noun: cacao; plural noun: cacaos
beanlike seeds from which cocoa, cocoa butter, and chocolate are made.
Whenever I mention cacao in conversation, whoever I’m speaking to looks at me a little strangely. “Don’t you mean cocoa?” they’ll ask me — and I almost do! But not quite. Cacao, though not far off from the sweet, silky powder that births our yummiest hot chocolate memories, is its own territory to explore.
Cacao is the raw, unroasted, unprocessed form of chocolate. Commonly available in powder, paste and nib (aw!) forms, it’s a tart and bitter relative to the Hershey’s chocolate bars so many of us adore. I remember first trying cacao nibs about four years ago; as much as I wanted to like them, I thought they were gross. My face squeezed itself up like it does if I drink orange juice after brushing my teeth, and I decided that those little pebbles did not deserve space atop my oatmeal. It wasn’t until last year, when I came across @thecacaoclub on Instagram, that my eyes were opened to the many benefits of this plant. As I am easily swayed by all things related to healing and medicinal practice, suddenly cacao’s bitterness didn’t seem so… bitter. I opened up to the plant and what it may be able to offer my body, heart and soul.
I now deeply enjoy the taste of cacao. I enjoy it atop açaí bowls in the summer, or mixed into chia pudding or oatmeal when I’m looking for a denser meal. As the seasons have shifted and the air has cooled, I have been enjoying cacao through the simple practice of taking it as a morning tonic, mixed with various adaptogens and herbs, depending on what my body is asking of me.
While I’m no expert on the subject, I enjoy learning the teachings of Ayurvedic medicine, and I know that right now is Vata season. What this means, essentially, is that the energy in the environment is more brisk, quick, and stripped-down than it is in the summertime. Everything feels a little more raw. Grounding practices, such as morning cacao and returning to a regular yoga routine, help our internal energies to find warmth, comfort and solace, balancing the more rigid, heightened Vata around us.
Still with me?
Here’s how I make my morning medicine:
About ¼ cup milk of choice. I’m currently using a blend of almond, cashew and macadamia. I opt for unsweetened.
1 tablespoon of:
Organic cacao powder
Reishi mushroom (I buy mine dried whole, and then grind them up in my NutriBullet)
½ tablespoon of:
Smooth almond butter
Sweetener of choice: I prefer honey or maple syrup
About ¾ cup hot water
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of chili pepper
Boil some water. Add milk, cacao, reishi, tocos, almond butter and sweetener to blender and blend on low until smooth and creamy. Pour this mixture into a mug, and then pour boiled water over mixture, stirring the whole time. When well-combined, you’ll be met with a frothy cup of warmth, sort of reminiscent of hot chocolate. If you can, enjoy in solitude or in loving company that lights you up.
This morning tonic will offer your body antioxidants, magnesium, iron, fibre, and a soft, steady boost of energy without the crash that we often get with coffee. It will offer your heartspace the safety to open: you may choose to lean into your increased sensitivity with cacao, allowing whatever feelings come up to flood through you and release. Feeling our feelings, without judgement, leads to a heightened sense of liberation and freedom to align with our soul purpose. We can be more ourselves when we get honest and feel more of ourselves. I say: Give it a try. Feel your feelings. What have you got to lose? (But I’m just one girl).
Enjoy your cacao. And know that drinking cacao doesn’t mean you can’t savour a milky, sugary hot chocolate from Starbucks later today, if your body wants it. Taking pleasure in whole foods with healing properties doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy delicious foods that are less nutritionally-dense. Those are healing in their own way. But more on that another day. Cheers!