FAQS

Basic Cacao Information

Ceremonial cacao refers to the quality and source of the beans, the process of making the cacao, and the intentions and ingredients that go into it.

From the beginning of the process, our intention is to create a delicious cacao beverage that provides a holistic, connective experience with the Spirit of the cacao tree and ourselves. To do so, every step of the chocolate making process from the farming to the shipping is done in full alignment with our mission of healing.

  • Our cacao is organic and of the highest quality, and we have strong beneficial relationships with all of our small family farmers.
  • Our entire process is designed to maintain the natural energetic and beneficial compounds of the cacao.
  • Our chocolate is a whole food from beginning to end - we neither add processing aids or remove key beneficial compounds such as cacao butter, which is the best natural carrier of all of cacao’s health benefits.
  • Our studio space is peaceful, and run on solar energy. We keep it energetically clear ensuring that the cacao is made in a good-energy environment.
  • We personally enjoy drinking chocolate often throughout the production process, as we taste the small batches and attune to the desires of the spirit of cacao.

We understand that not everyone is intimate with the chocolate making industry at large, so to provide some more context, here is a comparison of our ceremonial cacao to industrially produced chocolate.

Industrial produced chocolate:

  • is grown in mono-cropped industrial farms using genetically modified seeds, pesticides, and unfair labor practices
  • emphasizes quantity over quality
  • is mass manufactured in factories
  • contains additives such as refined sugars and preservatives
  • is heated using dutch processing techniques which heat out the beneficial healthy compounds
  • is made by corporations that prioritize profit over positive impact on the land, people & resources utilized
  • is consumed as candy

Firefly Ceremonial Cacao:

  • Is respected as a tree Spirit 
  • Comes from native seeds from local heirloom nurseries
  • Is organically grown in agroforestry projects, primarily on family farms averaging 2 acres in size
  • Is grown in a cooperative model, paying an average of 40-220% above the commodity price which provides better livelihood for the farmers and communities
  • Beans are purchased directly and handcrafted into chocolate at our small studio in northern California
  • Is blessed throughout the entire making process with love and intention for healing
  • Is lightly roasted, maintaining the healthy beneficial compounds of the cacao beans. This allows one to access expanded states of consciousness and increased vitality levels by connecting with the beneficial compounds of high quality cacao
  • Is in the form of cacao discs, which allow for easy measuring, and easy blending into heated water to make smooth drinking chocolate 
  • Is consumed intentionally with ritual, often to connect more deeply with yourself and others.

All you need to start is:

  • some quality ceremonial grade cacao
  • a way to heat water
  • a blender, whisk or fork
  • a mug

We recommend trying our ceremonial cacao starter kit, which will give you a variety of cacaos to try.

Heat your water to 180F or less (you can boil it and let it cool down) and measure out 5-15 discs of your cacao. Place the cacao into your blender, or mug, and pour in your heated water. Add in any additional ingredients that you'd like, and gently blend or whisk, so that the cacao discs fully melt into the water. 

Blending will provide a smoother consistency. We also recommend a handheld milk frother for making single cups of cacao, or making cacao while traveling.

It's extra lovely to use a special mug, listen to inspirational or healing music, and set an intention before you take your first sip. As you drink, notice how the cacao feels in your body, heart and soul.

Ceremonial cacao affects each person differently, so we encourage you to find the best serving size for your body :) 

As a general rule, .08 oz, or about 8 discs, is 1 serving. So in our 16oz pouches, you have about 20 servings.

Depending on the experience you are looking for, you can increase or decrease that amount,

For a morning ritual, I may work with 5-12 discs.

For a deeper personal ceremony, I may bump it up to 15-18 discs.

For a group cacao ceremony, we recommend about 1oz/person.

Remember, you won't build a 'tolerance' to cacao, and more doesn't equal better. We've had profound experiences from just one disc! 

Cacao nibs are made from whole cacao beans after they have been fermented, dried and lightly roasted. The beans are then cracked, shelled and broken into smaller pieces, making nibs!

Nibs are great additions to your smoothies, oatmeal, and chocolate desserts.

Yes. We only work with certified organic cacao farmers, and all of our ingredients in our cacao blends are also organic.

We've found that this is a tangible way to impact the earth and communities where our cacao is grown, by partnering with farmers who are invested in meeting the Organic certification standards.

Cacao paste is made from the whole cacao bean. Compared to cacao powder, which has been defatted, cacao paste is typically 50% cacao butter.

Ceremonial cacao is made with cacao paste, because cacao butter is the best carrier for the beneficial compounds in cacao. This means that our bodies are able to absorb more of the nutrients.

Cacao paste is made from high quality cacao beans that have been fermented, dried, lightly roasted, cracked and winnow, ground, conched, and tempered.

Ceremonial cacao and drinking chocolate are made with water and cacao paste, versus a typical hot cocoa that is made with cocoa powder, sugar, and milk.

Cacao paste is a whole food, made from a single ingredient, cacao beans, that have been roasted, shelled, and ground down. Cacao powder has been defatted - it is processed a few steps further, to remove the cacao butter from the cacao paste. While cacao powder is often marketed as a superfood, we've found cacao paste to be far more potent as it still contains the high grade cacao butter, which is the best carrier fat for the medicinal properties of cacao.

Cacao powder is more popular, because it is easier to stir into drinks, won’t melt during storage and is cheaper, yet it isn't as good for you. It is usually prepared with dairy, because it doesn’t taste good with water. Cacao paste is actually good for you, it can be made without milk or sugar and still taste delicious. The difference is clear - try making a cacao drink with just cacao powder and water (it doesn't taste very good) - and then try making a cacao drink just cacao paste and water, and you'll see how much more nutritive and nourishing the latter is.

European sipping chocolate is the same idea as drinking chocolate – much thicker and frothier than American hot chocolate. Ceremonial cacao is typically unsweetened while drinking chocolate may include sugar, and is made specifically with the intention for health and healing.

