Chopped ceremonial cacao paste, ready to be mixed with hot water and spices as a healing ritual drink or melted down to make your own medicinal chocolate.
Ceremonial cacao is a beautiful plant to incorporate into your daily life and practice. My husband and I have held a cacao ceremony for ourselves every morning for the past four years and it has changed our lives! Not only is ceremonial cacao healthy for you, but it also elicits a particularly potent heart-opening sensation that is ideal for embodiment, mindfulness, and spiritual work.
Being on this journey with ceremonial cacao for a few years now, I?ve noticed that most people who are just hearing about it tend to have similar questions when it comes to finding the right ceremonial cacao. What is the best ceremonial cacao out there? Which brands offer the most potent products? How do you differentiate between one brand and another? Where to source it online? I was once in this place too and for the past three years have been on a path of discovery. Because of that, I decided to take a delicious deep dive into some of the best cacao brands on the market to both answer these questions for myself and hopefully, help in guiding you to connect with the spirit of cacao in the way that?s most enjoyable for you.
*this article was updated August 2020 to reflect new ceremonial cacao available.
All the brands included in this article are ethically sourced and typically from small, local farms in Central America. You can learn more about what makes ceremonial cacao ?ceremonial? here.
The Taste Test
To standardize the differences between the ceremonial cacao offerings out there, I assessed each brand through the lens of three main criteria: flavor, texture, and the energetic experience. I also used a standard unflavored product from each brand and made sure each serving was prepared in the same way ? a ceremonial dose (35g) blended with a tiny amount of ground cinnamon, raw honey and 1 cup of hot water.
Here?s what I found:
Nana Marina?s Cacao
Flavor: I?ve tried two batches of Nana?s Cacao ? the first tasted like smooth, quintessential cacao; the second was smoky and roasted, and slightly more bitter with some coffee notes and a dark chocolate aftertaste.
Texture: Mixing my drink in the blender, I found it smooth and creamy, with an earthy and slightly grainy quality. It also felt minimally processed, in texture, flavor, and energetically.
Energy: I noticed an immediate grounding in my body, while also experiencing the energizing and expansive sensations familiar to ceremonial cacao.
Nana Marina Cruz is a Tz?utujil Mayan Guide. Her cacao is unique because it?s been grown, harvested, toasted, fermented, packaged and distributed 100% by GuateMayans. You can find Nana Marina?s Cacao through Sneha Sacred and other online distributors.
Nana Marina?s Ceremonial Cacao
Flavor: Firefly has several different cacao beans and blends to choose from, so I went with the traditional Glowing Guatemala. I found it had a slight tanginess, which to me tasted of the fermentation process all cacao beans undergo to create high-quality ceremonial cacao. Firefly?s website has a handy reference for the feel, taste and use of each blend, and for the Guatemalan they have compared it to the tastes of Fig, Tobacco and Leather. There are three primary taste receptors that commonly apply to cacao: bitter, astringent and sour (thanks for the insight, Sena!). Using this flavor profile, the Guatemala blend is slightly higher in astringency and sourness than some of their other origins.
Texture: Blending the buttons created a really nice, frothy cacao, with a smooth and silky mouthfeel. I recently listened to a podcast with the founder Jonas where he explained how Firefly used to make their cacao into a traditional block, but changed it up to create chocolate buttons (or discs) for ease of use and time efficiency. I think this also contributes to the smooth, luscious texture.
Energy: I found this a lovely, light energy and felt like I could easily have a big mug and not get upset tummy (I like to drink cacao in the morning on an empty stomach, but often a ceremonial dose can be very rich and sometimes make you a little nauseous, though this isn?t intrinsically a bad thing ? in ceremony it?s a part of the detoxification and cleansing process.) In any case, the Glowing Guatemala felt uplifting and refreshing.
Special offer for your first time purchase ? use code FORTHELOVEOFCHOCOLATE for 5% off.
Firefly Chocolate ?Glowing Guatemala? Ceremonial Cacao
Flavor: Rich and chocolatey. Smells like there?s a sweetness and bitterness to it. Feels completely different again to the first two.
Texture: Personally, this has the perfect texture ? rich and creamy, with a luscious feel. In my opinion, this is most alike to the idea that many people have of how high-quality, pure chocolate tastes, and for that reason I feel like it could be accessible to those people who may not typically be called to try cacao.
