarkets loses a lot of the nutrients.

The history of cacao

Cacao has a history in Mesoamerican native cultures. Traces found of its use date back to over 4000 years ago.The word ‘cacao’ stems from the Olmec and Mayan word Kakaw. It was seen as a godly drink and was consumed by the elite. You would find it being used for ceremonies, rituals and offerings. It was so valuable that it was used as a highly valued currency. The official Latin name for the cacao tree is Theobroma Cacao, meaning ‘food of the gods’. Theo = god and broma = food

The Spanish brought cacao back to Europe in the early 16th century. It spread like wildfire through Europe thanks to marketing. This once raw medicine was being processed, heated at high temperature, stripped of nourishing fats and made into a powder.

Many cocoa farmers in West Africa—source of around 70% of the world's cocoa—engage in human trafficking and child labor, including child slavery. This is just a glimpse at what happened when demands grew. This is heartbreaking! It was fashionable and projected wealth and abundance to the outside world..

During the Revolutionary War, chocolate was provided to the military as rations and sometimes given to soldiers as payment instead of money.

It's quite the journey. And now it’s time to educate ourselves on the reality of consuming cheap chocolate.

By the end of this document you will be able to enjoy a cacao knowing it was ethically sourced and you are absorbing with intention.

What is the process of making raw pure cacao?

Harvesting. The seeds are harvested from the pods, with 40-50 seeds in each pod.

Fermentation. The slimy sweet seeds are left out to ferment for 4-5 days.

Drying or roast. Placed out into the sun to dry for a few days or roasted being careful to continuously move the seeds so they do not burn. Now the shells can be removed.

Grinding. To make a paste which solidifies.

How to choose cacao?

Firstly, noticing the difference between cacao and cocoa (processed) is a huge step.

Next understand what the following terms mean:

Powdered cacao is available but the fats are removed. When using powder I like to add ghee, cocoa butter or coconut oil. It offers you more nutrients and helps the body to absorb fat soluble vitamins AND it just tastes creamier.

Raw cacao means it has not been subjected to heat so all the nutrients and enzymes are available!

Organic produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. It costs to have the organic label, so if you're curious connect to you provider to find out the growing conditions.

100% pure cacao, cacao is the only ingredient.

Fair-Trade Chocolate, Supports ethical conditions for workers and farmers to receive the right price for what they are selling.

Ceremonial grade cacao is made from whole bean, organic cacao. These beans undergo a fermentation process necessary for cultivating their flavor profile and activating certain natural compounds. The beans are then roasted at low temperatures, cracked, and stone ground by traditional means.

Paste or block, raw cacao paste (also called Cacao Liquor) is made by grinding raw cacao beans into a liquid. This liquid quickly solidifies at room temperature and the result is cacao paste / block.

What are the benefits of Cacao?

Raw Organic Cacao has over 40 times the antioxidants of blueberries, antioxidants absorb free radicals (that come from pollution and toxins in our environment), which cause cell and tissue damage and can lead to diseases such as cancer.

Cacao has the highest plant-based source of iron, but as it is non-heme ( plant-based iron), combine it with some vitamin C to get the most benefits. Let’s look at some of the things iron does to support the body…Your body uses iron to make hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body, and myoglobin, a protein that provides oxygen to muscles. Healing, growth and energy!

Raw Organic Cacao is also one of the highest plant-based sources of magnesium. Magnesium supports healthy bone development, heart health and function, relax muscles in the digestive tract and help calm stomach acid.

Raw Organic Cacao has more calcium than cow’s milk, to absorb calcium efficiently you need vitamin D which can be found in food such as fatty fish, liver, egg yolks .Your body needs calcium to build and maintain strong bones. Your heart, muscles and nerves also need calcium to function properly.

Cacao is a great source of four scientifically proven bliss chemicals – serotonin, tryptophan, tyrosine and phenylethylamine! Feel good!