It's as easy as this:

  • heat your water to 180F or less (you can boil it and let it cool a bit, too)
  • measure out 5-15 discs per serving
  • mix the discs into the heated water, either by blending or mixing with a whisk or fork
  • enjoy with love!

In our mission to spread the cacao love far and wide, we have developed a custom process to form the cacao paste into discs. This allows for easy measurement, and also makes for smoother melting.

Our ceremonial cacao will last 1-2 years when stored in the proper conditions. If you live in a temperate place without high heat or humidity, leaving it at room temperature is best.

If you are in a hot place, we recommend storing it in the coolest place in your house during hot weather. A dark cupboard is a great option.

Sometimes storing the cacao in the fridge can result in condensation inside the bags which can ruin the shelf life. If you must keep the cacao in the fridge we recommend transferring the cacao to a glass jar, first.

Keep the cacao out of the direct sun to avoid melting.

 

Cacao paste is a whole food, made from a single ingredient, cacao beans, that have been roasted, shelled, and ground down. Cacao powder has been defatted - it is processed a few steps further, to remove the cacao butter from the cacao paste. While cacao powder is often marketed as a superfood, we've found cacao paste to be far more potent as it still contains the high grade cacao butter, which is the best carrier fat for the medicinal properties of cacao.

Cacao powder is more popular, because it is easier to stir into drinks, won’t melt during storage and is cheaper, yet it isn't as good for you. It is usually prepared with dairy, because it doesn’t taste good with water. Cacao paste is actually good for you, it can be made without milk or sugar and still taste delicious. The difference is clear - try making a cacao drink with just cacao powder and water (it doesn't taste very good) - and then try making a cacao drink just cacao paste and water, and you'll see how much more nutritive and nourishing the latter is.

In a nutshell, we’re redefining chocolate, with the goal of building healthy relationships between people, plants, and the earth. We source from sustainable, small family farms, that Jonas has personal relationships with, and he handles the making process from the cacao beans all the way to cacao discs in our chocolate studio in Northern California. He's found that removing middlemen from the process is the best way to maintain the pure energy & intention for our products.

What Makes Firefly Unique:

  • We are one of the few bean to ceremonial cacao makers. Most suppliers source the cacao paste in block form from the farm, or other makers, meaning they don’t have control over the entire making process. As far as we know we are the only organic certified ceremonial cacao producer.
  • We run on 100% solar energy
  • We have a custom designed process to make the ceremonial cacao discs, which enable easy snacking, easy measurement, a smoother blend into hot water, and no chopping! Most ceremonial cacaos come in blocks of paste, that have inconsistent quality & require lots of time to chop and prepare.
  • We work with certified organic farms
  • We have an ever growing variety of products, including different ceremonial cacao blends, and 3-4 different origins available at a given time. This allows our customers to get to know cacao on deeper levels, as each origin has a unique energy and taste.
  • We offer high quality online courses to build an ecosystem of cacao stewards around the world who are knowledgeable about cacao and educated in holding safe space for people in cacao ceremony. 

Cacao & Holistic Health

While most chocolate bars are highly processed and loaded with cane sugar, our pure cacao is a different story. You can feel great about having it every day!

With 300-1200 individual constituents, cacao is one of the most pharmacologically complex plant substances known to man. When consumed unsweetened or with very little sugar, it is a superfood, packed with beneficial minerals and neuro-modulators that beneficially affect our state of mind. The mild bitterness of a ceremonial cacao drink can also serve to cleanse the liver or release emotions, and the alkaloid content of pure cacao boosts circulation and absorption of nutrients. 

Cacao could be classified as a drug rather than a food, it has over 300 (and possibly over 1000) individual constituents that act in amazing synergy to benefit the human body. Key benefits include:

  • Many vital minerals, especially for heart healthConsuming cacao can replenish minerals vital to our body. Magnesium is chronically deficient in the majority of western diets, and cacao is the highest naturally occurring source. Magnesium is used in all key brain functions, especially memory and concentration. It is also beneficial for the function of the heart, acting to relax blood vessel and decrease strain. Besides magnesium, cacao is also the highest naturally occurring source of chromium, and also high in copper, calcium, manganese, zinc, sulfur, iron, and phosphorous. Our cacao has been lab tested for safety and meets comprehensive EU standards for absence of heavy metals.
  •  Theobromine is only about one quarter as stimulating as caffeine, and it has a much longer half life in the liver, meaning that it's effect on the body is softer and longer. Theobromine is a cardiac stimulant, as opposed to caffeine which is a nervous system stimulant.

  • Multiple mood elevating compounds. Regularly working with unsweetened chocolate can have therapeutic health benefits, including creating new neural pathways that change our daily experience to include more joy, love, and connection. Cacao contains beneficial neurotransmitters and neuromodulators already present in our brain, most notably including: 
    • Norepinephrine - the joy molecule
    • Serotonin - help with wellbeing, and creates resistance to stress. Cacao also has MOA inhibitors, that inhibit re-uptake of serotonin.
    • Dopamine - feelings of motivation and pleasure. Cacao also has MOA inhibitors, that inhibit re-uptake of dopamine.
    • Anandamine - the bliss molecule, it moderates pain, and is associated with the "runners high" effect. Cacao also has N-linoleoylethanolamine, the re-uptake inhibitor for anandamine.
    • Phenylethylamine (PEA) - helps with excitement, alertness, attention. Gives the perception of time slowing down. 
  • Increased energy & vitalityCaffeine is often confused with the primary stimulant molecule in cacao, theobromine. There actually isn't much caffeine in our cacaos at all .... the misconception arises from the fact that the cane sugar used to sweeten most chocolate bars gives a caffeine like energy rush. But since we make pure cacao without sugar you are probably wondering now:

    What is Theobromine, and How is it Different than Caffeine?

