8 MAGICAL ALCHEMY! From bean to ceremony ... Cacao grows in the Equatorial zone, about 20 degrees either side of the equator, and it needs plenty of water and some shade. It grows mainly in the rainforest, often alongside coffee and bananas. Cacao has to go through a few processes before it becomes what we call chocolate. Fermentation and gentle toasting of the beans contribute to the health-giving properties, active compounds, and rich chocolate flavour.
Ceremonial cacao, however, needs only minimal heating and processing in order to retain the maximum amount and strength of active ingredients. The cacao I use in ceremony comes from small organic plantations in Guatemala. There are several varieties of cacao and the cacao I use comes from the 'criollo' (wild in Spanish) beans, which are the original (and could also be called heirloom) variety. The fermented beans are lightly toasted to help remove the skins which are peeled by hand, and then put through a mill. Before milling, they are what are known as 'cacao nibs'. The milling process creates a small amount of heat, enough to turn the cacao (which has a low melting point) into a thick liquid paste. 50% of the cacao bean is fat in the form of cacao butter. This small amount of heat allows the fat to blend smoothly with the cacao solids. After that the cacao paste is weighed into 454g (1lb) blocks and allowed to re-solidify. Then it becomes "Keith's Cacao" and gets shipped all over the world. If you are in UK you can buy it from me directly, and if not, you can buy some on my Buy Cacao tab. I have been using this cacao for more than 8 years now and it is consistently good.
For ceremony I allow 40g per person. All I do to prepare the drink is to grind up the weighed cacao block roughly with a serrated knife, and then slowly add just-boiled water to it, whisking well between each addition. If you add all the water at once, it may become watery and grainy. I allow about 100ml of water for each person. Of course you can put it in a blender if you wish. You can add many different flavourings, such as cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla, or rose ... however usually I just add some vanilla and then I invite people to add their own sweetener (usually agave syrup or honey) - or not, if they like it truly medicinal! - and a pinch of hot cayenne pepper. This added heat accelerates the cacao compounds into the bloodstream. Cacao prepared this way is rich, intense and delicious!
* SCROLL DOWN for a simple vegan recipe for fabulous cacao balls!* There is much to say about cacao, (you can find a lot of information on Keith's website) and I will be adding a lot more information on this site soon.
Contact Joanna Casey at email@example.com
Blocks of Keith's Cacao from Guatemala
Recipe for vegan Cacao Balls. Perfect for when you need a taste of chocolate without the usual additives ... For a batch of around 30 balls, for the basic recipe you will need: A food processor I coffee mug (average size) of nuts. I use mainly walnuts and some almonds, but you can use any type of nuts. I coffee mug of pitted dates, You could also add some apricots or prunes. 50g grated ceremonial grade cacao A pinch of sea salt 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Grind up the nuts and dates and salt as finely as the processor will allow. Add the vanilla and grind some more. Boil some water. Put the cacao in the mug you used for measuring and add just-boiled water 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring until you have a thick but smooth paste. I use a fork to blend out the lumps. 4-5 tablespoons is usually enough. The cacao should not be sloppy, because it's hard to roll the balls if the mixture isn't firm.
Put the nut and date mixture into a bowl and add the cacao paste. Using a fork, mix it around until it's all evenly blended. Then prepare a plate or small bowl with some desiccated coconut or cocoa powder to roll the balls in. Take a small amount, (my cacao balls average around 15g) and roll it gently in your palms into a ball. Then roll it around in the coconut or cocoa. Put them on something you can put in the freezer. Your hands will feel lovely when you wash them at the end of making the recipe! It's the cacao butter ... Then put the truffles in the freezer (if you have one) for 20 mins. After that they will keep their shape in the fridge. They will last about 10 days (but history does not record any lasting that long without being eaten!). If you don't feel like rolling balls, then of course you can just smooth the mixture into a pan and cut into squares.
If you want to make them into super balls of bliss and energy, you can add any of the following, and anything your imagination can conjure up really. I've tried just about every combination! Cardamom, chilli, rose extract, orange extract, crystallised ginger, lime zest, goji berries, freeze-dried raspberries, coffee, flax seed, hemp seed, peanut butter, chia seed, maca powder, any medicinal mushrooms, maya nut, cinnamon and nutmeg. ENJOY!