Theobroma Cacao - Food of the Gods
Cacao has been used as a ceremonial medicine for over four thousand years, enabling the participant, to expand their cardiac and neurological systems and receive nourishment from this super food, to participate fully in the ceremonial experience.
To be labelled “ceremonial” cacao needs to be organic, the beans are often harvested from trees that are grown in the wild or in naturally diverse environments, by farming co-operatives rather than large commercial enterprises.
Of the four Cacao bean varieties it is Criollo, Trinitario or Nacional beans, that are used to make the pure cacao paste, with their rich complex flavours and joy-enducing compounds (theobromine, serotonin, proanthocyanin, anandamine, and others); where as, the Forastero bean is generally used by large commercial companies in the chocolate industry, for its high yield of beans and also for being a hardier plant.
Acaster Malbis, York, UK
Textile Art in UK
Processing Cacao Beans into Cacao Paste
When the cacao pods are carefully cut from the Theobroma Cacao trees, they are stored for a week to ten days before opening.
Then opened by striking the central area of the pod with a wooden club, which splits it in half without damaging the beans, the wet beans are then removed by hand and placed into boxes, covered with banana leaves to begin the fermentation process. Depending on the bean, this can take 2 to 5 days.
The fermentation process brings about through chemical reactions, the flavour and colour of the cacao.
After fermentation the beans are dried in the sun, reducing their moisture content to 7.5%. This is a slow process to enable the fermentation process to finish, turning the beans regularly, to stop moulds from developing.
Next the shells are removed and the nibs are then milled until they turn into cacao liquor (Cacao Paste), this is then allowed to set and is broken up into chunks ready for sale.
15-25g Cacoa Paste
1/2 cup Oat Milk (or your favourite plant milk, NB. Don't use Dairy Milk, it curdles)
1/2 cup of boiling water
a pinch of salt
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 Date (or add a full Date if you like it sweeter)
(Optional) A tiny pinch Cayenne Pepper, if you like your drink to have a bit of a Bite!
1. First boil the water, then add the plant milk and water into a jug or food processor.
2. Add the remaining ingredients, blend by whisking or use the processor, this is a good time to bless your drink with your good intentions for the day.
3. Pour into a special cup ready for the ceremony.
Health Benefits of Raw Cacao Paste
A natural anti-depressant: Cacao contains four scientifically proven ‘happy chemicals’- serotonin, phenylethylamine, tyrosine and tryptophan. These can induce feelings of love, happiness and overall wellness.
It’s loaded with antioxidants called Flavanols: Antioxidants play a crucial role in absorbing free radicals, de-toxifying our bodies.
One of the highest plant-based sources of both magnesium and iron: We need magnesium to assist in many important bodily processes, including regulating muscle and nerve function, maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, regulating blood pressure and making bone, protein and DNA. Magnesium can also help calm nerves and anxiety, prevent migraines, regulate digestion and increase energy levels. Iron helps to improve brain health, maintain muscle health, prevent anaemia and boost the immune system.
High in calcium: Calcium is vital for maintaining good health. Not only is it necessary for strong bones and teeth, it’s also been shown to help reduce obesity and could even help to prevent colon cancer.
It is a source of ‘healthy fats’: The fatty acid profile of raw cacao is excellent, consisting of lots of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Though be mindful that it does contain some saturated, which is why cacao should be enjoyed in moderation.
Improved brain function – Iron is an oxygen carrier and helps improve cognitive function. A specific flavanol in cacao called epicatechin improves blood flow to the brain, which can help to boost memory, attention span, reaction time and problem solving skills.