KAKAO's Sourcing, Production & 'Ceremonial Grade' Definition

All chocolate is made from cacao beans but not all cacao beans are created equal.

What makes KAKAO "ceremonial grade"?

1. KAKAO is produced from native cacao strains: native meaning cacao found growing naturally, in the wild, with little to no human interaction/cultivation. These strains are both the rarest and the most concentrated in the compounds necessary for ceremonial use. Our native strains include:

Criollo: cacao native to Guatemala/Central America

Chuncho: cacao native to Peru/South America

Other varieties of cacao exist, such as Forastero, (literally meaning "Foreigner" in Spanish), Trinitario, and CN51. Primarily grown in West Africa, a continent not native to cacao, these strains of cacao have been genetically selected (cloned, hybridized, and genetically modified) to produce larger seeds, higher yields, and greater resistance to disease. Genetically altered cacao by far dominates the global market, accounting for about 90% of the world's chocolate production.

Many challenges arise for farmers and the planet when man-made strains of cacao are introduced into native and non-native environments. The results are usually devastating, including destruction of natural habitat (slash and burn farming) and some form of slave labor. Makenzie and Michal have witnessed this devastation first hand. In 2018, they met the Peruvian farmer responsible for introducing genetically modified cacao to Peru. Allured by corporate promises of wage security and global demand, he confessed regretting ever bringing GMO cacao to Peru.

Genetically modified cacao is now grown throughout Central and South America. Its cross pollination with native cacao has made it increasingly difficult to locate, isolate, and protect native cacao strains. To learn more about the dark sides of chocolate and our motivation for doing things differently, view the Chocolate/Cacao episode of ROTTEN on Netflix.

Our sources and partners on the ground in both Peru & Guatemala have shared the following information with us:

The native strain of cacao in Guatemala is called Criollo. Only about 12 pure criollo trees have been isolated and identified, which our source Laurent is working to protect and salvage. If you are being sold Criollo cacao from Guatemala, be very wary of the source and do your best to go to the farms yourself and learn.

In Peru, the true native strain of cacao is called Chuncho. There is a lot of cacao in Peru called 'criollo,' yet this is not the original/wild strain of cacao in this region. If you are being sold ceremonial cacao from Peru, please use your discernment and do your best to go the farms yourself and learn.

2. Minimal processing: this means the beans still contain all or most of their natural compounds. Ceremonial cacao is made from whole bean, native 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 stone ground by traditional means. Ceremonial cacao is NEVER tempered.

3. Intention: from tree to cup, ceremonial cacao is cultivated with intention, in alignment with the Spirit of Cacao. This means the lands, the farmers, the process, and the finished cacao are treated with compassion, love, respect, and reverence.