What is Ceremonial Cacao?

Ceremonial Cacao refers to a premium grade, pure cacao that is ethically sourced from small family farms practicing regenerative agroforestry.

Ceremonial cacao is made from a single ingredient, whole cacao beans, with nothing added or removed. The cacao is minimally processed and crafted specifically for ceremony, as you, the person drinking the cacao, closes the circle of reciprocity with your relationship and desire for connection with cacao and its wisdom.

We’ve spent ten years refining our craft and working with innovative partners and farmers disrupting the commodity cacao supply chain, to create the best possible ceremonial cacao for you.

Here is what we’ve come to define as the gold standard for Ceremonial Cacao: regeneratively farmed, ethically sourced, 100% pure cacao, sipped intentionally with gratitude. Read on to learn more about each of these four pillars.

Regeneratively Farmed

Regenerative agroforestry goes far beyond organic certification. To make medicine, we must give back to the Earth more than we take.  Our farmers consider the entire tropical rainforest ecosystem, to protect it and enhance it. This means we’re improving soil health, increasing biodiversity, and stewarding watersheds. Cacao is the primary cash crop for our farmers, but they grow dozens of food staples for their families and communities. In many cases, the cacao farms serve as buffer areas for protecting untouched pristine and second growth rainforest areas.

Growing cacao in harmony with the ecosystem requires patience and it requires listening. Only by tuning in to the web of life that is the tropical rainforest and diligently observing the many relationships at play, can we identify how we can participate in ways that contribute rather than harm. We admire our farmers so much as they’ve implemented many beautiful practices that amplify the health and thriving of the rainforest. 

To learn more about regenerative cacao farming and some of the practices implemented on our farms, check out this article: Organic & Regenerative Cacao Principles. 

Also, you may have noticed that our definition of ceremonial cacao has very little to do with cacao tree genetics. Many companies will try to mislead you on this so we collaborated with a leading cacao geneticist to explain what truly matters in our article: Cacao Genetics Explained.

Ethically Sourced

To make medicine, we must treat all people we work with ethically and with kindness. Unforunately, ethical sourcing of cacao is a deeply nuanced topic, given the colonization, exploitation, and genocide of the peoples who worked with cacao ancestrally. The chocolate industry today is largely unchanged from how it has operated since the colonial era - it still exploits farmers, takes from the earth, and gives little incentive for quality, primarily just high volume of low quality cheap cacao. We’ll be honest with you that even as we’re paying the best prices for cacao in the countries that we source from, improving farmer livelihood is a long term commitment that goes far beyond cacao price and is a many decades long relationship with communities.

We only purchase from small-holder family farms, ranging from 0.5 acre to 5.0 acres in size. To date we’ve sourced cacao from over one thousand such farms. Key to cacao price and farmer livelihood is the quality of the post harvest fermentation and drying, so we work with regional fermentation centers that manage this step using best practices.

Producing premium quality cacao with regional fermentation centers (as opposed to farmers fermenting cacao themselves) allows us to pay farmers the best price possible while giving them more time with their farms and families. We’re also activating new avenues of giving back to our farmers, such as with our farmer climate resiliency fund.

Just as we give to the Earth with regenerative farming practices, we give to our farmers with ethical sourcing practices. Ceremonial cacao is proving to be one of the best models of reciprocity in chocolate, as we’re focused on building relationships, sharing stories, and paying farmers right livelihood. This helps our farmers make tangible improvements to their livelihoods and see their communities thrive amidst the pressures of globalization.

100% Pure Cacao

Ora Cacao was inspired by traditional open fire roasted, hand peeled, and stone-ground chocolate making culture shared with us by a Zapotec elder in Oaxaca Mexico.

Our founder came back to the US curious why even the fancy chocolate that was available in stores was missing the aliveness he experienced from the cacao he had in Mexico. With two degrees in engineering, he designed and built Ora Cacao’s factory to mirror and scale the ancient cacao-making practices that he experienced in Oaxaca. 

We delicately custom roast each batch of cacao beans, working with fire as an ally to activate the cacao without losing its medicinal properties (read more about why there’s no such thing as raw chocolate). With air, we sort and separate the in-edible cacao shell from the cacao nibs. Our fleet of grinders bring in powerful earth energy to refine the cacao to perfect smoothness. And in the water state, we use modern tempering practices to crystalize and deposit the cacao into easy to use cacao discs for your enjoyment.

Ceremonial cacao begins with a single ingredient - whole, raw cacao beans, ethically sourced from regenerative farms. Nothing is added or removed in our process (unless we’re adding superfoods for our enhanced cacaos), a big contrast to the mainstream chocolate industry that uses all kinds of sweeteners, waxes, emulsifiers, and fats. We also do in-depth testing for heavy metals.

Whole food cacao is our ethos because that is how nature designed cacao. We abhor cacao powder, which has the cacao butter removed from it rendering it medicinally inert. If you’re curious to learn more about cacao powder, check out this article: Cacao Powder Debunked. If you’d like to deep dive into the alchemical process of how cacao is made, check out this article: From Bean to Disc.

Sipped with Gratitude

Cacao has amazing benefits for mood and neurochemistry.  It offers gentle energy that helps many people replace or reduce coffee. These alone are compelling reasons to drink cacao. 

But taking a moment to slow down and drink cacao with embodied gratitude can open our apertures to a far greater experience than simply a delicious beverage with health, mood, and energy benefits.

This subtle inner shift in how we approach cacao is an important part of shifting out of the paradigm of consumerism, into right-relationship and reciprocity with the gifts of this Earth.

You are actually the last step in what makes ceremonial cacao ceremonial. Cacao is about relationships, and in your hands, it invites your participation. Cacao invites us to pause, to feel, to listen. It teaches us the art of giving gratitude, and guides us for how we can live with more presence and creativity. When we approach cacao as a wise teacher with respect and reverence, as a plant spirit that supports our hearts, minds, and bodies, truly, cacao can be life changing, if you let it. 

Cacao ceremony is not a traditional practice, it is a modern re-emergence. If you’re curious to learn more about cacao ceremony, read our primer here.

And if you want to visualize the entire process of making ceremonial cacao, take a look at our elemental spiral infographic, to visualize how the last step of being in ceremony with cacao completes the magic of making ceremonial cacao.

Unfortunately, as with any trending product, there’s a wide range of quality that you’ll find, with many companies offering poor quality 100% cacao and calling it ceremonial to make a quick buck. 90% of brands don't even spend significant time on the farms, and they contract out their manufacturing.

We believe in crafting the highest quality ceremonial cacao so it can truly be experienced as medicine. As you get to know us, you’ll see just how much we are focused on integrity throughout the entire cacao-making process to create the most decadent, delicious ceremonial cacao. Don’t take it from us though;  3,000 plus 5 star reviews speak for themselves.

You can check out our Get To Know Us Video to meet our founder, Jonas, and learn more about what Ora stands for. If you're curious to get started with ceremonial cacao, try our best selling cacao kits to experience our full offering!

Thanks for reading this far! We're grateful to be your ally in the world of cacao.

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  • Farmer Resiliency Fund