+ WHAT IS CACAO?
Cacao is one of the most pharmacologically complex plant substances known to man. Cacao is what chocolate is made from. It is the seed of a tropical fruit known as Theobroma Cacao, meaning "Food of The Gods". Chocolate is made by combining certain portions of cocoa powder (the de-fatted cacao) and cacao butter (the fat from the bean) along with other ingredients to get the consistency and taste we know as chocolate.
The seeds (beans) of the cacao fruit contain more then 1200 constituents. Cacao cannot be replicated in the labroratory in a synthetic way. When consumed unsweetened or with very little sugar, it is a superfood, packed with beneficial minerals and neuro-chemicals that beneficially affect our state of mind. The mild bitterness of a ceremonial cacao drink can also serve to cleanse the liver or release emotions, and the alkaloid content of pure cacao boosts circulation and absorption of nutrients.
+ WHY DOES CACAO MAKE US FEEL SO GOOD?
It is full of antioxidants, lovechemicals and minerals like magnesium, iron and copper. Cacao is the only plant source that contains anadamide, a cannabinoid also known as ‘the bliss chemical”. Also cacao contains PEA, which is the neurotransmitter that starts running through your brain when you fall in love. It has a lot of theobromine which is the stimulating part, but it works differently and has less side effects then coffee. The high level of magnesium helps to relax and sooth muscles.
It’s main health benefit is the high level of antioxidants that opens the blood vessels, lowers blood pressure and improves the blood flow to the organs.
Regularly working with unsweetened chocolate can have therapeutic health benefits, including creating new neural pathways that change our daily experience to include more joy, love, and connection. Cacao contains beneficial neurotransmitters and neuromodulators already present in our brain, most notably including:
Norepinephrine - the joy molecule
Serotonin - help with wellbeing, and creates resistance to stress. Cacao also has MOA inhibitors, that inhibit re-uptake of serotonin.
Dopamine - feelings of motivation and pleasure. Cacao also has MOA inhibitors, that inhibit re-uptake of dopamine.
Anandamine - the bliss molecule, it moderates pain, and is associated with the "runners high" effect. Cacao also has N-linoleoylethanolamine, the re-uptake inhibitor for anandamine.
Phenylethylamine (PEA) - helps with excitement, alertness, attention. Gives the perception of time slowing down.
+ WHERE IS THE CACAO SOURCED FROM?
Fundamentally, our monetary system is simply one form of respect that we can give for a sacred medicine such as cacao (for example, paying our cacao farmers good prices). But the true work of decolonization includes respect on many additional levels, including seeking active relationship to cacao through ceremony, seeking to end destructive deforestation and mineral exploitation, and supporting indigenous sovereignty and protection of their cosmo-visions.
This decolonization work is at the heart of our mission and we're working with thought leaders in the chocolate world on this topic. We support Uncommon Cocoa who believes farmer prosperity is a key ingredient in good chocolate. You can read about them here.
V(EYE)BES commonly rotates between 3 different ceremonial-grade Cacao: Belizian, Guatemalan, and Tanzanian.
The Belizian ceremonial cacao comes from 300 small (1-5 acre) organic family farms in the foothills of southern Belize. 75% of the farming families are indigenous Q’eqchi’ and Mopan Maya, and they grow their pure raw cacao with deep respect and understanding of the local ecology.
The California-based source company, Firefly, recently donated $10k in a permaculture demonstration farm here to pioneer innovative agroforestry techniques, advance cacao cultivation in the region, and propagate heirloom seedlings. This cacao has an heirloom designation by the Heirloom Cacao Project , and is produced by Maya Mountain Cacao.
The Guatemalan cacao is grown in a remote village of 125 families that make 90% of their income from cacao. They are disconnected from the rest of the world except for a footbridge crossing the raging Cahabón river, across which they carefully carry the 100lb sacks of cacao one by one.
The villagers were granted sovereign ownership of the land they farm on in 1985 after the prior owner fled during the Guatemalan revolution. Since then, the community has sold its cacao to the regional market, but with highly volatile prices. In 2016 with the help of an outside donation, they built their own fermentery to raise quality and they also received organic certification.
Our Tanzanian ceremonial cacao comes from 700 small (0.5-2 acre) organic family farms in the Kilombero Valley, which borders Udzungwa Mountains National Park, a spot known for its biodiversity. Our partners here are Kokoa Kamili (Quality Cacao in Swahili), and their model is inspired by our partners in Belize. In its first three years, Kokoa Kamili farmers have received the highest prices for cacao in Tanzania. The cacao from this region is exceptional as a pure dark chocolate as it has a higher cacao butter content than average, resulting in a silky smoothness.
