In this issue, I’d like to feature a wondrous food that I have embraced for more than 6 years as a staple, but only fully experienced its magic less than a year ago.
It is called theobroma cacao, derived from the Greek language and literally meaning “food of the gods”. Today, we call finished products that contain a fair percentage of it “chocolate”. It should not be mistaken for its close relative theobroma grandiflorum or “cupuacu”.
Today, theobroma cacao is being harvested and exported in massive quantities globally. It is ubiquitous in virtually all Western restaurant dessert menus, supermarkets and in the form of gifts, especially on Valentine’s Day. It can’t be just an accident that people are so enamoured by it, that people are willing to pay a relatively high price to enjoy luscious creations of it, and huge international companies exist just selling chocolate and chocolate-based products worldwide whilst growing from strength to strength.
There has to be something about it – it’s definitely not just about how it’s being marketed and positioned, unlike the diamond ring and champagne; and it’s definitely not because it is addictive like coffee in our highly adrenalised society needing an imbalanced and artificial boost.
It does have some magic and allure to it. And that keeps many of us coming back for more.
History of Theobroma Cacao
The ancient Incas, Mayans, and Aztecs believed theobroma cacao to be a source of power. They didn’t know whether to call it a food or a medicine because of its medicinal properties. Rulers like Montezuma (Aztec emperor) drank theobroma cacao in small amounts up to fifty times a day for increased virility. When Cortez (led Spanish colonisers to victory against the Aztecs, leading to the fall of their empire) discovered the drink he made it the mainstay of his soldiers’ diet. Of course, the Aztecs fell not because they were inferior, but because they didn’t have guns or horses. History reports that those who drank theobroma cacao felt increased energy, focus, stamina, happiness, and virility.
Christopher Columbus’ son Ferdinand was awestruck by how much value the Native Americans placed on cacao beans, saying, “They seemed to hold these almonds (referring to the cacao beans) at a great price; for when they were brought on board ship together with their goods, I observed that when any of these almonds fell, they all stooped to pick it up, as if an eye had fallen.”
The cacao beans were often used as local currency in many parts of Central America, and in some of those areas, cacao beans continued to be used as currency till as recently as the last century.
What’s the Difference between Cacao and Cocoa?
Today, cacao and cocoa are used interchangeably by people to refer to the original cacao bean, or the raw material for chocolate. However, for the purposes of this article and by the endorsement of many cacao researchers around the world, I will refer to cacao as the original, sacred and raw theobroma cacao. Cocoa first came about when Dutch chocolate maker Conrad J. van Houten patented an inexpensive method that spearheaded chocolate making and production – resulting in a pulverised fine powder which was then called “cocoa”. Of course, these were all processed with machinery, roasting was involved, alkaline salts were added… and it gave birth to many more modern methods that favoured ease of production and incorporation into finished products versus capturing the magic of the original “cacao”.
So there you have it, my topic is about this sacred, healing, medicinal superfood that we call cacao, and cocoa is simply the processed and heated stuff that you see everywhere today.
Why is Cacao Such an Amazing Food?
There is linguistic evidence that the ancient Olmecs of Mexico prepared chocolate. By the 8th century AD, the Mayans were carving images of a cacao god on ceremonial bowls. The Aztecs, later the dominant culture of Mexico, considered cacao a gift from the gods. From archaeological evidence, it is clear that the natives used cacao in a wide array of drinks, gruels, porridges, powders and probably solid substances.
Today, there are cacao shamans who still guide modern individuals searching for deeper healing and connectedness with cacao brews and preparations around Central and South America. It is not difficult to sign up for a “cacao ceremony”.
What gave cacao such high reverence from the wise, ancient cultures and civilisations who consumed them? Well, here are just some benefits:
- Undeniably the #1 Food for Heart – Even small amounts of cacao can reduce cholesterol in the blood and lower blood pressure. It regulates the heartbeat, strengthens cardiovascular function tremendously and improves the circulatory system of the body immensely. It is also the best food source of the heart and bone health mineral Magnesium. I rank Magnesium up there in importance with Silica and Iodine as the top 3 must-have minerals with organic sulphur forming part of the critical “must-haves”.
- Undoubtedly the #1 Food for Mental Wellness – Cacao is a GUARANTEED boost for even the numbest of individuals who don’t seem to respond to many other health foods. It brings unparalleled mental clarity, brain power, and profound mood balance. It is THE best food for depression, stress and pre-menstrual syndrome. It also helps neurotransmitter balance and boosts brain chemistry – even inducing chemical reactions and production in the brain that enable people to fall in love and experience bliss i.e. from phenylethylamine, anandamide, serotonin and more. It is in fact a phenomenal and healthy replacement for adrenal-overworking coffee as it gives a clean, sustainable energy without the jitters and the crash (associated with short-lived coffee effects).
- #1 Antioxidant Source – Cacao, especially the raw powder form, has the highest ORAC score and hence strongest antioxidant ability of any food per unit weight out there. It thus surpasses many expensive and well-packaged “antioxidant” products on the market – which means phenomenally anti-ageing to the consumer. A study was done where 8,000 male Harvard graduates who ate chocolate outlived their peers – a sign of chocolate being a true longevity food.