    Theobromine is an alkaloid in the methylxanthine class of compounds, which also contain caffeine, mateine, and more. Theobromine simultaneously stimulates the heart and relaxes blood vessels, together producing an effect of 30-40% higher blood circulation. This improves absorption of other important nutrients in cacao or other superfoods that it is paired with.

  • High source of antioxidants.

Yes, all our cacao is third party tested for mold before we purchase it, that is part of our purchasing standards. So no, you do not need to be concerned about mycotoxins in our cacao. 

Our cacao has been lab tested for safety and meets comprehensive EU standards for absence of heavy metals.

We get the cleanest cacao in the industry, from reliable and reputable partners who take utmost care in the fermentation and drying process to produce ultra premium cacao. Jonas, the founder, visits our suppliers to verify the post harvest processing himself.

These are the nutrition facts for our organic 100% ceremonial cacaos from Belize, Tanzania & Guatemala, and our super cacao blends of Tantric Rose Blossom & Medicinal Mushroom.

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We have two additional cacao blends that contain 15% coconut sugar, our Mighty Maca & 85% Tanzania.

Indigenous cacao traditions all over central and south America toast their cacao at low temperatures using a clay comal and the coals from an open fire. 

We believe there is wisdom in these indigenous preparations of cacao, so we too lightly toast our cacao, so it is not raw.

Also, because cacao goes through a fermentation process which naturally heats it to over 110 degrees, even cacao that hasn't been toasted doesn't technically qualify as raw. 

The "raw cacao" marketing craze emerged out of the "raw foods" movement, which correctly encouraged people to eat more raw foods, defined as foods that are never heated above 116F. "Raw" became synonymous with high vitality, healthy food, so naturally, "raw cacao" was born. However, as chocolate makers, we know this term is misleading for cacao, due to the benefits of the fermentation and toasting processes described above.

Raw cacao is certainly an improvement over industrial cacao roasting which uses very high temperatures to create uniform results out of inferior cacao inputs, but those high temperatures also effectively kill the health and spiritual potency of the cacao. But leaving out fire altogether isn't quite right either ... it's missing the magic and the flavor that the fire element introduces.

We believe strongly that making good ceremonial cacao involves taking the cacao through a four element transformation as we work with it, including fire, air, earth, and water. It's all about being in harmony with the fire, so we roast our cacao at low temperatures and for short durations (in the range of 240-300F, anywhere from 10-30 minutes).

Despite the pressure to market our chocolate as "raw", we've never done so, and instead share what we wrote above with everyone we meet because we believe a transparent marketplace is a healthy one. If this explanation leaves you with any questions please contact us!

Watch this video to get a sneak peek inside our Chocolate Studio!

Absolutely YES. Many experts recommend extra dark chocolate for the ketogenic diet. Our cacao has a 1.1 : 1 fats to protein+carbs ratio, so it won't knock you out of ketosis. And you'll receive all the many benefits of cacao, from a gentle energy boost to the high mineral content to the compounds that beneficially affect your state of mind. 

First and foremost we recommend listening to your body. There are periods where we drink cacao every day, and times where we take a break, especially when our body needs to rest when we are sick. Sometimes we'll have a whole cup of cacao at once, and other times we'll treat ourselves to chocolate discs once an hour, spreading it out all day. So every day is different.

In the course of a day, generally a larger dose is considered something in the range of 1oz -1.5 oz, and a smaller dose could be only a few discs (0.25oz or less). Our typical serving for a public cacao ceremony is 1.0oz, and then we'll pour more for those who want more. Most definitely we reserve larger doses for when we can really spend time with the cacao, for example when we are in ceremony. 

As far as having too much, it's important to keep in mind that more of a good thing is not necessarily better. If you have a larger dose than optimal you may notice feeling overstimulated, or alternatively, tired. On a long term basis, this could cause adrenal fatigue. The more you continue to drink cacao the more you will understand how your body responds, as we're all unique. You might be fine with 1.5oz or even 2.00oz of cacao daily, or you might prefer just 0.25oz. Your body will guide you.

When you are first starting out, we like to think of it as creating a relationship with a new friend.. a tree friend :) To best learn from cacao, we recommend staying well hydrated, avoiding other stimulants such as coffee, and other mind altering substances such as alcohol or tobacco. That way you can clearly discern the effects of cacao.

It can be helpful to set aside every morning to build your practice of making cacao, and noticing how it feels in your body. This may become a regular part of your morning ritual! 

Our founder Jonas began his relationship with cacao by micro-dosing with a small amount (such as 0.25oz) on a daily basis for over a year. He noted his state before he had cacao, and then how his experience was several hours later, to develop an understanding of how cacao impacted his physical / emotional / spiritual state in a wide range of situations.

Needless to say he developed a strong relationship with cacao, and then he began experimenting with larger doses. It takes time to build true intimacy, but the path is delicious every single day and full of beautiful surprises!

Caffeine is often confused with the primarily stimulant molecule in cacao, theobromine. There actually isn't much caffeine in our cacaos at all .... the misconception arises from the fact that the cane sugar used to sweeten most chocolate bars gives a caffeine like energy rush. But since we make pure cacao without sugar you are probably wondering now:

What is Theobromine, and How is it Different than Caffeine?

Theobromine is an alkaloid in the methylxanthine class of compounds, which also contain caffeine, mateine, and more. Theobromine simultaneously stimulates the heart and relaxes blood vessels, together producing an effect of 30-40% higher blood circulation. This improves absorption of other important nutrients in cacao or other superfoods that it is paired with.

Consuming cacao can replenish minerals vital to our body. Magnesium is chronically deficient in the majority of western diets, and cacao is the highest naturally occurring source. Magnesium is used in all key brain functions, especially memory and concentration. It is also beneficial for the function of the heart, acting to relax blood vessel and decrease strain. Besides magnesium, cacao is also the highest naturally occurring source of chromium, and also high in copper, calcium, manganese, zinc, sulfur, iron, and phosphorous. Our cacao has been lab tested for safety and meets comprehensive EU standards for absence of heavy metals.

