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Cacao ceremony | Ceremonial cacao

Preparing Cacao for Ceremony

This blog post is an excerpt from the original writings of Keith Wilson, the Chocolate Shaman, which were first published in 2012. For more recent info on all things Ceremonial Cacao, visit our main blog For the Love of Cacao.

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To best enjoy your Cacao, chop a block of our Cacao Paste with a large knife into fragments about 1/4 inch (6 mm) or smaller, so it softens easily in hot water. Alternatively, quickly pulse a few Cacao chunks at high speed in a blender or food processor to get medium to fine grains that dissolve easily in hot water. If you blend the Cacao for a second too long, it will begin to melt and stick to your blender. If you try to grind too much at once, the Cacao at the bottom will get stuck in the spaces around the blades, and the top layer will not become ground. A chopstick is handy for digging out the Cacao that's slightly stuck around the blades.

Ceremonial Dosage

Our Cacao's one-pound (454 g) package provides ten and two-thirds ceremonial doses at 1.5 oz (42.5 g). I know of ceremonies that went wonderfully with 16 to 20 people per one-pound block (0.8-1.0 oz / 23-28 g per person).

Currently, with all the high energies around, I am using 1.5 oz (42.5 g) Cacao with 4.5 oz (130 cc) to 8.5 oz (250 cc) of water per person given at one time as a full ceremonial dose. I pour out the total amount of Cacao and water on a weighing scale, which makes it easier to serve a bit less or more at the request of experienced drinkers.

For us with slightly larger cups, 1.5 oz Cacao + 8.5 oz water = 10 oz total, which is easy to measure for someone who wants a little less, such as 2/3 of a regular dose (which would be 6.65 oz). Easy! When traveling with the often smaller cups, we use 4.5 - 5.5 oz (130 - 160 g or cc) of water. The smaller amount of water makes a delicious, slightly thick drink that many drinkers prefer.

For a ceremony of over 350 people, I use 1 oz (28.4 g) of Cacao with 1.8 oz (53 ml) of water per serving. This is a thick brew but works well in a small cup. In my ceremonies, everybody stirs in their optional sweetening or powdered hot pepper to their own taste. Then, everybody is welcome to drink it as slowly or as fast as they feel.

For a thicker 'Mayan Potion,' use 4 US ounces (120 cc) of water per person. Alternatively, use up to 10 oz (300 cc) for a much more liquid drink. Of course, add more or less as you like! Heat the water but do not boil it. Make it hot enough to barely keep a finger in it, around 118-120°F / 48-50°C.

Weighing Scales

Our weighing scale recommendation, from experience, is the durable 'Escali Digital Kitchen Scale,' which has a long time-out and uses inexpensive or rechargeable AA batteries. Scales using coin cell batteries are less convenient, as these batteries can be expensive and short-lived, and the shorter time-out can be frustrating. If traveling or on the go without a scale at hand, you can use 5-6 rounded teaspoons of finely chopped Cacao as a full dose. There is also the 'AWS Pocket Scale 1kgx0.1g,' which uses AAA batteries. We used this for six months while traveling all over Europe! The total weight of the scale, batteries, and box is just 5.55 oz (157 g).

Whisks and Frothers

For making one or two cups, you can use a little latte, a battery-powered milk frother. If you don't have a whisk (egg whip), pour the chopped Cacao (and your chosen flavorings) into your mug and add just enough hot water to barely wet the ingredients. Mash everything into a thick paste with the back of a spoon, adding more hot water gradually and in small amounts while you continually stir until smooth. Add more water to your preferred drinking consistency. If you add all of the water at once, you will be attempting to beat out lumps without the help of a whisk or frother, so go slowly with your spoon and be patient. You can also use a pint (half-liter) insulated shaker mug to make just a cup. Simply add the Cacao and seasonings, followed by some hot water. Shake well before opening carefully, and enjoy!

For making a few cups of Cacao, our favorite tool is a good quality whisk that has been reshaped by bending with a pair of pliers to fit flat-bottomed into the pot. Roll it back and forth between the palms of both hands to quickly mix the hot water with the softened chunks of Cacao and flavorings. With just a few seconds of rotation, there you have it - froth and all! A regular, rounded whisk will work almost as well. 

For a potful of Cacao: Weigh or measure the water into the pot with a bit extra for evaporation, heated to just finger 'ouch' level. The Cacao is then weighed and added to the hot water before being thoroughly whisked (with an egg whip/‘batidor') to break up the heated, softened chunks. After it has 'dissolved,' everyone's portion is weighed into their cup. Stir the pot or the pouring pitcher often. You can add flavorings either to the pot or in individual cups.  


Extra Cacao can be refrigerated for a few days, though it keeps better if no sugars have been added. We have found that a slight amount of sour fermentation is okay if you can handle the taste. Give it a quick boil and go for it! A slight simmer of the prepared drink will help it keep for longer while also making the Cacao a bit smoother without significantly affecting the active compounds. In this way, Cacao can indeed be reheated. 

You can save warm Cacao in a can, glass jar, or thermos that can handle the heat, turning the hot jar upside down to sterilize the lid. It keeps well for a few days at room temperature, which is great if you have made too much Cacao for a ceremony.

