The Cacao bean is indigenous to South America and has always been thought of as a food of the gods. The Mayan God - Ek Chuah presided over this sacred bean and it is thought that either the Olmecs or Mayans first cultivated the first Cacao trees from the wild plant around 1000 B.C.
The Theobroma Cacao bean was perhaps fermented, sundried or roasted and ground and then combined with aromatics, vanilla, wild honey and chilli to create a bitter drink they called chocolatl. This was indeed a luxury and a sacrament and it was drunk primarily by the Mayan and Aztec nobility and priest caste. It was a prized and rare commodity so this lead to the cacao beans also acting as currency.
In 1528 the spanish explorer and conqueror Cortes brought chocolate to europe. When his army reached the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan, the emperor Montezuma offered him the traditional sacrament of chocolatl and Cortes consequently brought the cacao bean to europe where it quickly spread, sugar was added and the drink became immensely popular with european nobility. By the mid-1800s dark chocolate had been made into a solid bar, followed by the swiss creating milk chocolate and the belgians creating chocolate truffles. In 1753 Carl von Linnaeus, the 18th-century swedish scientist, thought that cacao was so important that he named the genus and species of this tree himself. He named this tree: Theobroma cacao, which literally means "cacao, the food of the gods."
"Every study on chocolate is pointing to the same conclusion: there is something in chocolate that is really good for us. That something is the raw cacao bean, the nut that all chocolate is made from. The cacao bean has always been and will always be Nature's no 1 weight loss and high-energy food. Cacao beans are probably the best kept secret in the entire history of food."
- David Wolfe, co-author of Naked Chocolate: The Astonishing Truth About the World's Greatest Food.
So what does the Cacao Bean contain that makes it so special?
· The cacao bean is one of the richest sources of magnesium - the brain, heart and muscle mineral. Magnesium is known to increase the overall vigour of the heart muscle and lower blood pressure which helps the heart pump more effectively, reducing the likelihood of blood clots and strokes. Magnesium balances brain chemistry and increases brainpower; and it also helps to create strong bowel movements, reduce menstrual cramping, relax muscles, increase flexibility, build strong bones and increase alkalinity within the body. In this way Cacao can mend a broken heart, soothe a woman’s menstrual pain, help an athlete attain their personal best and focus the mind for creativity.
· Cacao contains monoamine oxidase enzyme inhibitors (MAO inhibitors) These rare MAO inhibitors that enable more serotonin and other neurotransmitters to circulate in the brain. Serotonin is very uplifting to the mood and known to be one of the feel-good brain chemicals.
· Another neurotransmitter called anandamide is found in cacao. Like serotonin, anandamide is also produced naturally in the brain. Anandamide is known as the bliss chemical because it is released while we are feeling great.
· Cacao contains the alkaloid theobromine that is similar to caffeine, however it has less impact on the central nervous system and is instead stimulating to the heart. This compound contributes to cacao’s reputation as an aphrodisiac.
· Phenylethylamine (PEA) is also found in cacao that has not been heat treated. PEA is an adrenal-related chemical that is also created within the brain and released when we are in love. This is one of the reasons why love and chocolate have a deep association. PEA also plays a role in increasing focus and alertness.
· Cacao also has more anti-oxidants and phenolic phytochemicals than green tea and red wine, it contains omega-6 essential fatty acid when not heat treated and it is high in vitamin C, calcium and iron.
This nutritional profile has led to the cacao bean being used for its medicinal properties for thousands of years. Not only is it stimulating and uplifting and known for triggering a feel-good feeling, it is also thought to be good for the body when eaten regularly contributing to longevity, wellbeing and prevention of illness. No doubt that these are the qualities that lead the Mayans and Aztecs to believe that Cacao was a food sent from the gods.
There are lots of ways you can include Cacao in your daily diet - you can just crunch on a few raw cacao beans as a snack or make the most delicious pure dark chocolate bars. You can also enjoy adding cacao ingredients to smoothies, pancakes, energy bars and hot chocolate. Here we are going to look at how to make a tradition sacred chocolatl drink and how to make the purest darkest chocolate bars but for more recipe ideas and inspiration head on over to browse our Chocolate recipe collection.
How to make a cacao drink as a sacred heart medicine:
This recipe uses Organic Cacao Paste, to make the paste the cacao beans are harvested, and left to ferment in boxes for a few days, then they are laid on trays and sundried. Next the shells are removed and the nibs are retained, then the nibs are then milled until they turn into Cacao paste. The hot chocolate is probably quite similar to the Mesoamerican chocolatl, however it has been sweetened to suit the western taste buds.
1 tablespoon of Organic Cacao Paste (Finely chopped)
1 cup of Water
2 teaspoons of Organic Coconut Palm Sugar or Honey
Can also be added: Chilli, Cardamon, Cinnamon, Himalayan Crystal salt, Black pepper.
Boil the water and add the sweetener & other spices then allow it to cool (the water mustn't be too hot when the Cacao is submerged as it would destroy some of the phyo-nutrients)
Give it a couple of minutes then add the finely chopped cacao paste and whisk vigourously for a couple of minutes.
How to make pure dark nutritious chocolate
Making pure dark chocolate at home from unprocessed organic cacao ingredients is a great way to ingest all the nutritional goodness that cacao offers. Making super nutritious chocolate bars is really so easy and involves combining Cacao powder, Cacao butter and a natural sweetener of some kind. Then you can allow your creativity to run wild by adding dried fruit, nuts, seeds or superfoods. This chocolate is vegan and gluten-free.
- 250g Organic Pure Cacao Powder
- 250g Organic Pure Cacao Butter
- 250 ml Raw Organic Agave Syrup
- 1 teaspoon Organic Raw Vanilla Powder
- Boil up a pan of water & remove from heat
- Select a glass bowl that balances securely over the pan
- Add the Cacao Butter and melt until the last of the solids have disappeared.
- Add the Vanilla and stir into the melted Cacao Butter.
- Add in the Cacao Powder and mix until the consistency smooth.(keep striring and lumps will dissolve)
- Add in the Agave and mix until all ingredients are completely blended together.
- Pour out the molten Chocolate into moulds and allow to set.(put them in the freezer for 20 minutes)
- Pop out your Chocolates and share
ORGANIC CHOCOLATE STARTER KIT
To get you going as a bonifide chocolatier we have created this easy to make chocolate kit. This Organic Chocolate Starter Kit includes everything you need to make the purest dark chocolate with nothing added. The kit includes: Organic Cacao Powder, Organic Cacao Butter, Organic Raw Agave Syrup and Organic Raw Vanilla Powder. It also includes easy to follow recipe & instructions and it comes in two different sizes:
Small kit 300g makes about 20 small bars RRP £12.99
Large kit 750g makes about 45 small bars. RRP £23.99