Theobromine is only about one quarter as stimulating as caffeine, and it has a much longer half life in the liver, meaning that it's effect on the body is softer and longer. Theobromine is a cardiac stimulant, as opposed to caffeine which is a nervous system stimulant.

We definitely DO NOT recommend cacao if you are taking any sort of mood altering medications, such as anti-depressants with SSRIs. 

You can see more on this topic under the Ceremonial Cacao & SSRIs FAQ.

Other health contraindications we have heard of over time:

  • It may cause an aggravation of acid reflux or ulcers.
  • It may cause breaking out when an individual has herpes.

If pregnant, we recommend not starting with cacao if you don't already have a practice with it. If you do have a cacao practice, we recommend 1/4-1/2 of what you normally intake.

While breast feeding, cacao is safe. Just keep an eye out on the baby, and see if the baby likes it or not.

Cacao is a natural antidepressant, and is contraindicated with SSRI based antidepressants, which are ‘selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors’ making our cells more able to receive serotonin. Cacao has the same effect, and when people are already on SSRI antidepressants, drinking a ceremonial dose of cacao can overload the receptors with serotonin.

It's important to note that not all antidepressants have SSRIs, so it’s an important distinction to make.

Too much serotonin in the system can cause headaches - if this occurs, drink lots of water and rest.

If you are sharing cacao with groups, it's important to share the possible contraindications before serving cacao. Note that with ceremonial cacao, more is not always a “better” or “deeper” experience. The cacao can be very potent even with a little sip. Being in the room in the presence of the cacao energy can be powerful without taking a full dose yourself.

Recipes & Tips For Making Your Cacao

It's easy!

The foundational recipe

  • Heat your water to 170 degrees. Like green tea, using boiling water with our cacao could heat out all the powerful nutrients. We like using electric kettles with temperature control or you can boil the water and let it cool down for a few minutes.
  •  Select your dosage with intention. Cacao can be stimulating, so this dosage chart will help you decide how much cacao to work with. We also recommend taking notes on how your body responds to different amounts, as every body is different.

  • Make it creamy! Place the cacao in a blender, pour in 4-5 oz of heated water per serving and gently blend to create a nice frothy drink. We also love these hand-held milk frothers, which are less clean-up.

*Bonus tip! The cacao tastes better when you pause and set an intention for your day before taking your first sip.

Preparing cacao is as much of a ritual as the drinking part, and getting the perfect texture is an easy to achieve art!

Here are some of our favorite tools:

  • Hand held milk frothers to make individual cups of cacao. Simply put your measured dosage of cacao into your cup, pour in the heated liquid, and blend with the milk frother. These are great for traveling!
  • Blenders! You don't need much blender power to melt the cacao into a smooth texture. About 15-30 seconds will do. Using a blender will ensure you don't have any cacao sitting at the bottom of your cup and give you a nice froth, too.
  • Traditional methods of mixing cacao in Latin America include molinillos, which you can also find under the name, batador, in the Philippines. 
  • A kettle with a temperature gauge can help ensure you're not over-heating the water, which can boil out the healthy constituents in cacao. You want to aim for 170F, or below boiling. (And, if you're offering cacao ceremonies on the go, all you need is an electric kettle, blender, cacao, and cups to create a ceremony anywhere!)

While cacao was traditionally enjoyed without sweetener, the strong taste may be surprising for some. We recommend using 1tsp or less of the following sweeteners, per cup.

  • Local honey made by happy bees
  • Maple syrup
  • Coconut sugar 
  • Lucuma
  • Birch sugar

The key thing with adding sweetener is that you want to maintain an 85% or higher ratio of cacao content to get the maximum health benefits. So for 0.85oz of cacao, add no more than 0.15oz of sweetener. The reason is that our gut flora contains competing bacterial families, and if we add too much sweetener to our cacao, the beneficial bacteria that help our bodies absorb the cacao are out-competed by the voracious sugar eating bacteria.

  • Put it in a sealed container in the fridge and reheat the following morning for cacao round 2! (it's best to consume within 12-24 hours)
  • Make Cacao Mousse (see recipe)
  • Make Cacao Ice Cubes (see recipe)
  • Gift it to friends and loved ones
  • Return it to the Earth with gratitude
Start with the foundational recipe (see "How Do I Prepare Drinking Chocolate?") and then make the following tweaks and additions:
  • Belizean Cacao
  • Heated water, or nut-milk like hemp, almond or cashew to make it creamy
  • 1⁄2 tsp of local bee pollen
  • Pinch of cinnamon

Bee pollen is a complete protein, rich in vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids and antioxidants. It is rich in B vitamins which are essential for a healthy nervous system and powerful detoxifiers, especially to the brain. 

We have found that pairing cacao with the pollen of local bees is a potent way to connect with land you are on, and give thanks to the bee family that does so much for us and our food systems.

Start with the foundational recipe (see "How Do I Prepare Drinking Chocolate?") and then make the following tweaks and additions:

*Damiana Tea recipe:

  • Measure 1 heaping teaspoon of dried damiana leaves, and place them into a clean coffee mug or other heat proof drinking container.
  • Boil one cup of water in small saucepan or tea kettle on the stove top.
  • Allow the damiana tea to steep for 15-20 minutes.

Maca is a Peruvian radish with superfood properties, and has used by indigenous Andean peoples for thousand of years for increased stamina and balancing of hormones.

Damiana is best known for it's aphrodisiac qualities, and also supports hormone balancing. Both Damiana & Cacao are diuretics and are high in antioxidants, which is why we recommend a lighter tea in this recipe.

Cinnamon is warming, and supports digestion.