This first ceremonial cacao from Africa is grown amidst the laughter and close relationships of thriving village life. Amidst extensive rice and banana crops, seven hundred certified organic farmers within the biodiverse Kilombero Valley grow cacao for Kokoa Kamili, who takes utmost care to ferment and dry the cacao to exacting standards that offer the best quality on the continent.
+ WHAT WILL CACAO MAKE ME FEEL LIKE DURING A CEREMONY?
Ceremonial Cacao has a magical way of opening your heart chakra and make you FEEL and every person's experience can differ. The Spirit of Cacao can help you navigate your inner most feelings, emotions, and needs - whether or not they have been openly expressed or deeply suppressed.
Cacao has the tendency to make you feel good, amplify your energy levels, increase your libido, and warm your heart - even feeling extreme gratitude, abundance, and well-being. You might also notice a slight accelerated heart rate and increased body heat. This will pass after a while.
Whatever you may be feeling during a Cacao Ceremony it's important to trust the guidance you are receiving from the divine plant, trust the process, and be open to processing any emotions that come up. You are always in a safe, non-judegemental place for healing at V(EYE)BES.
+ WHAT SHOULD I DO TO PREPARE FOR MY CACAO CEREMONY?
It is best to fast after 10 am on the day of a cacao ceremony. Please AVOID the following the day prior and the day of the event:
- Spicy Foods
- Processed Foods
- Sugary Foods
You’ll also need to arrange a quiet, gentle evening for after the event as symptoms of physical and emotional detoxification can arise unique to each individual.
+ WHAT MINERALS DOES CACAO HAVE?
Consuming cacao can replenish minerals vital to our body. Magnesium is chronically deficient in the majority of western diets, and cacao is the highest naturally occurring source. Magnesium is used in all key brain functions, especially memory and concentration. It is also beneficial for the function of the heart, acting to relax blood vessel and decrease strain.
Besides magneisum, cacao is also the highest naturally occurring source of chromium, and also high in copper, calcium, manganese, zinc, sulfur, iron, and phosphorous. The cacao I include in my ceremonies has been lab tested for safety and meets comprehensive EU standards for absence of heavy metals.
+ IS CACAO A STIMULANT?
Cacao contains theobromine, an alkaloid in the methylxanthine class of compounds, which also contain caffeine, mateine, and more. Theobromine is a cardiac stimulant (as opposed to caffeine which is a nervous system stimulant) and it relaxes blood vessels, together producing an effect of 30-40% higher blood circulation. This improves absorption of other important nutrients in cacao or other superfoods that it is paired with. There is far more theobromine than caffeine in cacao - it is a misconception that cacao contains much caffeine, most likely due to a caffeine like energy rush from the cane sugar used to sweeten most chocolate bars. Theobromine is only about one quarter as stimulating as caffeine, and it has a much longer half life in the liver, meaning that it's affect on the body is softer and longer.
+ HOW WAS CACAO USED IN NATIVE CULTURES?
Cacao (comes from aztec word ‘cacahuatl’ means “bean of the cocoa-tree”) was first grown 4000 years ago by the Olmecs, then the Maya and after them the Aztecs. Cacao has been used by the Maya for ages in all their ceremonies, from birth till death, from initiation to marriage. Priests would often prepare a drank later called “Xocolatl” which basically consisted of cacao, chili, corn and achiote (red colouring). It was a bitter, frothy drink.
The Maya held a yearly festival to honor the cacao god Ek Chuah, which included several offerings and rituals to him; chocolate beverages, blood, dancing and other gifts such as the sacrifice of cacao-colored dogs and feathers, incense and cacao seeds. The Maya also had medicine based on cacao. As cacao opens the blood vessels it can drive other herbs into the bloodstream more quickly. In the 18th and 19th century chocolate became an industrialised product as known today.
+ WHAT IS THE ROLE OF CACAO NOWADAYS?
Nowadays the spirit of the cacao is back, to help us with a conscious evolution that happens on the planet right now. In these fast changing times it is inevitable that we come together in peace, in ceremony. We come to find our truth, inner child, inner fire and our original raw self.
+ ARE THERE ANY CONTRAINDICATIONS WITH CACAO?
Please let me know if you have high blood pressure, pregnant or nursing, on MAOI anti-depressants or anti-psychotics. Cacao dosage may be decreased or in some cases, not be recommended at all. If you have a current health issue, I would recommend asking your physician if you are able to participate. In order to attend the ceremony, all participants will be asked to fill out a medical waiver before the session.
+ CAN I HAVE CACAO IF I'M ON A KETO DIET?
Absolutely YES. Many experts recommend extra dark chocolate for the ketogenic diet. Our cacao has a 1.1:1 fats to protein+carbs ratio, so it won't knock you out of ketosis. And you'll receive all the many benefits of cacao, from a gentle energy boost to the high mineral content to the compounds that beneficially affect your state of mind.