What make KAKAO unique?
A few months ago I (Makenzie) took down the language 'ceremonial-grade' from all of the KAKAO websites after using the term for 8 years. My reason for doing so was to ensure we are respecting the various lineages that share 'ceremony' and cacao in traditional ways, and to make sure I am not insinuating that I am replicating their practices or traditions in any way whatsoever.
With that said, KAKAO is 100% Ceremonial Grade, meaning:
1) The WHOLE bean is used - nothing removed. The cacao beans are simply stone ground, with no heavy machinery.
2) Only Native/heirloom strains of cacao are used, which happen to naturally be 55% cocoa butter! As opposed to commodity/hybridized strains that sit at around 26% cocoa butter. Right now KAKAO works closely with the farmers in Guatemala (Criollo strain) and Peru (Chuncho strain) to source and protect these native, heirloom cacao trees. In 2024 we will be working with the Arhuaco tribe to make a native strain from Columbia available via KAKAO.
3) Made with intention and operated as a non-profit with impeccable, service-based core values at the center (ran by and upheld by myself and my council).
Other varieties of cacao exist, but many have been tampered with and genetically altered (modified and hybridized) by man over the years to produce larger seeds, higher yields, and trees with greater resistance to disease. From its native origins cacao has been dispersed globally and taken to regions of the world it is not native to. Forestero, for instance, once native to the Upper Amazon, is now primarily grown in West Africa, accounting for roughly 80% of the world's chocolate production.
Many challenges arise for farmers and the planet when cacao is taken from its native origins and transplanted into non-native environments like Africa, India, Indonesia, and Asia. The results are typically devastating, including the destruction of natural habitat from slash and burn farming practices and various forms of slave labor. Our Founder Makenzie has witnessed this devastation first hand. In 2018, she met the Peruvian farmer responsible for introducing cloned and hybridized cacao to Peru. Allured by the idea of wage security and the promise of industry demand, he confessed regretting his decision to bring genetically altered cacao to Peru.
Genetically altered cacao is now grown throughout Central and South America. Its cross pollination with native cacao has made it increasingly difficult to locate, isolate, and protect native cacao varieties. To learn more about the dark side of chocolate and our motivation for doing things differently, view the cacao episode from the docuseries ROTTEN on Netflix.
KAKAO uses the whole cacao bean:
Unlike cocoa powder or the "raw" cacao powders you find on your grocery store shelves, our KAKAO includes the cacao butter...all of it. In most chocolate products, the cacao butter is separated from the cacao powder before being recombined to make a finished product. Sometimes the two are sold separately as cacao powder and cacao butter. Because KAKAO includes the cacao butter, our product has a higher nutritional value as well as a higher concentration of the plant compounds in cacao that elicit cacao's blissful and heart-opening effects (See: The Science of KAKAO under the LEARN tab).
KAKAO is minimally processed.
We use the least amount of processing to create the finished product in order to minimize the negative effects of over-processing. The cacao beans undergo fermentation to cultivate their flavor profile and activate aromatic compounds. The fermented beans are then toasted at low temperatures, cracked, and stone ground by traditional means. Our KAKAO is never hydraulically pressed, conched, or tempered.