Be More Mindful with a Daily Cacao Ritual
Updated: Sep 23, 2020
I have to admit the fact that I have a daily cacao ritual makes me laugh at myself a bit. It sounds a little more “New Age” than I’d like to think of myself. And yet, I love this ritual and highly recommend it. If you aren’t sold on the idea of cacao or it sounds like a fancy way to say hot chocolate (I promise it’s more than that), you can also incorporate this ritual into your daily coffee or tea routine. I think part of what I love about it is the mindfulness and intentionality of the actual ritual. It’s more than making a morning or afternoon drink that I sip on as I go about my ‘to do’ list. It has become a way to signal to myself that it’s time to be mentally present in what I’m doing and to choose how my day will go.
But First, What is Cacao Anyway?
I first heard about cacao back when I switched to a plant-based diet several years ago. In learning about eating more (mainly/only) plants, I stumbled across the idea of superfoods, and cacao was listed as one of them. Basically, cacao is so nutrient-rich that it is continuously being studied for its health benefits.
Before diving into the nutrition and health benefits, I wanted to point out that cacao & cocoa (and ultimately chocolate) come from the same tree. Where things diverge is in the processing of the cacao bean. To keep things simple, cocoa products and chocolate are highly processed, including roasting at high heat and even adding preservatives or other chemical agents to reduce the acidity of the cacao bean. On the other hand, ‘cacao’ products go through minimal processing (although it still is processed), and the cacao bean is roasted at a lower heat for these products. Seemingly small differences on face value, but a big difference in the nutrition profile.
Fun fact: The cacao tree (Theobroma cacao) is an evergreen tree.
The Health Benefits of Cacao
In the interest of simplicity and not turning this into a science-heavy post, I like to group the health benefits of cacao into two main categories: antioxidants (polyphenols & flavanoids) and minerals.
Antioxidants - For years now, we’ve been hearing about the power of antioxidants, and cacao has more antioxidants than most foods. In layman’s terms, the antioxidants found in cacao (you’ll see them listed in scientific articles as polyphenols and flavanoids) are helpful in a myriad of ways, including reducing inflammation, improving mood, helping control blood sugars, and (potentially) even boosting the immune system.
Magnesium helps build teeth & bones and regulate blood pressure & blood sugar along with enabling muscles to contract and nerves to send messages.
Iron helps make hemoglobin and myoglobin and is essential for making important things like amino acids, neurotransmitters, and hormones.
Zinc helps blood clot, bolsters the immune system, and speeds up wound healing.
Selenium is needed for proper functioning of the immune system.
(Note: While the soil that the cacao tree is grown in can affect the overall level of different minerals in cacao, the most important factor is ensuring the cacao is not overly processed so as to truly be cocoa.)
So now that you have the low down on cacao, let’s get into the ‘fun’ part - my cacao ritual and recipe!
My Daily Cacao Ritual
I put together my cacao ritual after talking with Erin Eber for our podcast (Episode 25) and buying some ceremonial grade cacao. Since ceremonial grade cacao is not cheap, and you can’t buy just one serving of it, I wanted to make the most of the cacao I bought. What I didn’t realize is that I’d be creating a ritual that I crave.
My daily ritual does vary slightly depending on how much time I have in the morning, but the one thing that remains constant is that I prefer to do this ritual in the morning. During the week, my ritual involves me making the cacao and drinking most of it while settling into work for the day while my weekend cacao ritual is a little more ‘luxurious’ in that I refuse to have any screens in front of me.
My Weekday Ritual
Before I even start making the cacao, I take three deep breaths and try to focus my attention on the task of making the cacao. I strive to be as present as possible during this instead of thinking about all I must get done that day. I really see this part of the ritual as my time to be present. As I am stirring all of the ingredients together on the stove, I take this time to set my intention for the day -- what is the word or phrase that I want to define my day. Once the cacao is all made, I purposely take my first sip with my eyes closed, focusing on my intention for the day. And then I usually sit down at my computer and start working while I finish off my cacao. I wish I had time to finish the whole cup completely unplugged, but I still find that I’m more intentional with what I’m doing while drinking it than in the past.
My Weekend Ritual
I LOVE my ritual on the weekend because that means I get to fully enjoy the entire mug of cacao and focus on nothing but the cacao and my intention for the day. My weekend ritual pretty much flows the same as my weekday ritual up until the point of drinking it. For this, I have a special chair in my apartment that I sit in. I will take the first drink with my eyes closed and focus on the smell, taste, and heat from the cacao. As I drink the rest of the cup, I either read or practice some breathwork or journal. (PS - I have never been one to consistently journal until recently.) It’s just a really lovely way to center myself and enjoy the full experience.
My Cacao Recipe
I’ve only used two types of cacao to test this recipe out: Keith’s Ceremonial Grade Cacao and Navitas Cacao Powder. Both are manufactured differently and come from two different parts of the world. And I can tell you that both of these things make a huge difference! While I’ll continue to use cacao powder for my smoothies and other baking endeavors, I will only use ceremonial grade cacao for my ‘drinking’ cacao & cacao ritual. I’ve never tried another ceremonial grade cacao so I have no comparison there. However, I love Keith’s Cacao and won’t be switching from it unless I’m forced to.
2 Tbsp (1oz) Ceremonial Grade Cacao (I use Keith’s Cacao)
10oz Oatly Oat Milk (I’ve used other non-dairy milks, but this is the creamiest I’ve used)
1.5 Tbsp Maple Syrup (I use pure maple syrup that I buy at my local farmer’s market)
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 heaping tsp Ground Cinnamon
Bring the non-dairy milk to a low boil.
While the non-dairy milk is heating up, shave off/cut off the cacao from the cacao block. Depending on where you get your cacao, it may come in different forms. The cacao I use comes in a solid block that I need to shave off the cacao. Sometimes it shaves off nicely and other times it crumbles off in bigger bits that I chop up a bit finer so it melts quicker in the milk.
Turn the non-dairy milk down to a simmer and add the cacao, maple syrup, vanilla, and cinnamon.
Stir ingredients in pan for a few minutes.
Empty contents of pan in blender and blend for 2-3 minutes.
Pour in a mug and Enjoy!!
*Play around with this recipe to find your exact taste. If you don’t love cinnamon, use less or take it out all together. One thing I want to try in the future is adding a little cayenne pepper to it for a little fire. My only recommendation when adding in other spices is to do so slowly. Don’t just sub in at a 1:1 ratio -- if I did 1 heaping tsp of cayenne, YIKES! But have fun, try out different things until you find the right recipe for you.
If you listen to our episode with Erin Eber on cacao or do any online searches for cacao rituals, you will find out that cacao can have some pretty profound effects on people. And I have to admit that I was hoping for a bit more of a ‘life-changing’ experience the first time I tried cacao, but it has had a much more subtle effect on me. While I’m still wanting to do a cacao ceremony led by someone trained in this plant-medicine to see what that experience is like, I love the ritual I have created. It’s allowed me to enter my days feeling more centered and grounded and shown me the importance of being intentional with my time and what I do. I highly recommend everyone give this practice a try. Extra tip: You actually don’t need to use cacao to practice this ritual if you really don’t want to. Try it with your morning coffee or tea. Heck, you can do it with a glass of water if you want to. I won’t deny there is something special about the cacao, but the ritual can be special if you make it your own and enjoy what you are drinking.
Want to learn more or try it out yourself?
Check out our episode with Erin Eber: Episode 25: How to Open Your Heart with Cacao
Keith's Cacao - Use code 'Erin18US39 for 5% off!