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Even though both ceremonial cacao and chocolate are derived from the same basic ingredient—cacao—they are fundamentally different. The differences lie in their growth, harvesting, processing, usage, flavor profiles, textures, quality, and health benefits. Additionally, the cultural and ethical implications of chocolate and ceremonial cacao are worlds apart.

Join me on this journey as we navigate through the magical world of Ceremonial Cacao, weaving together my personal feelings and experiences,- together with scientific information, feedback from our community, and shares from spiritual leaders, to share with you the lessons I’ve learned along the way.

My name is Sharon Fernie and I am the Founder of Herbal Cacao, providing the world with high quality Medicinal Ceremonial Cacao Blends, supporting our community in their journey of self and spiritual discovery. I have a deep passion for holistic wellness and ancient traditions. Through Herbal Cacao, I aim to spread awareness about the profound benefits of ceremonial cacao and other medicinal herbs & mushrooms. I strive to create a space where individuals can connect with themselves and each other on a deeper level, to be the love, share the love and spread the love.

Join me here in the “Herbal Cacao Journal” as we explore the fascinating world of our active medicinal ingredients, cacao rituals, ancient healing practices, and modern wellness techniques. Whether you’re a seasoned practitioner or just beginning your journey, this blog post in the “Herbal Cacao Journal” is your invitation to deepen your understanding of this sacred plant and its profound impact on mind, body, and spirit.

Let’s delve into the fascinating distinction between ceremonial cacao and chocolate.

Misconceptions About Ceremonial Cacao and Chocolate: 

The Key Differences

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Why This Distinction Matters?

Understanding the distinction between ceremonial cacao and chocolate is crucial for making informed choices about what we consume and support. The commercial chocolate industry often relies on mass production methods that may not honour the sacred and sustainable practices used in cultivating ceremonial cacao. This not only affects the quality and health benefits of the final product, but also has significant implications for the communities and environments involved in cacao production.

Quality

Tanto el cacao ceremonial como el chocolate proceden del árbol del cacao (Theobroma Cacao). Sin embargo, no todo el Theobroma cacao es igual. Existen tres variedades principales de Theobroma cacao:

Criollo : This name means “native” and is an ancient high quality, upper Amazonian, pure strain of cacao

Forestero : Este nombre significa "extranjero". Estos granos se denominan comúnmente cacao a granel. Es la variedad más producida en el mundo, con casi el 80-85% de la producción mundial de cacao, principalmente en África occidental.

Trinitario : Este nombre procede de las actividades de mejora del cacao desarrolladas originalmente en Trinidad y Tobago, donde se han llevado a cabo importantes investigaciones sobre la genética, el cultivo y la transformación del cacao. El término "Trinitario" se refiere vagamente a la genética híbrida del cacao Criollo y Forastero.

Chocolate is generally made from the low quality cacao variety Forestero, whilst ceremonial cacao is usually from the ancient high “Criollo” variety

Una de las principales diferencias entre el cacao ceremonial y el chocolate es la forma en que se cultivan y cosechan. El cacao ceremonial suele ser cultivado a pequeña escala por agricultores de comunidades indígenas, con métodos de cultivo antiguos, tradicionales y sostenibles. A los agricultores se les paga por encima del valor de mercado por sus granos de cacao sagrado, lo que les permite mantener a sus familias y comunidades.

El chocolate, en cambio, suele producirse en explotaciones industriales a gran escala, en las que se utilizan pesticidas, herbicidas y fertilizantes sintéticos, y que no se cultivan con métodos tradicionales sostenibles. Además, los agricultores que cultivan los granos de cacao para el chocolate suelen recibir precios bajos por sus granos, que pueden no ser suficientes para mantener a sus familias y comunidades.

Origin & Soil

Another very important difference is the soil where the cacao grows. Cacao thrives in biodiversity and is the happiest in the shades of other big trees. Ceremonial cacao is always organically grown on the “sacred” lands of Indigenous nations that honour cacao as a potent and sacred plant medicine. They live in perfect harmony with nature and aks permission to the spirit world before harvesting from their sacred lands.

La producción de cacao para chocolate deja de lado los aspectos espirituales y se cultiva en monocultivo y se esparce con pesticidas para mantener un alto rendimiento durante todo el año.

