Ancient chocolate Brief history

Humans have a long relationship with chocolate, dating back some 3000 years or more to the time of the Olmec civilization that lived in what is now south-central Mexico. In fact, it is believed that the word cacao derives from the Olmec people, who called it kakaw.

Following on from the Olmec, came the Mayans, who took cacao to the heart of their culture. They used cacao ceremonially and shamanistically, even having a baptism ritual for boys and girls that involved cacao. The Mayans were the first major civilization to use cacao beans as currency and had numerous gods associated with cacao.

When the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes landed in 1519 he found an Aztec civilization with cacao at the centre of their culture. The last Aztec Emperor, Montezuma was a renowned chocoholic, recorded by Spanish chroniclers to consume up to 50 cups of a cacao drink from gold vessels at feasts, before visiting his harem.

It is most likely that Cortes brought cacao to Europe and from there the world. The rest, as they say, is history.

Cacao, cocoa, modern-day chocolate

The cacao consumed in its native lands of the Americas was a bitter, spicy affair, often consumed as a drink. It was the Europeans that combined cacao with refined sugar, first as a drink and later as solid chocolate bars. Today, cacao is more widely known as cocoa, which started out as a British slang term for cacao.

In 1828, a Dutchman invented a process for removing a lot of the fat, the cacao butter, from the cacao. The residue could be ground into a powder and was then treated with alkaline salts to improve how it mixed with water. The process is known as “Dutching” and the end product is known as cocoa or cocoa powder. The first bars of milk chocolate was produced in 1879, by combining defatted and alkalized cocoa powder with milk powder recently invented by Henri Nestlé. These processes then led to mass production of cheap, low-quality chocolate.

Recent years have seen a renaissance in good quality chocolate, with increasing numbers of people no longer satisfied with cheap chocolate, packed full of refined sugars, additives and vegetable oils. There are now artisan producers of chocolate around the world, focusing on good quality cacao beans and ingredients, carefully made in smaller batches.

Chemical Properties of Cacao

Just some of the wide range of healthy nutrients to be found in cacao include:

  • Powerful antioxidants, called flavonoids, up to 6 times greater in raw chocolate

  • Essential minerals like magnesium, copper, zinc and iron

  • Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B8, C & E

  • Heart-healthy fat, oleic acid

  • Mood-boosting properties, which stimulate the production of endorphins

Read on and you’ll discover 5 reasons why raw chocolate is healthy.

1. Armed With Antioxidants

Cacao beans are a great source of antioxidants, particularly vitamins C and E and Flavonoids. Antioxidants help to mop up free radicals which are implicated in a wide range of dis-eases, including cardiovascular dis-ease. Cacao contains much higher levels of antioxidants (ORAC) than green tea or red wine. Additionally, it has been reported that the inclusion of dairy with cacao, as in typical (milk) chocolate, can interfere with the absorption of antioxidants.

2. Masses Of Magnesium

One of the richest sources of dietary magnesium is cacao and magnesium is vital for a healthy heart, muscles and bones. Lack of magnesium can cause muscle spasms, as well as being associated with cardiovascular dis-ease, diabetes, high blood pressure, anxiety disorder, osteoporosis and migraines.

Core Ingredients

Ceremonial Cacao Paste
25g per day, Ceremonial dose is about 40-50g. Our sacred Cacao is sourced from heirloom trees that have been harvested by Indigenous communities for thousands of years. These communities and those who are harvesting the Cacao are treated with dignity and honor. There is love and passion poured into this Cacao. 

Milk or Spring Water
There are various schools of thought around what you should use for making your elixir. Going back to the earliest days of the use of cacao, it would have been brewed using water and spices and no sweetener.

You are free to use your choice of milk and/or spring water. 

Such as raw honey, coconut blossom sugar, yacon syrup, agave syrup

Herbs & Spices

  • Turmeric & black pepper

  • Maca

  • Cinnamon

  • Chilli


Cleansing & Grounding

An essential part of ceremony is the space we work in. Using different medicinal herbs we can clear, cleanse and ground the space, ourselves and participants.

The 2 we will mainly work with are:

  • Palo Santo – used for blessing and purification, with a long history of use in ceremonies in Peru and Ecuador

  • White Sage – used for grounding and cleansing, most commonly from North America, typically California

As with many things these days, sadly resources are being misused and treated without respect. It’s important to source from reputable suppliers.

Equipment & Materials

At its most basic, all you need is a knife, weighing scales, a saucepan and a cup.

Meet Maestro Puma

I would love to introduce you to one of my teachers for this shamanic cacao plant medicine practice. It is my honor.