Energy: Sensual, made to be enjoyed, feels indulgent, brings me into my body.
Special offer for readers ? use code CACAOANGEL for 10% off.
Cacao Laboratory Ceremonial Cacao
The Cacao Club:
Flavor: Very pleasantly fragrant ? in addition to the warming spices of cinnamon and cayenne pepper, each disc has a different blend of medicinal herbs. You can add a natural sweetener if you like, but it is so pure, you don?t need to add anything but hot water for a delicious tonic.
Texture: Definitely the frothiest and looks very visually pleasing ? a bubbly, warm color. Super smooth and indulgent mouthfeel, like a silky, healthy hot chocolate.
Energy: Feels light of heart. Triggers the sensations of chocolate (this would take care of any afternoon chocolate cravings, no doubt!) An indulgence of earthly pleasure and delight.
Special offer for readers ? use code CACAOCOMMUNITY for 10% off.
The Cacao Club ?Traditional Cacao for Ceremony? Disc
Other notable Ceremonial Cacao companies:
We have been lucky enough to try out several other beautiful brands that offer amazing cacao for ceremony and daily drinking, so wanted to mention them here.
Soul Lift Cacao: A couple of years ago while we were visiting Lake Atitlan in Guatemala (considered the hub of ceremonial cacao) we were lucky to find handmade cacao by an incredible women?s cooperative called Ruk?u?x Ulew (pronounced ?Roo-koosh-oo-lay-oo?), which means Heart of the Earth. My friend calls this the ?Grandmother Cacao? ? needless to say, it?s very special. This cacao and other varieties is now available worldwide through supportive distributors like Soul Lift. If you want to learn more and support Indigenous Mayan women and families making this medicine, check out their website.
Vai Cacao: Sardinian-hearted with Salvadorean roots, Vai Cacao was conceptualized and brought to life by a couple who are passionate about artisanal chocolate. Sourcing directly from their family farm in El Salvador, they also support single origin farms growing unique varieties of cacao across Central America. The beans are then transformed into ceremonial cubes and other chocolate products in their lab in Sardinia, Italy, preserving the pure, complex flavors through artisanal techniques.
Certified organic and certified delicious! Great for European readers who want to save on shipping. Use our code COUPLESCACAO for 10% off.
Keep in mind?
Everyone is going to have a different energetic experience when working with ceremonial cacao. Every body is unique. It also depends on the state of your body and mind when you drink it (whether it?s on an empty stomach, or perhaps when you?re feeling particularly sensitive emotionally, etc).
Which one would you reach for first?
How to navigate your ceremonial cacao buying experience?
Now that you know the basic flavor, texture, energy and pricing of these ceremonial cacao options, the best thing to do is to begin trying them! If you find that you especially connect with one, keep working with it. If you don?t feel particularly touched by the first one you try, go for different one. Just like good coffee or wine, there are different notes to ceremonial cacao and it comes down to personal preference.
In my opinion, if you?re interested in the most ceremonial and ?traditional? cacao experience, try Nana Marina?s Cacao. If you?d prefer a more indulgent, handmade cacao for special occasions, try The Cacao Club. If you want the stable energy and open-hearted feeling pure cacao offers, try Cacao Lab or Firefly ? they?re great value for the premium quality you get and work wonderfully as a daily dose (that is, a drink made with 20g).
Above all, follow your intuition and try to taste as much ceremonial cacao as you can! There are a bunch of other wonderful options out there and there?s no way of knowing what?s right for you unless you try a range of brands and recipes. You?ll likely find that some cacao feels better for you to do your deeper spiritual work and others will feel more like a tool that you can call upon any time of day or occasion. It all depends on your own unique body, mind and energy states, as well as your individual tastes and preferences.
There?s a Mayan myth that says when humans stray far enough from nature, cacao brings the humans back to nature. So I say, more cacao in everyone?s lives is a very good thing!
PS. Some of the cacao recommendations in this article contain affiliate links, and 25% of all proceeds from those affiliates go towards giving back to the communities who have nurtured our healing relationship with cacao throughout generations (you can read more about that in Eduardo?s article How To Give Back If You Benefit From Ceremonial Cacao). I have tasted all the cacao that I recommend and continually update the products featured in this article.