'Raw' Nibs and Powdered Cacao

If using 'raw' nibs (broken pieces of Cacao bean), measure out the same amount of Cacao or more since most Ecuadorian, Peruvian, Brazilian, Indonesian, and African nibs are 15-70% weaker than our Guatemalan Cacao. You will have to blend the nibs (in a blender) with a small portion of the water or else chew them finely, as bean fragments do not melt in hot water. If you are using finely powdered raw Cacao, try half the amount, as most of the butter weight has been removed through hot hydraulic pressing. The 'raw' powder is much more variable in ceremonial suitability than the nibs. Try it for yourselves. You can also expect such hybrid Cacao varieties to have a lot of caffeine, which, in our experience, can become too 'buzzy' with no focus.


• Red Chili / Cayenne Pepper is atraditional synergist and provides a good tickle. Add more if you like, less if you don't. Finely powdered cayenne does not need to be strained. Chili stimulates circulation and helps get the Cacao into your bloodstream, but it isn't mandatory. On a vibrational level, according to the plant spirit medicine literature, the red warming stimulation that the chili provides acts as a spiritual accelerator.

• Cardamom (or Cinnamon, the Mexican preference).

• Ginger - Compliments the chili very well.

• Vanilla - Often considered the perfect partner! Add vanilla extract at the end.

• Tonka Bean - It is said that the tonka bean has notes of "vanilla, cherry, almond, spicy cinnamon, cloves, and probably the dust of unicorn horns." It is also known as "the most delicious ingredient you've never heard of." Be aware that it remains illegal in some countries, like the USA.

• Salt - Some like to add a pinch of salt.

• Whatever else you like! - Add spices like turmeric and black pepper, essential oils/extracts like lemon, orange, or almond; powdered superfoods such as chlorella, moringa, maca, and Maya nut - our favorite; and medicinal mushrooms, especially the adaptogens, such as reishi.

• Milk - Animal milk interferes with the absorption of active compounds in Cacao. However, dairy-free kinds of milk, especially coconut, are fine and loved by many.


While many experienced drinkers use no sweetening with their Cacao, if your taste has been perverted by the consensus reality belief that bitter is bad and sweet is good, then help yourself to your favorite sweetener. Doing so will not affect the energies - unless you believe it will! Cinnamon, honey, or licorice root powder adds a sweet spot to the mix.

Tips on Texture

As mentioned above, whole beans or Cacao nibs will not melt in hot water. To make your Cacao drink, you need to use a blender. Blending works best with less water to produce a thick liquid. Then, add more ingredients (if making a smoothie, for example). Alternatively, whether you are making a hot or cold drink, pour out the thick liquid and use additional water to thin out the thick blended Cacao. Cacao beans alone, without hot water, do not grind well in a blender or coffee mill.

As soon as the beans warm up, the Cacao butter melts, and everything sticks before being finely ground. Try freezing the Cacao beans before blending, and let me know what happens! Unfortunately, my freezer isn't quite cold enough to try this. If you want an easy powder from our Cacao blocks, quickly pulse chopped dry Cacao in a blender and remove before it heats and melts to obtain a powdery finish!

Simmering a Cacao brew lightly for a few minutes will produce a thicker, richer, and smoother drink with more dispersed butter and fewer settling dregs. I find that the consciousness effects tend to be milder with such boiling. The Kuna* people boil their Cacao for an hour or more. I've never tried that, personally. Because of the increased thickness from even brief simmering or boiling, consider adding more water than mentioned above.

You can also try preparing your Cacao as you normally do, then allow it to sit for a day in the refrigerator. You will have a much smoother brew when you reheat it the next day (slowly, so it doesn't scorch) in a heavy-bottomed pot.


• Antidepressants and Antipsychotics

If one is taking mind or mood-altering drugs, take caution. They do not mix with the tryptophan and MAOIs (Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors) in this Cacao. It's essential to google your medication before ingesting Cacao. I have seen some ripping migraines, but it could be worse. Most who get a headache tend to be on larger doses of antidepressants or antipsychotics. Cacao does not seem to be a problem with low to medium doses, in our experience. 

• Heart Conditions

Cacao increases one's heart rate by 15-20%. It is a vasodilator that opens blood vessels, thus increasing blood flow and reducing blood pressure if it is high. If you have very low blood pressure, go easy at first with Cacao, although it is rarely a real problem as, for most, Cacao increases low blood pressure. If you get migraines from coffee, be cautious with Cacao (especially if it is not Keith's Cacao). 

Other Considerations

• Monitor the dosage your serve carefully to prevent overdose with second helpings. 

• It's always advisable to use much less Cacao for children.

• Drinking coffee after dinner may give someone quite a synergistic stimulant buzz if Cacao had been ingested earlier. It may be better to opt for decaf. 

• Those in need of dietetic detox or who are undergoing treatments such as chemotherapy may become nauseous 5-6 hours after consuming a large dose of Cacao due to the bitter component of Cacao stimulating the liver. If so, drink water!

• Those fasting or on a raw diet may overdose on regular ceremonial quantities. Those with low body weight or those sensitive to drugs, or energies in general, may also need lower doses. Of course, this could be physiological, belief system-based, or both!

• A full ceremonial dose of Cacao combined with intense aerobic activity or going into a high-heat hot spring, sweat lodge or sauna could make you nauseous, so be careful. Dancing, however, is fine! Woohoo!

• 'Spiritual chocolate,' aka Cacao, is fatal to animals such as dogs, parrots, horses, and cats. Of course, few dogs will eat straight Cacao, but I know of dogs that died after getting into the pan of brownies made from this Cacao. What happens is that the heart beats so fast it begins vibrating, though neglecting to pump blood. So make sure you keep your Cacao away from your pets.

For more of Keith's wisdom, visit Keith Wilson's Original Blog on Keith's Cacao Blog Directory.

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