  • lowers blood pressure, vasodilator and diuretic

  • Improve cognitive function

  • Respiratory conditions, opens airways and reduces inflammation

  • Sleep quality

  • Increase HDL, good cholesterol

  • Teeth health, promote healthy enamel

  • Gout and Kidney stones, prevents crystallization of úric acid

Studies -

Does it have caffeine?

Unlike coffee, which constricts blood vessels and raises your heart rate to increase blood flow, cacao is 99.9 percent caffeine-free. Instead of caffeine, cacao contains something called theobromine, which translates as “food of the gods” in Greek.

Although Theobromine is in the same class of stimulants as caffeine, it differs because it offers a longer lasting, more relaxed energy without the spike and crash.

Theobromine is used as a vasodilator (a blood vessel widener), as an aid in urination, and as a heart stimulant.

Are there any side effects?

Theobromine primarily functions to improve your circulatory, respiratory, and excretory systems. It activates an enzyme called PKA, which reduces inflammation and causes the widening of blood vessels and increases stimulation.

Theobromine also blocks adenosine receptors, which usually trigger hormones such as norepinephrine that can increase blood pressure.

Seek advice from a medical professional if you have:

High blood pressure or taking medications for this diagnosis.


Noted side effects:

  • Nausea

  • Loss of appetite

  • Headaches

  • Negative mood changes

This may be due to a number of things, as this is a plant medicine it should be taken with care.

  • Is the dose too high?

  • Have you eaten today?

  • What exercise have you taken?

  • What time of day is it?

  • Are you well rested?

  • Are you able to be present?

We will talk about doses later but the way in which the medicine is absorbed will be affected by the points above. Too high a dose may give you unenjoyable side effects.

Preparing for your cacao ceremony

Your space.

For me ceremony means doing something with intention, creativity and love. It is a way to alter your state of awareness so you can fully receive the medicine, teaching or practice. Clearing my space helps me to drop into the essence of the cacao and myself.

My preparation looks like this but yours will be unique to you:

  • Clearing and cleaning my space to prepare and sit with cacao

  • Opening the windows and then saging my space

  • Preparing music

I like to pour my intention into the cacao as I prepare it, that may be with a prayer, a song or music. If I am working with someone with the purpose to do deeper healing work, my prayers and songs will reflect that.

Your body.

I like to dance to release stagnant or built up energy prior to my ceremony. If I’m taking a dose with the intention to go really deep I would fast for a few hours before but ensure I am hydrated. As this is all the body is absorbing the effects will be heightened. CAUTION builds up to this as you may feel the side effects mentioned above.

Nourish your body in a way that feels beautiful, you are meeting yourself. You deserve this.

Your mind.

Gentle breathing exercises and channeling your focus into the preparation to relax the mind. Choosing an intention to sit with the cacao helps bring you back to your heart when your mind wanders.

Your cacao.

What you will need for one cup:

  • Cacao. Ceremonial does between 30-50g, if your starting out, start low and build up

  • Water 150ml


  • Rose petals to infuse in water whilst heating up

  • Cayenne

  • Cinnamon

  • Cloves

  • Honey

  1. Heat your water to 70 C, if you can’t measure the temperature, boil the water and allow to cool for a few moments to persevere the enzymes and nutrients in the cacao

  2. Taking a pan add the water and cacao and whisk / blend (extra frothy)

  3. This is the point where you can add any spices and sweetener

Your ceremony.

You’ve poured you heart and intention into making the cacao, now it’s time to sit in your cleansed space, with your beautiful self and the cacao.

Things I like to include:

  • Honoring the cacaos journey to you, blessing all the land and the people that made it possible

  • Honoring the land in which I sit to hold me safely as I go deeper

  • Honoring my ancestors and my past for guiding me to this point

  • Blessing the cacao and opening yourself to receive its wisdom to allow it to merge with you

  • Asking a question or sharing your intention

  • Breathe into your heart and receive

I hope this supports your journey with cacao.

Deepest blessings,


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