All chocolate is made from cacao beans but not all cacao beans are created equal. What is it then that makes our KAKAO, or any cacao for that matter, "ceremonial grade"?
1. It's produced from Native Cacao Strains: native meaning it's found growing naturally, in the wild, without human interaction/cultivation. These strains are both the rarest and most concentrated in the compounds necessary for ceremonial use.
- Criollo: (literally meaning "Native" in Spanish) native to Guatemala
- small beans, fine flavor, more susceptible to pests and disease
- Chuncho: native to Peru
- small beans, fine flavor,
(photo credit: BAHEN & CO.)
Other cacao variety exist as well, like Forastero (literally meaning "Foreigner" in Spanish) and Trinitario. Forastero accounts for about 80% of the worlds chocolate production and is known as "bulk cacao." It's cultivated for mass production because of its large seeds and higher yield potential. Trinitario is a hybrid produced from the cross pollination of Criollo and Forastero, and accounts for about 10-15% of the worlds chocolate production.
2. Minimal processing: this means the beans still contain all or most of their natural compounds. Ceremonial cacao is made from whole bean, organic cacao. These beans undergo a fermentation process necessary for cultivating their flavor profile and activating certain natural compounds. The beans are then roasted at low temperatures, cracked, and ground by traditional means. Ceremonial cacao is NEVER tempered.
3. Intention: from tree to cup, ceremonial cacao is cultivated with intention, and in alignment with the Cacao Spirit. This means the lands, the farmers, the process, and the finished cacao are treated with compassion, love, respect, and reverence.
"Ceremonial grade cacao has the quantity and balance of compounds and energy to properly support the Cacao Spirit, or any other energy, in partnering with you." - Keith, The Chocolate Shaman