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the cacao bean

is technically a seed, which comes from the Theobroma cacao tree. This tree native to the Amazon rainforest was first "domesticated" over 5,000 years ago. It is said that the Mayan's consumed cacao during ceremony and celebrations, however the traditional uses seem to vary and may be quite different from how current day cacao ceremony looks. Interestingly enough, it is said that the cacao "beans" were at one point used as currency. In Kristy Leissle's book, "Cocoa", she shares that Europeans first contact with cacao was in 1502. When Christopher Columbus' son saw them, he called them almonds. By the mid sixteenth century, we are told that a small rabbit was worth 10-30 beans, a horse for 50 beans, and a piece of cloth for 80-100 beans. 

My experience with Cacao in Bali

the cacao pod

Cacao Pod on a Tree

grows differently from your standard fruit tree: they are found all around the trunk and thicker parts of the tree, instead of the ends of branches. Also, unlike fruit trees, the pods don't fall once ripe. They need to be cut down. Each pod contains a white fleshy pulp with about 40 seeds, which equals about one gram of cacao. The flesh tastes tangy and a little sweet, which farmers like to enjoy on hot days. A young tree (7-10 years old) can produce about 2lbs of finished cacao and a mature tree (25yo) can produce 25lbs. How the seeds are then fermented, sun dried, and roasted depends on the farm and practice. What is important for ceremonial grade cacao, is that it is grown and produced in a way that honours and respects the land, the plant itself and every person involved. In the multi-billion dollar cocoa and chocolate industry, there is, unfortunately, a lot of blurred lines and unethical practices. It is important that we do our part and source out cacao that has high standards and ethics in its production.

cacao contains

some of the highest amount of antioxidants of any food. "Polyphenols" can help reduce inflammation and high blood pressure. "Flavonoids" may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's and stroke. There are also many minerals found in cacao. Magnesium (relieves muscle tension and menstrual cramps), Iron (improves blood health) and Zinc (helps with immune function) are the main minerals. Cacao is considered a "plant medicine" because it's known as a heart-opener and a meditation aid. This is due to Theobromine which is an alkaloid (alongside Caffeine). Theobromine, like caffeine, is a stimulant as it affects the cardiovascular system, whereas caffeine works on the central nervous system. While both are present in cacao, there is 3-5 times the amount of Theobromine, so it is a much gentler stimulant that doesn't give you the jitters. Big thing here: Theobromine increases blood flow, hence the "heart opener". 

If that isn't enough, cacao also contains anandamide (the bliss molecule), as well as dopamine, serotonin, and tryptophan. Simply put: enjoying cacao during ceremony makes you feel really fucking good.

beautiful cacao
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what to expect

during a cacao ceremony? To begin, you get to connect with like minded individuals in a safe container while enjoying cacao carefully prepared with love. While every ceremony will be different, you can expect intention setting, somatic practice, sharing circle and the warm touch of the spirit of the cacao. Each soft experience with her spirit is unique and individual. You can take comfort in knowing each container is safe and sacred.

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