What is cacao?
Cacao is the original form of chocolate! It is the fermented, dried and roasted seed of Theobroma cacao, a small evergreen tree native to the Americas with which humans have had a long and passionate relationship. Everything about the cacao tree is just as colourful as its history. An evergreen, the cacao tree has large glossy leaves that are red when young and green when mature. At maturity, the cultivated cacao tree stands 4.5 to 6 metres tall, though the tree in its wild state may reach 15 metres or more. Cacao trees have been known to live 200 years in their natural environment, but they are most productive for about 25 years. Each cacao fruit or pod contains a sweet, goopy pulp and 30 to 50 large seeds, or ‘beans’. The pods are a rather unusual site, growing directly from the trees trunk and major branches.
Why is cacao so good for you?
Cacao is arguably one of the most nutrient-dense and complete superfoods on earth. Some say it is so complete that you could live on cacao and water! It contains many essential minerals such as: iron, zinc, magnesium, chromium, manganese, calcium and other trace minerals. It’s rich in antioxidants (Mamamuti reckons it is one of the most protective foods on the planet!) and mood-boosting compounds to support your mental and emotional well-being. It also features theobromine, a mildly stimulating compound different than caffeine because sensation is less jittery and it doesn't lead to crash or cravings.You’ll love the elevated mood, focus, and motivation that this amazing food offers. What does Mamamuti mean? It means a lot to founder Irma Schutte. She explains…’Mama’ honours my own Mum who passed away when I was 30. She dedicated her life to nature and did a lot to influence the public in South Africa that credible & ethical natural medicine is a powerful tool for healing. She was a true inspiration. That’s why I became a homeopath in 1999 and have been part of the wellness industry for as long as I can remember! My trust in the the wisdom of plants is unwavering because of my Mum. And ‘Muti’ means medicine in Zulu. I grew up surrounded by the Zulu women of KwaZulu Natal and they helped to raise me. So Mamamuti literally means Mother Medicine! I feel the presence and am guided by these Zulu women and my late Mum when I serve cacao. To me Mamamuti is a tangible reminder of their love.
How much cacao should I have?
There is no set amount, because every body has different needs. Trust yourself, your cravings and have fun exploring what works best for you! You are your own best expert. Don’t get too hung up over dosages and quantities. There’s a lot of info about cacao and it can get a bit overwhelming and intimidating. Cacao is a deliciously versatile nutrient dense food and treat it as such. If you’re feeling exhausted and need extra support, nourishment and comfort, have a little more. If you’re on holiday, loving life and feeling energised and resilient, take a little break. Honestly, use your common sense as a guide on this one!
What's the difference between cocoa and cacao?
Cocoa is in fact cacao. All cocoa products derive from the cacao tree. The difference comes from the extra processing, heat treating, additives, chemicals and agents used to enhance flavour or texture within cocoa products.
Why is shade-grown cacao so important?
As the demand for chocolate and cacao has grown, so has the intensification of cacao production, which has significantly driven deforestation in tropical regions. Shade production incorporates a diversity of trees grown among cacao trees (agroforestry), and has been accredited for reducing the negative impacts of cacao production by storing more carbon and mitigating climate change.
In a few areas of the world, cacao is still grown on large plantations where hundreds of trees are planted together. If grown in full sun without taller trees to shade the cacao, the plantation-grown trees may only be productive for a few years. Long-term, the direct sunlight stresses the cacao trees, making them more susceptible to pests and disease which can spread rapidly among trees grown close together. The soil also is more easily depleted of nutrients, requiring costly fertilisers to maintain production. Many cacao plantations have been abandoned because these problems resulted in drastically reduced production.
Sustainable cacao growing benefits the farmer, the environment and chocolate/cacao lovers everywhere.
Can cacao grow anywhere?
Scientists know that the cacao tree originated somewhere in South or Central America. Some say the first trees grew in the Amazon basin of Brazil, while others place its origin in the Orinoco Valley of Venezuela. Wherever its first home, we know the cacao tree is strictly a tropical plant thriving only in hot, rainy climates. Cacao can only be cultivated within 20 degrees north or south of the equator.
Where does the term ‘ceremonial’ cacao come from?
There is so much confusion regarding ceremonial cacao. Let us begin by saying that modern day ceremonies have no direct connection with how the ancient Mesoamerican cultures used cacao. It is very much part of popular new age culture.
Keith Wilson, an American and former geologist, started the ceremonial cacao movement some 20 years ago when he connected with cacao in a mystical way after he arrived in Guatemala. He recognised that high-quality pure cacao, minimally processed, intentionally sourced and delivered, can open people's hearts and guide them back into connection with themselves and one another.
