It’s 2 a.m., and I’m still flying. I definitely did not need that second cup of cacao.

I scrawl page after page after page in my journal, my hand scrambling to keep up with my racing thoughts. Words flow; they are wild words, poetic words, fantastical, outlandish words. I feel the full moon pulsing in my chest, and I try to capture her on the page.

The year is 2017, and I have recently moved to Costa Rica. A few months ago, I had never heard of a cacao ceremony, although in my own way I think I had always held chocolate—a life-long favorite—to be something sacred. I have not yet entered the Central American festival and communities scene, where cacao seems to feature in every song circle, ecstatic dance, and even work meetings and morning rituals.

Over the months that follow that first cacao experience, I will become a “cacao devotee” in a low-key kind of way. I begin to purchase ceremonial-grade cacao at the feria verde (my local farmers market) for home use, attend every cacao ceremony that crosses my path, and research the many benefits of cacao—largely through participant observation.

I’ll save the sensitive issue of cultural appropriation for another time, as it is a subject deserving of its own article. For now, however, I want to focus on a few key lessons I learned in my first explorations of cacao for ceremonial and creative purposes. I hope these reflections may prove useful to cacao newbies and veterans alike!

4 Lessons from my First Cacao Experience

  1. Take it slow. Cacao, for me, was not an acquired taste. And so when I finished my first cup at that first cacao ceremony in Costa Rica, I immediately went for seconds—and maybe thirds. While the sustained energy rush was fun (spontaneous ecstatic dance followed by an endless afterparty of one in my house), I would have done well to wait a bit after my first cup, give my body a chance to feel the effects, and then decide if I wanted more. Nowadays I try to give space and well-deserved appreciation to the subtler energy of that first cup.
  2. Give thanks. I was fortunate to have a first cacao ceremony experience centered on gratitude. Many, many hands work to produce that cup of cacao you will enjoy—from the farmers who plant, cultivate and harvest, to the processors who roast and grind, to the packers and sellers and finally the person who prepares the beverage with love and care. Not to mention the generations, going back millennia, who cultivated and cared for this extraordinary fruit! There is a lot to be thankful for. I believe it is well worth our time to give thanks before and during our cacao consumption.
  3. Source it well. Speaking of all those hands, they deserve to be respected, honored, and fairly compensated for their labor. And the land they work? It deserves respect and fairness, too—and regenerative farming practices. Here in Central America, it’s fairly easy to source high-quality, organic, and ethical cacao. Compared to the global cacao industry, however, these quality products are just a drop in the bucket. Vote with your dollar, and make sure you’re sourcing cacao that’s good for people and the planet. I really think our bodies can feel the difference. Not sure where to start? Check out Cosmic Cacao!
  4. Trust. Normally, feeling totally wired at 2 a.m. would stress me out, but that night I surrendered to the excess of energy coursing through my veins. I tried to channel it with some degree of intention into creative writing and music, and then I let go and trusted. If this was heart-centered medicine, as so many claimed, it would do me no harm. I know it’s trendy to call everything medicine nowadays. But really, if a plant-based substance that makes you feel good, gives you energy, releases stuck emotions, sparks creativity, and delivers a high dose of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals isn’t medicine, then what is? So then, “trust the medicine” isn’t a cliche; it’s instructions for use!

As a life-long cacao lover, I felt right at home at Cosmic Convergence Festival, where I first encountered Cosmic Cacao. I am proud to endorse this brand and the people behind it. They are truly creating a product with love and respect for the land, the community, and for you, the people looking to get your cacao from the best possible sources.

Use the discount code numundo now through November 31st, 2020 for a special NuMundo family discount! 

Toby Israel is a vagabond and storyteller with a metaphorical closet full of hats. She is a creative facilitator,…