Ceremonial-grade cacao is not a certification. It is a way of producing cacao that seeks to select only the best-quality cacao and produce it in a way that respects the land, the plant, and every person involved in the process from the tree to your cup. The intention with which this cacao is produced is the essence of what it means to be a grade above all others.
Our Tenets of Ceremonial-Grade Cacao
The source matters. Cacao plants are not all created equal, and seeking the best cacao is the first step ensuring an excellent experience.
The land matters. The raising of said cacao must be in harmony with the land and regenerate it over time.
Respect matters. Every person, from the farmer to the team member who packs your shipment, must be compensated fairly and treated with respect.
Intention matters. This cacao is meant to hold a special place in your life—a ritual, a refuge, a teacher. As such, every member of the process treats the production of your cacao with the intention that it plays a valuable role in your day, and we hope you enjoy it with the same respect.
Step 1: Select the Highest Quality Cacao
Find and select the highest-quality cacao beans available. We use only heirloom cacao strains that have been protected from the genetic modification that has made most contemporary cacao low-quality, with decreased nutritional potency, inferior aromatic properties, and an overall worse taste. We find and select only Arriba Nacional cacao from Ecuador, which is widely held to be some of the finest cacao available in the modern world. We do not believe that the origin and genetics of the plant make little difference, as some claim. It is abundantly clear throughout the natural world that certain plant genetics and land quality yield much higher-quality food. Cacao is no different. We’ve searched many places to find the best cacao available, and we are confident we have found it.
Learn more about the storied Arriba Nacional cacao.
This focus on quality runs contrary to what other cacao producers may value.
So-called 100% cacao and chocolate products often add emulsifiers or other vegetable fats to stretch production and produce a more beautiful product. However, we add nothing to our cacao, and maintain a process that ensures no valuable nutrients are stripped away. Similarly, 100% cacao powders strip the natural fats from the cacao to make separate valuable cacao butter from the cacao solids. This is simply not whole cacao and the does not maintain the nutrient profile of our ceremonial-grade cacao products. Still worse, a high-heat roast and alkalinization process are often employed in mass cacao products, which do soften some of the natural bitterness of cacao, but destroy the nutritional properties that true, whole cacao provides.
Step 2: Ensure Regenerative Cultivation
Make sure that the cacao is raised on biodiverse farms that regenerate the land as they grow the food, not destroy the land. All of our farms practice organic agroforestry and polyculture, meaning that they use only traditional growing techniques without modern fertilizers, grow their cacao within the existing forest so as to not strip the soil of vital nutrients, and grow amongst other plants including tropical fruits and flowers, which impart their own aromatics on the cacao through nutrient exchange in the soil. This is an extremely costly and time-intensive way of doing things that is completely absent from most commercially-available cacao products. However, the nutrition, flavor, and soil regeneration this farming standard brings results in unparalleled cacao quality. Furthermore, raising cacao in this fashion protects the biome of other non-human forest-dwellers, as well as maintaining the land for future subsistence living.
Step 3: Ensure Equity in Production
Treat all workers in the value-chain with respect. We are direct-trade partners with all of our producers. We pay above-fairtrade prices for their crop and give back through direct-cash profit sharing and community initiatives to aid in the development of their farms and general infrastructure. Where ceremonial-grade seeks to ensure quality and nurture the land, it also seeks to nurture all the hands that participate in the process. This means that every farmer and every worker, all the way to the mailperson who picks it up from our store. is included as a valued link in an unbroken chain of respect, fairness, and gratitiude. The chain ends with you, completing the cycle of intention from plant to person.
Step 4: Enjoy The Cacao with Intention
As the chain ends with you, the final fulfillment of the ceremonial-grade intention is that the cacao is taken in as a vital force, a food to nourish your body, mind, and spirit. All the hands of the process intend for the cacao to be taken as an impactful food to increase your holistic wellness—whether nutritionally, spiritually, or socially. We only ask that you sip your cup with your own intention, whether gratitude for the food, itself, or with some other personal goal in mind. A moment for ceremonial cacao is a moment to connect to your world, to yourself, and to those around you. Enjoy!
How Is Ceremonial-Cacao Made?
Ceremonial-grade Cacao is produced in five steps:
These cacao trees are old—very old. Befitting the respect of any elder, great care is put into maintaining the health of the tree. Organic, biodynamic farming practices (practices that regenerate the soil instead of stripping it of nutrients) in a polyculture system (a system in which multiple different plant types grow amongst each other) ensure that the land and the plants, animals, and insects that depend on it stay healthy well into the future.
Once harvested, the cacao beans are transferred to fermentation boxes, where their recognizable “chocolatey” flavor develops. Ceremonial-grade beans are fermented carefully to develop their aromatic flavor while maintaining their nutrient density.
Once fermentation is complete, the cacao beans are layed out on shaded mats to air dry. They are turned often so that moisture can escape completely and no mold can develop.
When completely dry, ceremonial-grade beans are roasted at a low heat to maintain their subtle aroma and nutritional abundance. Care is taken to roast the beans just long enough to develop a complete flavor profile without reaching the high temperatures at which antioxidants break down.
Finally, the beans are winnowed to take the shells off, then ground with stone wheels or rollers to create an incorporated cacao paste.