Keith began using cacao as a facilitator to get people in an open-heart space that was conducive to his personal and group offerings as a processing intuitive healer. These gatherings became very popular with western travellers. Soon, he became known as the Chocolate Shaman, and the travellers who shared time with him started referring to his sessions as Chocolate/Cacao Ceremonies.
Before the ceremonial movement began cacao in this form was historically referred to as cacao paste or cacao liquor, which is non-alcoholic.
You don’t use the term ‘ceremonial’ on any of your cacao products anymore. Why is that?
You will notice that Mamamuti uses the term ‘cacao paste’ on their packaging instead of ‘ceremonial cacao’. In the early days Mamamuti founder Irma Schutte used the word ‘ceremonial’ to describe cacao paste. What has changed? As her connection with cacao deepened over the years she no longer wanted to venerate one form of cacao over another. She feels this creates division and confusion within the cacao industry. Respect for the land, the growers, the trees and the unification of cacao and chocolate lovers are the things she values most, not reductive labels.
To her CACAO is CACAO and she celebrates this ancient fruit with respect and enjoys all of its delicious forms - from bean, to nib, to paste, to powder, to smoothie, to tea, to chocolate bar, to cake, to brownie, to brew!
However, if the term ‘ceremonial’ matters to you then by definition Mamamuti Solomon Island cacao paste can be termed as that because it is grown by a small group of women cacao farmers, processed by hand, produced with the intention to be a source of nourishment and comfort and traded transparently.
Is cacao safe during pregnancy?
It depends who you ask and what kind of cacao you use! Not all cacao is made equal. Most industrial available cacao is often from hybridised varieties that contain a lot of caffeine. Women who wish to conceive or are pregnant should avoid or restrict all caffeine.
Mamamuti cacao is low in caffeine. Research have also shown that cacao regulates blood pressure in pregnant women by dilating the blood vessels, thanks to its theobromine and flavonols. The magnesium and fibre in cacao supports bowel health and reduces constipation and vitamins like the B group in cacao reduces morning sickness.
Cacao has also been shown to support both the placenta and foetal growth/development. Regular consumption may reduce the risk of preeclampsia.
Minerals such as magnesium, zinc, calcium, copper, manganese, sulphur, potassium and iron make cacao a nutrient dense source of goodness during all stages of the baby’s growth.
If you are a newbie to pure cacao, Mamamuti suggests to wait until you are further along into your pregnancy before trying it. Start slowly, and trust how your body reacts to it. Mamamuti always recommends you speak with your trusted healthcare professional if you’re interested in using cacao during pregnancy.
Can you consume cacao whilst breastfeeding?
Yes. It’s incredibly beneficial whilst breastfeeding. Mamamuti always recommends you speak with your trusted healthcare professional if you’re interested in using cacao whilst breastfeeding your baby.
Is cacao okay for a paleo or keto diet?
Yes, cacao is paleo friendly and keto friendly! Mamamuti recommends using cacao paste and nibs for the keto diet, because it still contains all the natural fats. In the production of cacao powder, most of those fats are removed and sold as cacao butter.
Does cacao contain caffeine?
Yes it does, however very little! Generally 28 grams, a moderate amount to use for a cup of cacao contains about 20mg of caffeine - roughly the same as the amount of caffeine you would get from drinking a cup of green tea. By comparison, the average cup of coffee has approximately 80 to 155 mg. The caffeine content of cacao will always vary, depending on the specific cacao bean and origin. If you are very sensitive to caffeine Mamamuti suggests that you enjoy your cacao anytime before 3pm.
However, that being said, cacao is also known to improve sleep! This is generally due to the high levels of magnesium, tryptophan and the other mood boosting compounds which supports a calm mental state and reduces anxiety.
If you feel like light stimulation at night to keep your mind alert and focused for whatever reason (a party, social gathering, study, finishing a business project) then consuming cacao over other stimulants like coffee could be the go for you!
Is cacao good for children?
Yes! The minerals in cacao, especially magnesium, help promote heart health and the healthy fats found in cacao are essential for the development of brain function in young bodies. Even though cacao contains a small amount of caffeine, it helps children to be mentally refreshed and concentrate easier.
Can I bake with Mamamuti cacao?
Of course. You can substitute recipes that call for bittersweet or semisweet chocolate with Mamamuti cacao. If you want rich delicious chocolate to be your hero ingredient then you can’t go wrong using Mamamuti cacao in baking and desserts.
How do I store Mamamuti cacao?
Cacao is non-perishable at room temperature. Store in a cool, dark, dry place, away from direct sunlight. Once you open the bag, re-package or transfer it to an airtight container to prevent any moisture from getting in.
