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3 Common Mistakes when making your Morning Cacao*

*and how to avoid them

If you’ve tried our cacao and don’t quite get what all the fuss is about, then you probably haven’t quite mastered the art of preparing it. 😉 Implement these tips and we can almost guarantee that it’ll be a WHOLE new experience.

We’ve played around over the years and figured out our fav combos. Def recommend you 𝘗𝘓𝘈𝘠 & 𝘌𝘟𝘗𝘌𝘙𝘐𝘔𝘌𝘕𝘛 to figure out what you love best.

That said, we have some golden rules that we abide by:

🌻1. We 𝗼𝗻𝗹𝘆 𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗿 use top quality cacao (our Balinese cacao 90% of the time, 10% of the time we taste test other varieties). Unfortunately there is some poor quality cacao out there (usually wholesale cacao that seriously rips off the farmers: price is a good indicator as to whether this situation applies).

🌻2. 𝗔𝗹𝘄𝗮𝘆𝘀 𝗯𝗹𝗲𝗻𝗱. Be it with a heat proof blender, stick blender or a whisk and some elbow grease.

🌻3. If we use milk, then we use a good quality oat milk.

🌻4. We 𝗳𝗲𝗲𝗹 𝗶𝗻𝘁𝗼 𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗺𝗼𝗼𝗱 and add spices/sweetener accordingly. Some days we opt for heart warming cinnamon & a dash of cayenne. Other days, we just add a sprinkle of sea salt. Some days it’s just pure Mama Cacao.

Don’t be scared to do this – especially if it’s your first time trying cacao. Our palettes have been butchered by years of drinking highly processed dutched-cocoa (with emulsifiers, flavouring and other additives). For some of us, it’ll be a bit of a transition to Mama Cacao – so if you feel the need to add some natural sweeteners, milk and spices to make it suit your palette, then don’t be afraid to do so. In our experience, you’ll find less of a want to add sweetener and milk over time.

Inspo for this post was from visiting friends recently who invested in a 500g bag – they didn’t love their first cup. Adam took to the task, (this time blending, adding a touch of sweetener plus a dash of spices) and they were in love. Which made us very happy. 🥰

As always – we’re here to advise you if you need some further guidance, or also feel free to check out our preparation page on our website 🙂 We’ve got tips and tricks that we continue to develop based on your questions and feedback.

COMMON MISTAKE TO AVOID #1

Probably one of the easiest mistakes to avoid, but it isn’t necessarily super obvious.

Being vigilant to ensure we don’t boil our cacao also comes back to mindfulness – to be present with the preparations, so as to ensure we don’t burn it.

COMMON MISTAKE TO AVOID #2

This is an easy one to implement!

COMMON MISTAKE TO AVOID #3

We actually prepared our cacao for years without using a mechanical blender and it was beautiful – but we were committed to making sure it was fully blended so really went for it with a whisk or hand blender. It usually helped that we often prepared cacao in a group – so when the arms got tired we could share the task.

That said, a mechanical blender is honestly a game changer – it really gets in there and makes it SO CREAMY. 10/10 recommend.

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Cacao: the Queen of the Happy Hormones

Today we wanted to celebrate four of the well-known hormones that are naturally found in cacao and that are scientifically proven help to regulate our mood, promote happiness and pleasure. We’ve detailed each of these bad boys in the images below.

There are lots of ways that we can naturally produce these happy hormones.

Dopamine – “the feel good hormone” is naturally stimulated by longer sleep, exercise and sunshine”.

Serotonin – “the happy chemical” can be boosted when we eat foods high in tryptophan (e.g., nuts & seeds, fruits) combined with carbohydrates (e.g., whole wheat bread and oats), when we meditate, and when we receive massage.

Endorphins – “the natural pain reliever” are also stimulated through exercise, as well as when we have sex, laugh and enjoy music.

Oxytocin – “the love hormone” can be increased when we cuddle our pets, engage in long hugs, intake vitamin C and socialise.

Cacao helps us to produce all FOUR.

You could say cacao’s the same as getting the benefits of petting your dog, feeling the high of a run, enjoying the heat of the sun and receiving a relaxing massage all at once. 😊

We never knew any of the science when we first fell in love with cacao, but we find the science fascinating as it supports that which we intuitively knew and experienced. Love when that happens!   

In the same breath, cacao is generally contraindicated with antidepressants, especially MAOIs and some SSRIs. It may result in a really bad headache, or worse, cause the development of serotonin syndrome which can have severe implications. Cacao paste contains tryptophan and MAO inhibitors that may cause a synergistic intensification when combined with antidepressants. We aren’t the experts in this field and 100% recommend you speak to your trusted health care professional before consuming cacao if you are taking anti-depressants.