This recipe supports a warming, powerful experience of embodiment.

Start with the foundational recipe (see "How Do I Prepare Drinking Chocolate?") and then make the following tweaks and additions:

Maca is a Peruvian radish with superfood properties, and has used by indigenous Andean peoples for thousand of years for increased stamina and balancing of hormones.

Mucuna is known as the dopamine bean, and gives another layer of mood boosting to the already elevating properties in cacao.

Take half of the foundational recipe (see "How Do I Prepare Drinking Chocolate?") and then half of your favorite coffee for a bulletproof style mocha. Get ready for blast-off!

Start with the foundational recipe (see "How Do I Prepare Drinking Chocolate?") and then make the following tweaks and additions:

  • 10 discs Glowing Guatemala
  • 5 ounces of heated nut milk
  • a pinch of turmeric
  • locally sourced bee pollen
  • locally sourced honey to taste

Glowing Guatemalan cacao feels mothering, loving and wise, and is useful for insight and inner work. Nut milk gives it a thicker creamy texture, and turmeric fights inflammation, making your skin glow! Bee pollen is a complete protein that boosts vitality. This recipe will have you glowing inside and out!

Have you ever found yourself with leftover cacao?

Pour your cacao into muffin tins, and stir in any sweetener or spices (perhaps a little cinnamon or sprinkle of cayenne). The important thing is to finalize the recipe before letting the cacao set up.

Leave it in your refrigerator overnight. You will have a creamy mousse by morning, ready to eat!

IMPORTANT: This also will last three days longer than keeping the cacao in liquid form!

Yum!

When you have leftover cacao, pour it into ice cube trays and put it in the freezer. You can put 2-3 cacao ice cubes in your smoothie the next day to add healthy cacao to your breakfast.

Sourcing & Impact

This first ceremonial cacao from Africa is grown amidst the laughter and close relationships of thriving village life. Amidst extensive rice and banana crops, seven hundred certified organic farmers within the biodiverse Kilombero Valley grow cacao for Kokoa Kamili, who takes utmost care to ferment and dry the cacao to exacting standards that offer the best quality on the continent. 

This ceremonial cacao comes from 700 small (0.5-2 acre) organic family farms in the Kilombero Valley, which borders Udzungwa Mountains National Park, a spot known for its biodiversity. Our partners here are Kokoa Kamili (Quality Cacao in Swahili), and their model is inspired by our partners in Belize. In its first three years, Kokoa Kamili farmers have received the highest prices for cacao in Tanzania. The cacao from this region is exceptional as a pure dark chocolate as it has a higher cacao butter content than average, resulting in a silky smoothness.

Learn more at http://www.kokoakamili.com

We recently visited Tanzania in September 2018 to participate in the harvest and post processing of cacao!

This cacao is grown in a remote village of 125 families that make 90% of their income from cacao. They are disconnected from the rest of the world except for a footbridge crossing the raging Cahabón river, across which they carefully carry the 100lb sacks of cacao one by one. 

The villagers were granted sovereign ownership of the land they farm on in 1985 after the prior owner fled during the Guatemalan revolution. Since then, the community has sold its cacao to the regional market, but with highly volatile prices. In 2016 with the help of an outside donation, they built their own fermentery to raise quality and they also received organic certification.

You can learn more about this origin here: https://www.uncommoncacao.com/asochivite/

We visited this origin in March 2019.

This ceremonial cacao comes from 300 small (1-5 acre) organic family farms in the foothills of southern Belize. 75% of our farming families are indigenous Q’eqchi’ and Mopan Maya, and they grow their pure raw cacao with deep respect and understanding of the local ecology. 

We've invested $10k in a permaculture demonstration farm here to pioneer innovative agroforestry techniques, advance cacao cultivation in the region, and propagate heirloom seedlings. This cacao has an heirloom designation by the Heirloom Cacao Project , and is produced by Maya Mountain Cacao. 

Learn more about this origin here: https://www.uncommoncacao.com/maya-mountain-cacao/

This is the first cacao we used for ceremonial purposes. Our founder Jonas first visited in April 2015, and returned in January 2017 & 2019. His visits to Belize always include a home stay in the village of San Pedro Columbia, where he lives with a family that grows cacao and drink cacao multiple times a day!

The BIG STORY of this cacao is that the 85 farmers we source from within the EcoCacao Cooperative are being paid a regenerative premium for adopting practices that go beyond organic and enhance soil quality, biodiversity, and watershed function. One of the problems with typical cacao pricing is that farmers are paid per kilogram of cacao beans, so even if a farmer goes above and beyond to tend to the ecosystem, they see no monetary benefit. The regenerative premium is a way to address that, and rewards farmers for the "ecosystem services" they provide through cacao cultivation. This model is the first of its kind in the cacao world, and with a similar premium to what organic fetches, could provide significant incentive for farmers to factor ecosystem services into their farming practices.

Why is this needed? While organic is an important baseline, there is still a lot of organic cacao that is grown in sun drenched monocultures, that effectively mines the soil of its fertility, and erodes watersheds over time. That's certainly not what we desire to accomplish with ceremonial cacao, and part of our sourcing trips have been to validate that all of the farmer networks we source from go far beyond organic and actually create long term thriving of the ecosystems. Now having a framework through which farmers receive a premium for their work tending to biodiversity, soils, and water, is a huge leap forward, and we hope the model will spread far beyond Ecuador.

We're so happy to be able to support regenerative agriculture specifically in this region of Ecuador, the Esmeraldas province. Much of the cacao is grown at sea level, and is one of the last intact rainforest corridors connecting ocean to inland rainforest preserves. Satellite mapping of the region over the last decade has shown that regenerative farming is effectively buffering deforestation in the region, and maintaining a wildlife corridor for species such as monkeys to move safely to the ocean and back.

