What is Ceremonial Cacao exactly?

Blog post what is ceremonial cacao

Ceremonial Grade Cacao is a sacred beverage from the ancient Maya lands.

Cacao is native to Meso-America and has been used by ancient civilizations like the Olmecs, Aztecs and Maya for thousands of years as a profound plant medicine, to heal the physical, emotional and spiritual body.

Today we know cacao more as the main substitute for chocolate, but our ancestors from the ancient Maya lands didn’t use cacao for chocolates. Oh no no no, the Maya didn’t even know what chocolate was! It was actually the Dutch that invented that, and cacao and chocolate are defiantly not the same thing! But that’s a whole other blog post. So to get back into what Ceremonial Grade Cacao actually is, we got to stay with the Maya culture first and go back into history.

The ancient Maya are native to the regions we know today as Guatemala, Belize and Mexico. They have a fascinating history of the use of cacao. And from the evidence found and the stories still being told, the Maya used cacao as a sacred beverage in most, if not all of their rituals and ceremonies.


The Maya believed cacao was gifted by their feather serpent god to the humans. A gift to feel our hearts energy more profound.

The cacao grows natively on their lands from the original string, on a tree known as the “Theobroma Cacao Tree”. This tree is still up today a sacred tree for most indigenous people in the ancient Maya lands. The scientific name is Theobroma (meaning Theo=God Broma=Food). The Theobroma Cacao tree bears fruits, known as cacao pods. Inside these pods are seeds and these are the actual cacao beans.

the Maya have been consuming this “food of the gods” for thousands of years by grinding the cacao beans and then mixing it with water. This creates this sacred (slightly bitter) beverage we have been talking about here 100% pure ceremonial grade cacao.

Sometimes spices were added to enhance the flavor, or to enhance some other healing properties depending on the use.

This sacred cacao drink was shared in the community for all sorts of ceremonies and rituals. They deeply believe in the plant spirit “Espiritu Cacao” (also referred to as mother cacao) to help us heal the physical, emotional and spiritual body. From weddings and baptism to warriors before they are heading for war, to shamanistic ceremonies for the elite. Yes, this sacred cacao beverage was used extensively. Medicine women used it helps against upset stomachs or gave it after childbirth for extra nutrition for the mother.

One thing is for sure the Maya loved cacao and worshipped it highly for its nourishing, heart-opening & bliss-inducing properties.


Ceremonial Grade cacao is not to be confused with 100% pure chocolate you can find in the supermarket. Chocolate is the highly processed form of cacao. But the difference between regular cacao and ceremonial grade goes a little further. Ceremonial cacao is made from the whole cacao bean. These beans undergo a fermentation process necessary for cultivating their flavor profile and activating certain natural compounds. The beans are then cracked, and stone-ground by traditional means. No further processing, temperature risings or tempering. Just 100% natural Cacao beans

One must know there is a very dark side to the cacao production in our world. Cacao grows natively and in perfect harmony in bio-diversity in the ancient Maya lands. To feed the demand of chocolate cacao has been taken to West Africa where almost 90% of the worlds Cacao comes from. Here the plant spirit is not honored and grown on big farms with low quality, depleting out Mother Earth. The cacao farmers here are well underpaid and lots of child labor is involved.

There are currently no real regulations as to what is really ceremonial grade cacao. So I encourage you to do your own research and to find out exactly where your cacao is coming from and how your buying impacts the local community. There is a reason why cacao varies in it’s price range.

Herbal Cacao made it a mission to provide products with an extremely high nutritional value of the highest quality from what Mother Nature can provide us, whilst supporting organic, sustainable agroforestry and the indigenous life of the Maya cacao farmers. Collaborating only with sustainable companies, that have a dedication to the environment, standing 100% behind the purity of the ingredients and honouring the plant spirit, thus creating a positive social and environmental impact.

By going beyond a fair-trade (Transparent-Trade) paying the farmers above market value for their precious cacao, we can protect the indigenous lifestyle of the Maya people and high quality fine flavoured cacao industry ensuring a positive effect throughout the supply chain.

Giving back

Know where your cacao comes from, ensure you are buying from someone that is transparent and honours sustainable, organic farming. 

By showing your respect for the sacred beverage. honour the plant spirit, mother earth and indigenous cacao farmers. 

Thank you for reading my blog post in our Herbal Cacao Journal. 

Feel free to share this post with anyone who you might think can benefit from reading this.

Sharon Fernie (Founder of Herbal Cacao)

With love, 

Sharon Fernie, Founder Herbal Cacao