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7 Ingredient, Vegan, Nut Butter Hemp Bars

These are so easy to whip up – no special equipment, basically just combine and freeze! This is also our fav recipe we’ve made to date! We made a batch to take up to friends in London, they didn’t last long!

Gorgeous pic and recipe adapted from the lovely Jade from Panaceas Pantry. Jade’s recipes use natural ingredients, are thoughtful and always DELICIOUS. Def recommend giving her a follow!

Store your bars in an airtight container for up to 1 week in the fridge or 3 months in the freezer. (Perfect premade snack for busy folk! )

Ingredients

375g (1 jar) smooth, drippy peanut butter (or whatever nut butter you feel inspired to use). If your nut butter is stiff your bars will be dry. You can compensate by adding in extra oil.

105g (1/2 cup) virgin coconut oil

75–100g (1/4-1/3 cup) pure maple syrup or honey or agave

1 tsp vanilla extract

100g (1 cup) plant based protein powder in plain or 100g ground oats (which we used)

85g (1/2 cup) hemp hearts

100g prechopped cacao, divided

1 Tbsp peanut butter (reserve)

Method

1. Line a small tin with baking paper and set aside.

2. To a bowl, add drippy peanut butter to bowl and add melted coconut oil.

3.. Add your sweetener of choice (maple syrup, honey or agave).

4. Add vanilla, protein powder (or ground oats) and hemp seeds and combine until completely uniform, thick and smooth.

5. Add chopped cacao and fold through.

6. Pour batter into your lined tray. It will be thick and heavy, so use a spoon to spread it around into an even bar. Set aside.

7. Add the remaining cacao and reserved 1 Tbsp peanut butter to a heat proof bowl. Melt via double boiler method. Once melted, pour on top of batter and spread to evenly cover.

8. Place your nut butter hemp bars in the fridge for 2+ hours to set.

9. Cut into desired serves AND ENJOY!

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Q: What’s the right serving of cacao for me?

Cacao Preparation Tips:

We thought it would be useful to set some guidelines around how much cacao paste to add for your daily brew. This guidance draws upon our experience and personal recommendations, but each of us is different. As with any fine brew feeeeel into the process. Try different strengths and flavours. You’ll soon know the optimal amount depending on the time and occasion.

There are lots of factors to consider when it comes to choosing the right amount for you. Depending on your metabolism, size, sensitivity to stimulants, and how clean your diet is in general, cacao will effect you in different ways. A two a day coffee drinker is likely to have a different experience to someone who strictly sticks to water and herbal teas.

If you don’t want cacao to interfere with your sleep, then we don’t recommend more than 1 Tbsp after 2pm.

If you are new to drinking cacao, especially if you aren’t a coffee drinker, then we would recommend starting with 1 Tbsp. Our personal preference is to drink our cacao thick (like a Turkish coffee), so when we prepare a gentle serving we will normally decrease the amount of liquid in this brew. (As a general rule: always start with LESS liquid and add more if your cacao is too thick).

If you want to cosy up with cacao in the evening, then we would also recommend a gentle serve. As you may already know, cacao gives us an energetic boost which is fabulous for the morning and midday, but not ideal if we want to get an early night.

2 Tbsp is our day to day go to. It provides a lovely long lasting boost, but without the jitters. I usually drink 2 Tbsp of cacao every morning (spiced in different ways, according to my mood – check out our earlier post about how to spice/sweeten your cacao).

This amount of cacao can bring enhanced alertness and also kick start creative juices. Often my colleagues will see me on our morning Zoom catch up with cacao in hand, it’s the perfect brew to dust the cobwebs from my eyes and embrace the day with fresh zeal.

What we can say for sure, is to approach a full ceremonial dose with caution. A ceremonial dose cacao is intentionally intended to be felt in the body, particularly for the heart opening effects. We’ve experienced many ceremonies celebrated with the consumption of cacao, and found ourselves too alert for sleep (we took this as an opportunity for more singing and meditation, but this might not be for everyone!)

The invitation is really to experiment for yourself and most importantly, to enjoy it!

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Amazing, Vegan, Cacao Choc Chunk Cookies

A COOKIE recipe, feat. our cacao. Delight of delights! a chewy middle, barely crisp edges, complex flavour, and rich chocolate and cacao chunks. These cookies are so delicious and supremely easy to make.

These cookies are (shockingly) vegan. That’s right, there’s no butter or eggs in this recipe, but you’d never guess it. How? Instead of butter, these cookies use melted coconut oil. The eggs are simply omitted with no downsides.