We are looking forward to offering a reliable supply of this cacao from now on. Ecuador is a more mature cacao market than most that we've sourced from, so innovating within it has many more stakeholders involved and poses unique challenges. We're looking forward to all that we will learn from working with this cacao in the years to come, and that we get to offer this incredible cacao to you!

To be colonized means to be disconnected and disintegrated from ancestry and land based knowledge. 

Colonization is supported by supremacy and capitalism. Three layers of supremacy are commonly found today:

  • White supremacy. This legitimizes slavery and provide cheap labor for capitalism. It also legitimizes genocide and support resource grabbing for capitalism.
  • Human supremacy. This legitimizes ecocide (ecological destruction) and the exploitation of resources.
  • Male supremacy and patriarchy. This legitimizes femicide, domestic violence, and child abuse. This creates "invisible labor" that is not compensated for in capitalism.

The results of colonization include trauma, chronic stress, environmental degradation, fractured food systems, countless diseases, and many other symptoms. 

Cacao was colonized with the "colonial conquest" of the Americas in the 1500s, when the three above mentioned systems of supremacy were imposed upon the indigenous inhabitants of the Americas and over 99% of the population was eradicated by disease and violence in a massive cultural genocide. So much wisdom, culture, and spiritual practice was lost. 

Rainforest ecosystems became managed as a "resource" rather than a "living system", and cacao became one of many rainforest products extracted for the benefit of the colonizers. Widespread deforestation, species extinction, and loss of native strains continues to this day.

All consideration of cacao as a sacred plant was lost on the colonizers. Instead, white supremacy justified slave labor, poverty level wages paid to farmers, all to get more cacao, cheaper. Political interference by Western & European interests has caused major suffering and corruption in Central & South American political systems. Major social movements have been undermined by foreign interests, inhibiting the thriving of the indigenous populations. To this day cacao is still grown in the context of an extractive capitalist system in countries where political and economic realities are determined by the descendants of the original colonizers, and the ancestry and land based knowledge of cacao is largely disregarded.

For full details on the colonization of central and south America, we recommend reading: The Open Veins of Latin America.

The first step to de-colonizing cacao is acknowledging and grieving the colonization of cacao and the systematic oppression and exploitation of cacao communities and indigenous culture. Not to do so, especially when in a position of privilege, is acting in complicity with the systems of domination.

The second step to de-colonizing cacao is going through an extensive healing and reconciliation process to restore the respect that was lost when the colonizing mechanisms of supremacy and capitalism were imposed. An initial step in this direction could be to pay cacao prices far higher than the industry average, as the capitalist way of indicating respect. An even further step is to purchase only from small cacao farmers to de-aggregate wealth, and to support regional economies were farmers sell wet cacao to high quality fermenteries that add additional value before export.

However, to truly decolonize cacao requires also showing respect in non-capitalist ways, including:

  • Honoring and treating cacao as a sacred plant, as it was done in pre-colonial times. This is a practice that can be done on the individual level (by practicing relationship through ceremonial cacao rather than consumerism through chocolate bars) as well as at the level of corporations, non profits, and governments.
  • Ending all unsustainable deforestation and mineral exploitation. These extractive practices degrade the tropical ecosystem that serves as the genetic reservoir for cacao and home for indigenous communities that have tremendous knowledge of the rainforest which cacao calls home.
  • Respecting indigenous self determination and ancestral indigenous claims to territory. The true wisdom for rainforest stewardship and historical knowledge about cacao lies with the very people who ancestrally lived where cacao grows, and their way of life and cosmo-visions are critically threatened.

In a broader context, de-colonizing cacao can not be done in isolation of de-colonizing many of the other systems we live within. In essence, we will be working in solidarity with many movements that are restoring sacred relationship with the earth as a living being, and stepping into the regeneration and thriving of all life on Planet Earth with human stewardship.

 

Announcing our Cacao Coin Rewards Program got us thinking deeply (again) about the relationship between cacao as a medicine, and monetary exchange. If you want to dive in, we recommend reading the How Do We Decolonize Cacao FAQ that touches the essence of our perspective at Firefly on this topic.

Fundamentally, our monetary system is simply one form of respect that we can give for a sacred medicine such as cacao (for example, paying our cacao farmers good prices). But the true work of decolonization includes respect on many additional levels, including seeking active relationship to cacao through ceremony, seeking to end destructive deforestation and mineral exploitation, and supporting indigenous sovereignty and protection of their cosmo-visions. 

This decolonization work is at the heart of our mission at Firefly and we're emerging as thought leaders in the chocolate world on this topic. So as we share the cacao coins rewards program with you, know that it is but a little part of the bigger picture of leaning more into sacred exchange with our community. The intention is not to devalue cacao, but to give thanks to you for the many non-monetary ways you support us, from sharing our cacao with your circles of friends, and simply blessing us from afar.

 

We're glad you're curious about this! We recently shared a newsletter going into detail about our search for compostable packaging and our efforts for regenerative cacao.  Take a look on our Cacao Journal to check it out.

 

Cacao Ritual & Ceremony

Often relationships are based on a genuine desire to get to know each other, and working with cacao is no exception. The best way to get to know cacao is to begin sitting with it on a daily basis, and approaching it with inquiry.

When you sip cacao, you can ask cacao any number of questions. Some good ones to get started with are:

  • Hi! I'm curious about you. Can you teach me about you?
  • What do I need to know to share you in ceremony?

You may or may not receive a reply immediately. Plants have a different notion of time than humans do, so sometimes the insight comes days later. Just pay attention, and be patient.

You can also approach the cacao with personal work you are doing, which is a way that cacao loves to work with us. For example:

  • So I'm really struggling with this ... , and I need help with it. Can you help?
  • I'm working on this ...., and I need new insight or clarity. How can I see this situation differently?

Specificity always improves outcomes. The more detail you go into with any personal work, the clearer the outcome will be.