Sustainable Farming Practices

Ceremonial cacao is grown using traditional, sustainable farming methods by small-scale farmers in indigenous communities. These farmers are paid above market value, supporting their families and communities. In contrast, commercial chocolate production often involves larger, industrial farms that may use synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, with farmers receiving lower prices for their beans.

Cacao ceremonial de Belice
Small family Cacao farm in Belize – Cacao beans sun drying

Harvesting and Processing

 Ceremonial cacao is hand-harvested, fermented naturally, and sun-dried, preserving its nutritional integrity and spiritual essence. Chocolate production, on the other hand, often involves mechanical drying and additional processing steps like conching and tempering, which can strip away beneficial compounds and add unhealthy ingredients like refined sugar and emulsifiers.

In the processing stages of making chocolate and ceremonial cacao, some key differences are setting them further apart from each other:

Grinding: Ceremonial cacao is made by grinding the whole cacao beans and may include a small amount of spices or herbs. To create the beverage the cacao is mixed with water or milk, which can be served hot or cold. Nothing more, nothing less. Chocolate on the other hand, is made by grinding the cacao beans in extremely large scales into a paste called chocolate liquor, which is then mixed with processed cocoa butter, refined sugar and additives. To create the finishing sweet and glossy product of; chocolate, the chocolate liquor get even further processed:

Conging:  El chocolate suele someterse a un proceso llamado conchado, que consiste en agitar la mezcla de chocolate durante un largo periodo de tiempo, para crear una textura suave y uniforme. El cacao ceremonial no se somete al conchado y conserva una textura más granulada.

Tempering: Schokolade wird in der Regel temperiert, d. h. sie wird auf bestimmte Temperaturen erhitzt und abgekühlt, um die Kakaobutter zu stabilisieren und eine glatte, glänzende Oberfläche zu erhalten. Zeremonieller Kakao ist nicht temperiert und hat keine glatte, glänzende Oberfläche.

While both chocolate and ceremonial cacao are made from cacao beans, they are processed differently and have different flavour profiles, additives, and uses:

Flavour & Aroma’s

El chocolate es típicamente dulce y tiene un sabor y aroma ricos y cremosos, debido a la adición de azúcar y manteca de cacao.

Ceremonial cacao is typically unsweetened and has a more bitter, earthy flavor and aroma. However this depands greatly on the type of cacao being used and which are it is grown. As cacaoo flourishes in biodiversity. the soil around the tree absorbs many diffrent aromas from its sourandings. Generally Criollo which is the most native cacao variarty is richer in its aroma’s

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Additives

El chocolate puede contener diversos aditivos, como leche, azúcar, aromas y emulgentes, que se añaden para crear diferentes sabores y texturas.

El cacao ceremonial, por su parte, se elabora sólo con cacao y agua o leche vegetal, y puede incluir una pequeña cantidad de especias para aumentar sus beneficios para la salud.

Usage

Otra diferencia es la forma en que se consumen el cacao y el chocolate ceremoniales.

Ceremonial cacao is often consumed in a ceremonial or ritual context, which can give it a deeper spiritual and cultural significance. It is used in many Indigenous cultures for its spiritual and energetic properties and used to enhance optimal health and well-being (physically, emotionally and spiritually)

Ceremonial cocoa is often consumed in a ceremonial or ritual context, which can give it a deeper spiritual and cultural meaning. It is used in many indigenous cultures for its spiritual and energetic properties and to improve health and well-being (physical, emotional and spiritual).

Tanto el cacao ceremonial como el chocolate se elaboran a partir de granos de cacao, que son fuente de numerosos compuestos beneficiosos para la salud, como antioxidantes, flavonoides y minerales. Sin embargo, hay algunas diferencias clave en los beneficios para la salud del cacao ceremonial y el chocolate, debido a las diferencias en la forma en que se procesan y los ingredientes que se utilizan.

The Unique Health Benefits of Ceremonial Cacao

Ceremonial cacao is rich in antioxidants, flavonoids, and other health-promoting compounds. It supports gut health, stress management, brain and nerve health, and immune system function. Unlike chocolate, which often contains added sugars and unhealthy fats, ceremonial cacao is typically unsweetened, offering a more natural and beneficial experience.

