Cacao pod cacao elixer

Ceremonial Cacao: A Heart-Opening Superfood + Coffee Alternative

Written by Monica Krake, Founder of Head + Heart with expert input and a journal prompt by Meghan Zuvelek, Cacao lover + Founder of Shevolve.

If you’ve never heard of cacao or cacao ceremonies, you probably will soon. Cacao ceremonies have been growing in popularity in North America and Europe over the past few years, and cacao itself has become a popular superfood. 

There are (so!) many reasons people are drawn to cacao. 

The benefits of cacao

As a superfood, cacao is high in antioxidants, flavonoids, has tons of iron and magnesium, is mood-enhancing, promotes healthy skin, contains essential vitamins and minerals, and promotes heart health. 

Many people compare the energy-boosting effects of cacao to coffee but without the jitters and crash. While cacao does contain some caffeine (in varying degrees depending on its source), it’s active compound is Theobromine,  which is known for a more grounded and sustained energy boost.

Plus, cacao is an activating elixir, that releases neuro chemicals such as Anandamine (the Bliss Molecule), and Phenethylamine (PEA), which induces the feeling of love and euphoria in the body, so it can help connect us with elevated emotions. 

From cacao pod to powder to paste: Processing makes a huge difference in quality and effects

If you’re new to cacao, not all cacao is created equal, and it’s not the same as cocoa. Though cocoa and cacao both originate from the cacao pod, the differences in how they’re processed mean they have very different effects on the body. Let’s break it down:

Cocoa powder originates from the cacao pod. The cacao beans are removed, and have been roasted for long periods of time at high temperatures by the time they are ground into powder. This process changes the molecular structure of the bean, lowering its naturally abundant nutritional value. Depending how it’s processed, cocoa can still offer some great benefits.

Cacao powder, although it may be organic, “raw” and a “superfood” is also highly processed to commercial standards. To make cacao powder, the cacao beans are removed from the cacao pod, and separated from the bean’s natural fat — the cacao butter.  During this separation process, many living enzymes, healthy fat and most of the subtle energetic properties of the cacao have been destroyed by the time it’s ground into it’s powdered form. That said, depending on the quality, cacao powder does offer key benefits- it’s rich in flavour, offers a boost of energy, and can help to energetically connect you with your heart space. 

Ceremonial-grade raw Cacao is where the magic happens. This form of cacao is made by cold-pressing the unroasted cacao beans.The cacao is removed from the cacao pod and stone-ground down to create a paste which is set into a block — with nothing added or removed. This process retains the living enzymes and some of the fat (cacao butter) from the cacao beans. As the bean’s fat remains intact, this helps balance cacao’s stimulating properties and facilitates it’s absorption over a longer period of time, so you don’t get the crash people experience when drinking coffee. 

Take a peak at this great video that shows how ceremonial-grad cacao is processed from cacao pod to cacao elixir.

Ceremonial-grade cacao is queen

Unlike coffee, which is a vaso-constrictor, ceremonial-grade cacao is a vaso-dialator, which means it opens your heart. And you can feel the effects quite literally. From a spiritual and energetic lens, the sensations of an open heart help us to align with our highest potentials and truest desires, which is why this superfood has been revered in ancient cultures for millenia. In many parts of ancient Meso America, cacao has been used for ceremonial purposes dating back to 1500 BC with the ancient Olmecs. Cacao also was present in the Aztec and Mayan cultures and was used for everything from currency, medicinal purposes, rituals and offerings. Read more on the history of cacao here. 

Cacao as a coffee alternative

Coffee is not ideal for many nervous systems on a regular basis. If you’ve been exploring coffee alternatives, like matcha tea or chaga, cacao is another beautiful option to consider.  Simply mix the powder or shave the paste into hot water, add your favorite milk and a little honey and cinnamon, and voila! If you have a milk frother, you could give it a froth. It’s divine. 

By tuning into the heart opening effects of cacao, a cacao drink can be used as part of a daily ritual to help you open to gratitude, presence, and the highest possibilities for your life. 

Here are a few Beautiful Ways to Try Cacao

A daily cacao ritual 

A daily or weekly ritual could be as simple as mixing up a cup of cacao in your favorite way and setting an intention for your day. Here’s a ritual by Meghan Zuvelek, embodiment coach + cacao enthusiast, that you can try at home. 

  • Get still with your cacao, ground into the earth and sit for a moment in silence holding your mug.
  • Tune into your senses, the environment around you, and the feeling of the warm mug in your hand.  Take a long delicious inhale, taking in the complexities of the aroma.
  • Offer gratitude for the land on which it was cultivated, the hands and hearts it touched on its journey to you and to the Spirit of Cacao, the medicine of the Cacao plant.
  • Find an intention for the day, knowing Cacao is activated by intention. 
  • Take your first sip in absolute presence. Let it warm and open your heart. Continue drinking your cacao in silence, connected to your heart space.
  • When you’re done your cacao, move into your day, your creative project or get outside in nature and feel the elevated state that is available to you.

Cacao ceremonies

I first heard about cacao ceremonies when I signed up for a beautiful Cacao & Rose ceremony at Soul Sanctuary in North Vancouver which incorporated a vision boarding experience. This ceremony was one part intention setting, one part intention casting, and two parts heart-opening, as the leader, Melanie O’Leary set a space for everyone to dream big, using the heart-opening effects of cacao and rose to help us open up to the possibilities, and tap into our heart’s desires. Since then, I’ve taken part in a few more cacao ceremonies, which are a powerful way to set intentions and tap into the support of a community.

Where to try a cacao ceremony? 

I recommend the cacao ceremonies offered by the following leaders. Take a peak at the websites of each to see what’s coming up! 

Buying ethically sourced cacao 

All cacao is not created equally, so I’m sharing two places that are dedicated to ethically-sourced cacao with high quality production and distribution. Watch for Heirloom varieties when you purchase, as that means that the origin of that ancestral cultivation is true to its area, which is important. 

Cacao: A heart opening superfood. Learn about the benefits of cacao, how it's made from a cacao pod, and how to use cacao in ceremony.