Or, you can work with cacao to invite new beginnings, expansion, or mystery into your day. One of my favorite things to ask cacao for is more magic in my life. Regardless of what I request, I usually feel lighter after bringing my request to cacao, knowing that I'm not in it alone anymore, I have a bad-ass plant spirit looking out for me too.

 

Archaeological evidence of cacao's use dates back to 3,900 years ago in Central America, and recent genetic evidence dates cacao's use to 5,300 years ago in the Amazon. Despite this long history of human use of cacao, we know very little about ancient cacao rituals both because of the massive genocide of the indigenous population of the Americas beginning in the 1500s, and because of how quickly ancient artifacts deteriorate in wet tropical conditions. 

We do know that for the Olmec, Zapotec, Mayans, and Aztec, cacao was a plant of central importance. Cacao is mentioned extensively in the Popul Vuh, the Mayan Creation story, and can be found in many engravings depicting ritual offerings. We know that there were great storehouses of cacao beans, that cacao was used as a currency, and that cacao was consumed as a drink. Cacao is still an important part of Maya culture today, utilized in midwifery, weddings & other social gatherings.

Cacao ceremony, in the Western context, is a relatively new phenomenon, as people seek a new relationship with cacao outside of what the chocolate industry offers. There is no relationship between modern cacao ceremony and ancient cacao ceremony, besides the desire to engage in sacred relationship with the cacao plant.

This is a fundamental tie though, as all the information for ancient cacao rituals likely arose from intuitive listening and inquiry with the cacao plant, and similarly, modern cacao ceremony arises from a method of inquiry and relationship building with the cacao spirit.

 

Cacao ceremonies are becoming more popular, because they are spaces for people to connect with each other in new ways.

It's important to note that every ceremony is different, and every facilitator has their own approach. This article references the types of ceremonies that the Firefly Chocolate team is familiar with, and does not represent all cacao ceremonies. We recommend connecting with the facilitator of any ceremony you attend, as it's important to feel a harmonious connection with the space holder.

Benefits of cacao ceremonies:

  • when a group all drinks cacao together, they are shifting their energy into the same frequency or vibration. This may seem a bit woo woo, yet it's similar to a group of friends going out for beers - they are all getting into the same journey together by drinking beverages with the same effect on the body. Cacao is much gentler than alcohol.
  • cacao increases the energetic field of our hearts, and when we join together, the field is amplified and woven together with multiple hearts in the room.
  • we each carry unique medicine and messages for each other, and even if you are in a ceremony with strangers, they may share something about their personal experience that provides more clarity for where you are in your life.
  • cacao ceremonies create a safe, nourishing environment for people to connect with themselves, the spirit of cacao, and each other in deeper ways than one can usually access when by themselves.

When multiple people share cacao together, we have a shared experience of mood elevation, increased vitality, enhanced intuition and empathy, and a more open, present heart. Sharing cacao brings us into the same energetic frequency. This often results in deeper more intimate connection with ourselves and each other.

 

Deciding to share cacao with others in ceremony is a personal journey, and part of our mission is to educate and empower our customers to build deep nourishing connections with their communities through cacao.

We believe it's up to each person's discretion on if/when they feel ready to share cacao with others in large groups.

We've developed the following inquiry questions to help you get clear on your desires and intentions for sharing cacao with others.

Note while this article is relevant to all, it was written with those sharing cacao in larger contexts in mind. i.e. more than 5 people, or outside of your direct friend groups.

Cacao 101

  • Do you know where cacao comes from?
  • What do you know about the history of cacao?
  • How is the cacao made?
  • What makes it ceremonial?
  • Why do people gather in cacao ceremonies?

Space Holding

  • Do you have a committed personal practice that helps you feel centered and anchored?
  • Does this practice help you feel capable of holding space for yourself?
  • Does this practice help you feel capable of holding space for others?
  • Do you feel comfortable holding space for others and do you want to do that?

Your Why

  • Why do you want to share cacao with others?
  • What is your personal connection with cacao?
  • Have you received any communications from the spirit of Cacao about sharing cacao with others?
  • Do you feel connected with cacao as an ally?
  • Where does your desire to share cacao come from?
  • Do you feel like you’re rushing? Where does this desire come from?

If you are looking for courses in how to lead cacao ceremonies, see our online courses here!

 

Start with estimating how many people you expect, and add 3-5 on top to be safe.

You'll want 1-1.5 ounces per person for the ceremony which is about 10-20 discs. You can start with 4 oz of liquid per serving, and then adjust per the consistency you want. Note that it will thicken the longer it sits after you heat it.

You can also use the cups that you will be serving in as a way to measure the amount of liquid.

For any cacao that is left over, you can make chocolate mousse, cacao ice cubes for smoothies, or offer it back to the Earth to show your gratitude. See the Recipes section of our FAQs for details!

Cacao ceremonies are a great way to bring people together no matter where you are. Cacao ceremonies are common at festivals, yoga studios, people's homes, and sometimes even in the car during a pit stop!

If you're hosting a cacao ceremony somewhere without a kitchen, our discs make it super easy to measure out your dosage and make the cacao, no knife, cutting board or scale needed.

Required Tools:

  • Way to heat water. We recommend bringing an electric kettle that you can plug into an outlet. Another option is to bring a hot plate, pot and ladle.
  • Way to mix the cacao. A blender that you can plug into an outlet will enable you to mix your cacao with ease. Alternatively, you could bring a molinillo / batador, to mix the cacao while you're heating it in a pot.
  • Way to keep the cacao warm. A thermos, like this one or this one, is one of our favorite tools to have handy while on the road. Keeping the cacao warm makes it extra nourishing and delicious for your guests.
  • Cups. If you're offering a lot of ceremonies, it can be worthwhile to invest in nice serving cups to provide a special experience. Alternative options are to require that people bring their own cups, to bring some from your own and friends kitchens, or to use compostable cups.