Embrace the Purity and Benefits of Ceremonial Cacao

Los antioxidantes: Tanto el cacao ceremonial como el chocolate contienen antioxidantes, compuestos que ayudan a neutralizar los radicales libres dañinos del organismo y a proteger las células de posibles daños. Sin embargo, el cacao ceremonial suele elaborarse a partir de habas de cacao sin procesar, lo que significa que conserva una mayor concentración de antioxidantes en comparación con el chocolate, que se elabora a partir de habas de cacao procesadas.

Los flavonoides: Ambos contienen flavonoides, unos compuestos vegetales que tienen una serie de beneficios para la salud, como reducir la inflamación y mejorar la salud cardiovascular. De nuevo, es probable que el cacao ceremonial tenga una mayor concentración de flavonoides que el chocolate, debido a que se elabora a partir de granos de cacao sin procesar.

Sugar Content: Chocolate typically contains added sugar, which can contribute to a number of health problems when consumed in excess, including obesity, diabetes, and dental cavities. Ceremonial cacao, on the other hand, is unsweetened and does not contain added sugar.

Caffeine Content: Both ceremonial cacao and chocolate contain caffeine, which is a stimulant that can affect energy levels and alertness. One of the main differences between ceremonial cacao and chocolate is the amount of caffeine they contain. Ceremonial cacao is made from pure, minimally processed cacao beans, which typically contain less caffeine than chocolate. Chocolate, on the other hand, is made by adding cocoa butter, sugar, and other ingredients to ground cacao, which can increase the caffeine content. Ceremonial cacao usually contains around 0.1% caffeine, and a serving of ceremonial cacao is around 50-100grams, which is equivalent to the caffeine content in a cup of decaffeinated coffee, while chocolate can have caffeine levels of around 0.2-0.3% which may vary by the type of chocolate, dark chocolate can have more caffeine than milk chocolate. Some studies also found that consuming ceremonial cacao compared to chocolate can lead to different effects on energy levels and mental states, with ceremonial cacao having a more calming and grounding effect.

Ethical and Cultural Significance

By choosing ceremonial cacao, you are supporting ethical and sustainable farming practices that honor the sacred traditions of indigenous cultures. This not only benefits your health but also contributes to the preservation of cultural heritage and the well-being of farming communities.

Even though both made from cacao they are not the same. There are big differences in n the way that chocolate and ceremonial cacao are grown, harvested, processed and used which result in different flavour profiles, textures, quality and it’s health benefits. But not just this, also in terms of their cultural and ethical implications, chocolate and ceremonial cacao are worlds apart. Ceremonial cacao is generally considered to be healthier than chocolate, due to the fact that ceremonial cacao is made from unprocessed cacao beans and does not contain added sugar. This means that ceremonial cacao is likely to have a higher concentration of antioxidants and flavonoids than chocolate, which can provide a number of health benefits, including reducing inflammation and improving cardiovascular health.

Es importante tener en cuenta que no todo el cacao y el chocolate ceremoniales son iguales y que hay mucha variación en la calidad del producto.

También es clave señalar que las implicaciones éticas de la producción de chocolate pueden variar enormemente, y hay muchos productores de chocolate que se esfuerzan por fabricar sus productos de forma ética y sostenible. Muchos productores de chocolate se aseguran de que los agricultores reciban un precio justo por su cacao, utilizan prácticas sostenibles desde el punto de vista medioambiental y ofrecen mejores condiciones de trabajo a los agricultores.

A la hora de elegir entre cacao ceremonial y chocolate, es importante informarse sobre el origen de los granos de cacao utilizados en el producto y sobre el trato recibido por los agricultores que cultivaron el cacao. Apoyar a los productores éticos y sostenibles puede ayudar a garantizar que los agricultores y las comunidades que cultivan el cacao reciban un trato justo y contribuir a preservar las prácticas y culturas tradicionales.

Discover our collection of medicinal mushrooms and ceremonial cacao blends at Herbal Cacao. Embrace the wisdom of nature and make a positive impact on your health and the world.

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)

Con amor, 

Sharon Fernie, Founder Herbal Cacao

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