- Brilliant Weight Loss and Appetite Control Aid – High Magnesium content also helps with glucose metabolism and keeps sugar levels in check.
- Potent Libido and Virility Booster
- Makes other substances better absorbed when mixed or consumed together
- The #1 Food for the Spirit – Brilliant for right-brained creativity, intuition and achieving higher wisdom. Cacao is the one food which helps greatly with pineal gland expansion and activation, which enhances many meditational and spiritual practices. It assists with the emotional creation of optimism, creativity, joy and child-like laughter like the Willy Wonka character from the book and movie Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. Willy Wonka is a creative and optimistic alchemist – and cacao is just that – an alchemist, which is why any herbs, foods or nutritional substances mixed with it becomes further potentiated. It is exactly because of this ability that it is often mixed with other entheogens (psychoactive substances used in shamanic, religious or spiritual contexts). It appears that some type of MAOI (Monoamine Oxidase Inhbitor) phenomenon occurs from eating raw cacao that heightens intuitive and psychic abilities.
- Extremely nutrient dense – HUNDREDS of other balanced and synergistic nutritional components and a good protein source too.
But Wait – Not All Cacaos are the Same!
Take it from me having consumed cacao and chocolate for over 6 years very purposefully that it is immensely challenging to fully access and receive its purported benefits until you know where to find the type of cacao that the ancient and wise people were using.
This brings me back to how most people are getting it wrong today when it comes to food and nutritional products. They do not understand the importance of source, processing/extraction methods and technology, delivery systems and much more. They instead fall prey to clever marketing, branding, and so on. Having been in this industry for a bit, we know when something is way over-priced and simply a product positioned in a premium way but not necessarily premium.
It is a huge misfortune that many experts, “gurus”, practitioners and the like are focused on what the research and science are saying is good, but then let sales reps and companies tell them what products are good (which rep or company will put their own product down?). You need to research these products just as, if not more, thoroughly.
I see many raw food gurus and nutritionists teaching people about cacao, raw chocolate making and the like – but the brands and companies that they recommend, when put through lab tests or deeper investigation reveal any or a combination of the following:
- High heavy metal contamination – bad news for long-term consumption.
- Claims that it is “raw (as in uncooked)” when it has in fact been heavily processed and heated but just “quietly” presented as “raw (as in raw material form)”.
- Claims that it is “organic” when in fact it has not gone through proper certification or after certification, the standards differ greatly from pre-certification phases. This is common in many countries where cacao originate as they have no deep knowledge of agriculture and farming, where, for example, neighbouring crops from say, brown rice fields, cross-contaminate with their pesticide laden water. You can say that it is their fault or not – but it is our duty as consumers who put these stuff into our bodies daily and recommend it to loved ones to really dig deeper. Many do it as a means of livelihood, but we have to consume it as a means to “upgrade” our bodies and look for the right sources.
- Claims that it is “superior quality” when in fact they are hybrid, CCN51 varieties. In fact, most of the big brand “superfood” and “raw food” companies use these forms of cacao which is inferior in nutrition and lacking in all those benefits mentioned above.
As you can see, many cacao sources and chocolates today are nowhere near the level of the Mayans, Aztecs and Incas. At best, you have single origin chocolate which are cultivated specially for taste – but not for nutritional value.
How to Obtain the True Food of the Gods?
I have had the good fortune to have met a very passionate cacao researcher who lives in South America and manages a group of wild-harvesters of sacred, wild cacao. These forms of cacao are not cultivated, they are of the wild variety, and is what the shamans would use – which is what we call “ceremonial grade”. An insight to how rare this heirloom variety is like even if you cultivate it: less than 1% of the global cacao population! But we all know, cultivated ginseng and wild ginseng is just different – even the price is “wildly” different.
The good news is we have procured small lots of this cacao to share with the true cacao seeker and are selling it on par or even below the prices of organic and health food stores here – who are really unknowingly selling hybrid, CCN51 varieties. It doesn’t require a connoisseur to taste the difference. Wild cacao of this variety tastes super and just mixing “chocolate block like” pieces of it (100% chocolate) with some honey will send you to a magical kingdom of sensory delight. But what’s even better, the effects are seriously felt.
In today’s stressed up society, having a food like this that grounds you, calms you, yet brings clean, deep, sustainable mental clarity, power and sharpness whilst ensuring you can sleep at night is genuinely priceless.
Back in the old Western days, there were “coffee shops and cocoa shops” – selling hot chocolate and coffee, with great people like Mahatma Gandhi favouring chocolate. It was a luxury that only the elite could afford back then. But today, when you consider that it is sold in per pound packs and compare it to prices of regular organic chocolate, you will know that this is affordable – much more so than the “luxury brands and boutiques” out there.
We also conduct workshops on how to make fast, easy and super tasting hot chocolate drinks, cold protein smoothies, raw ice cream, desserts, “nutella-like” chocolate spreads and more. The best of the lot is raw chocolate with herbal extracts like cordyceps, Vitamin D3 and more incorporated … and people can’t even taste it!
I once joked with some friends that even if they were to give me a car and a cow in exchange for my cacao (“car-cow”), I wouldn’t do the barter – just to epitomise its benefits.
But right now, I ain’t joking anymore 🙂