Optional tools:

  • Sweeteners, and spoons in case people want to add it to their individual cup of cacao.
  • Any additional spices or herbs that you may want to include in your cacao.
  • A rag is always good to have on hand for spills.
  • Altar items.
  • A portable speaker.

Yes! We recommend putting it in a sealed container in the fridge. It will keep for 12-24 hours, although the sooner you consume it the fresher it will be.

You can also make Cacao Mouse, Cacao Ice Cubes, gift it to others, or offer it back to the Earth. See our Recipes section for more details.

Wholesale, Bulk, Affiliates & Rewards

Bulk cacao is our ceremonial cacao discs without Firefly packaging.

Wholesale is to purchase cases of Firefly branded packaged cacao discs to resell.

Wholesale

Bulk

  • Our bulk purchasing program applies to 25lbs or more of our ceremonial cacao discs, unpackaged. You can select different flavors and origins at 5lb increments.
  • If you want less than 25 lbs of cacao in bulk (unpackaged) you can order 5lb bags of cacao with discounts online here
  • For bulk orders we prefer payment via Venmo, e-check or physical check. Credit cards will require an additional 3% processing fee.

To discuss bulk orders please email support@fireflychocolate.com

*Note that our Cacao Coins Rewards and Affiliate Programs do not apply to Bulk or Wholesale orders.

We realize that many of our customers are daily cacao consumers & ceremonialists. We have developed an easy way for you to purchase large amounts of cacao and apply discounts directly through our online shop.

On our product page you will see Large Order Ceremonial Cacao. From there you will be able to add 5LB increments of cacao to your cart.

  • 5 LBS = 10% off
  • 10 LBS = 15% off
  • 15 LBS = 20% off

You will earn Cacao Coins for these orders if you are part of our Cacao Rewards program.

Note, the cacao comes in 5lb  bags that look like this:

If you are interested in 25 LB+ orders, or reselling our packaged cacao, please see our Bulk & Wholesale FAQ or email support@fireflychocolate.com.

We have two programs to support the many ways people are sharing our cacao.

Our Cacao Referral Rewards program is best for those wanting an easy way to share Firefly cacao with their friends and family.

Our Firefly Affiliate Program is best suited for those with digital platforms (influencers, content creators, online entrepreneurs) who have a reach on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, e-mail lists, etc.

Cacao Rewards Program

This is the place to start! You can sign up for our rewards program through the red button on the bottom left hand corner of our website, and instantly access your unique referral link. This link provides a 5% discount code for new customers on their first order, and when people use your link, you get 500 cacao coins (equivalent to $10!)

Becoming part of our Cacao Rewards program is the first step to joining our affiliate team. Once 5 of your referrals have purchased cacao from us you are eligible to join our affiliate program with added features and perks. You can see more about how to apply to the affiliate program below.

Firefly Affiliate Program

This program is best suited for those with digital platforms (influencers, content creators, online entrepreneurs) who have a digital reach on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, e-mail lists, etc.

You can see more and apply here.

_________________________________

Our goal with these programs is to have a thriving, connected community of cacao lovers, to amplify the work of this plant teacher.

Questions? Email support@fireflychocolate.com

Our Cacao Coins Rewards Program will automatically give you 1 coin per $1 spent on cacao through our website once you register on the bottom left hand corner of our website. 

You can also earn coins by liking us on Facebook, referring friends, and leaving reviews. Once you accumulate enough coins, you can redeem them for discounts on your cacao.

How to sign up

Click the Cacao Rewards button in the bottom left corner of our website, www.ceremonial-cacao.com.

Click 'Join Now' and create your account.

Best Ways To Earn

  • Leaving a review (125 coins) & referring friends (500 coins) will help you accumulate the most points.
  • See more about earning referral rewards under our Referrals article.
  • Note: To earn points for leaving a review on our website, you'll need to sign in to your cacao rewards account first by clicking the Cacao Rewards button, and signing in. This is the same account as your Firefly account.

To Redeem Your Cacao Coins

Once you've accumulated enough coins, you will see a Redeem button for a coupon to apply to your next order. When you click Redeem, it will provide a unique coupon code to input into the checkout page on our website. You will also receive the code via email. Once you click redeem, your points will automatically be updated to reflect the use of the reward.

Here's what the email with the coupon code looks like:

Checking Your Rewards Status

To see all rewards that you have earned and redeemed, scroll down to Your rewards:

You can read more about our approach to cacao as a medicine & money, as well as our intentions behind this program in our Decolonizing Cacao: A Sacred Medicine & Relationship To Money article.

Joining our Cacao Coins Rewards Program is an easy way to earn rewards for referring your friends to us.

 

For each friend you refer, you receive 500 cacao coins ($10 worth) to redeem on your cacao.

How to sign up

Click the Cacao Rewards button in the bottom left corner of our website, www.ceremonial-cacao.com.

Click 'Join Now' and create your account.

Referring Your Friends 

 

When you sign up you get a unique website link to share with your friends, which includes a 5% discount code for them to use on their first order. When your friend makes a purchase, you receive 500 cacao coins, which is equivalent to $10 worth of cacao!

Once you create an account you can access your unique referral code which will track the sale and provide a 5% discount code for your friend:

Once your friend places an order with your link, you will receive 500 coins in your account. Woohoo!

To Redeem Your Cacao Coins

Once you've accumulated enough coins, you will see a Redeem button for a coupon to apply to your next order. When you click Redeem, it will provide a unique coupon code to input into the checkout page on our website. You will also receive the code via email. Once you click redeem, your points will automatically be updated to reflect the use of the reward.

Here's what the email with the coupon code looks like:

Checking Your Rewards Status

To see all rewards that you have earned and redeemed, scroll down to Your rewards:

 

You can read more about our approach to cacao as a medicine & money, as well as our intentions behind this program in our Decolonizing Cacao: A Sacred Medicine & Relationship To Money article.