How do I make a cup of cacao using Mamamuti cacao paste?
To get your cuppa creamy, lush and smooth, roughly chop a piece of Mamamuti cacao paste with a sharp knife on a cutting board or pulse your paste through a blender to create a rough cacao crumb. In a saucepan on the stove heat 300ml of water or nut milk and add 2-4 tbsp of cacao paste with a teeny pinch of salt (reduces the bitterness and heroes the chocolate flavour!). Add a bit of sweetness or spice if you desire. Stir vigorously with a small whisk until the cacao is well melted and emulsified. You can also use a milk frother or a blender (with caution). Then pour into your fav mug and enjoy a moment of pure pleasure!
Is cacao really ‘raw’?
No. Here Mamamuti has to add that the definition of ‘raw’ food isn’t crystal clear. It’s generally thought that keeping food below 47 degrees Celsius keeps it ‘raw’. Almost all of the cacao you buy is fermented, sun dried and lightly roasted for approximately 70-115 minutes at temperatures of around 100 degrees Celsius. Heating plays a big part in preparing cacao and is vital for the drawing out of the chocolate flavour. The ancient traditional way involves roasting the beans over a wood fire.
Perhaps RAW should be replaced with PURE as a more accurate way to describe cacao?
It is true that cacao powder is cold-pressed, but it is usually heated earlier in the manufacturing process. Mamamuti loves the deep, delicious and rich flavour experience of roasted cacao. Interesting fact - there are some that believe that more theobromine (one of cacao’s main cardiovascular-support substances) is released from the husk to the bean during roasting.
What is the difference between cacao paste and powder?
In one word FAT.
Cacao paste is made by fermenting, sun drying and lightly roasting the beans, then hand peeling and stone-grinding them down to create a paste which is set into a block, or moulded into buttons - nothing added, nothing removed. The bean’s fat remains intact, helping to balance its stimulating properties and facilitate absorption over a longer period of time.
Cacao powder, on the other hand, has had the cacao butter removed and is lower in fat. This however means it is higher in antioxidants per serve in comparison to cacao paste. If you desire cacao that has a more stimulating and instant energy boosting effect then the powder is awesome.
Mamamuti feels that cacao is precious and nourishing in multiple ways and forms! The key things to look for when buying any form of cacao is that it is ethically grown, harvested and processed.
Does your cacao contain any sugar?
No. All Mamamuti cacao products are pure and contain no sugar of any kind.
I’ve heard that cacao contains heavy metals. Is this true?
Some reports have shown amounts of heavy metals in cacao and chocolate products that are above the levels recommended by the FDA and the EU Commission. Country, pollution levels, soil quality and volcanic history are all factors that influence this. Mandates are in place for Central and South American cacao exporters. Mamamuti’s Peruvian cacao is tested for heavy metals by a third-party lab and is within safe amounts accord to the FDA and the EU Commission. Pacific cacao exporters are not currently mandated to test for heavy metals.
Why do I sometimes see white coloured patterns or ‘waves’ in your cacao paste?
This is very natural! It is the cacao butter that is crystallised after the cacao is ground into a paste and re-solidified. It is not tempered to standardise the appearance like in modern industrial chocolate. The characteristics of authentic cacao paste is crumbly, blotchy and marbled. If you notice these white patterns, please be assured that there’s nothing wrong with your cacao. It simply means that you are working with the real thing! Once melted the cacao returns to being smooth and velvety. The overall tasting notes is consistent, but every batch has unique nuances reflecting the season and the wisdom of nature.
Does cacao have any side effects?
A very large amount of cacao can activate the digestion, especially if you’re having it on an empty stomach. It’s a rich source of fibre and magnesium. Check for yourself what is a nice dose and listen to your body. Also, cacao is slightly dehydrating and activates the liver so it’s always best to drink enough water to avoid a headache or nausea. Staying hydrated will also support the natural detoxification processes of your body.
Is cacao psychoactive or a hallucinogen?
No. Cacao does have cognitive benefits and may alter one’s state of mind, but it will not produce hallucinations or significant shifts in consciousness like classic psychoactive substances such as LSD or DMT. Rather, its most noticeable effects are concentrated in the body and cardiovascular system.
Why is cacao toxic to dogs?
Theobromine, the sister molecule to caffeine in cacao, is so hard for dogs to process that they can easily eat enough to be poisonous.
Few dogs eat fatal amounts of chocolate, but smaller doses can still cause seizures and other symptoms. Best to keep your cacao or chocolate out of reach from your furry faithful k9 friends!