Inspired by a recipe by Cookie + kate, this recipe is even easier to make than standard chocolate chip cookies (again, shocking but true).

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 85g Cacao Artesanos Raw Balinese Cacao in small chunks
  • 85g vegan dark chocolate, chopped in small chunks
  • ⅔ cup lightly packed coconut sugar or ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
  • ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon water
  • Sea salt flakes for sprinkling (recommended for extra mmm)

Method

  • In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk to combine, then add the chocolate chips and toss to coat.
  • In a large bowl, combine the coconut sugar, regular sugar, oil and water. Whisk until the sugar has incorporated into the oil and the mixture is smooth, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture, then stir just until combined  (don’t overdo it).
  • Line 2 baking sheets with baking paper. Spoon the mixture into even 2-inch mounds, and place the dough onto one of the prepared sheets. Repeat with remaining dough, leaving several inches of space around each cookie.
  • Freeze the cookies on their pans for 30 minutes, or chill them for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator.
  • When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Bake until the edges are just starting to turn golden, about 14 to 17 minutes. Place the baking sheet on a cooling rack and sprinkle the cookies with flaky salt, if using.
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What milk should I use with my cacao?

Let’s just start by clarifying that you don’t actually need to use a milk in preparing your cacao. Traditionally it was made with just water. We like to combine water with milk, it adds a rich creamy quality that we enjoy.

Plant milk, (including nut milks) have really come into their own recently. You could be forgiven for thinking plant milk is a new age phenomena but they’ve actually been prepared by different peoples around the world for centuries.

In our experience, most cacao connoisseurs make their brew with plant milk. A couple of cacao facilitators we know specifically recommend using plant milk, as dairy milk is said to block the effects of the cacao. In all honesty we can’t really opine on this point but have heard it from a couple of different sources, so wanted to mention it.

We’ve always used plant milk in preparing our cacao because it’s downright delicious, earth friendly and really compliments the decadent flavour of our cacao paste.

Different plant milks and our favourites

Our favourites are (in descending order) (1) Oat milk, (2) Almond milk (3) Coconut milk. We love these three because they are cost effective, tasty and really easy to source.

Hemp milk is also delicious – although has a distinctive flavour so may not be for everyone. It’s made from hemp seeds, which have a rich nutritional profile including omega 3 and omega 6. We found that it blends well with the cacao. If you have access to the seeds, it is easy to make as well. Venus Hemp are located super close to us in Devon and are our local source of hemp seeds (support UK farmers and source local).

We’ve never tried pea milk with cacao but are open to it – let us know if you’ve tried this!

We’ve made our own cashew milk at home too, and it was decadent when combined with cacao – although not necessarily recommended if you’re on a budget.

You can also use soya milk, which is widely commercially available. It’s not our favourite, but some people love the taste of soya milk. We’ve noticed that lots of soya milk is fortified with vitamins and minerals too, certainly a plus.

Finally peanut milk – we’ve only ever had this freshly served in a street market in Oaxaca, Mexico and it was incredibly delicious. We couldn’t tell you how to make it or where to source in the UK, but it was so tasty…it could be the ultimate when combined with our cacao paste.

Plant milk recommendations for the UK:

These are recommendations based on what we have tasted and really loved over the years in the UK.

Oat milk: Our favourite is Rerooted Organic oat milk. It’s delicious and comes in glass bottles that they recycle, plus they are based in our village Totnes (ticks so many of our boxes).  We also love Minor Figures barista grade oat milk, a super convenient option available at most supermarkets. We really enjoyed Oatly, but diverted to Minor Figures after learning about their trademark battle against a family run farm…(just being transparent).

Coconut milk: Again, Rerooted do a cracking coconut milk. Our friends at Coconut Merchant also do a lovely coconut milk – and they’re a team committed to being ethically sourced (easy to source online and in your local health food shop).

Almond milk: Rerooted are still our fav almond milk (promise we are not in paid partnership!). Alpro almond milk also works really well, in fact one of the best brews we ever made was with this milk.

Play around – see what works best for you, and as always, share with us your successes! 

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Fermentation

There’s a lot of hype about the different types of cacao beans (similar to the same sort of hype in the coffee biz). Bean type has a significant impact on taste for sure, but perhaps the most important part in developing flavour is actually in the post-harvest fermentation process.

(Ever noticed that some of the most delicious and simultaneously healthy food stuffs are naturally fermented? Kombucha, kimchi, miso, kefir yoghurt… I digress).

The cacao beans are harvested, removed from the colourful pod and then are naturally fermented. The fermentation of the beans is critical as it triggers the chemical changes that develop the unique chocolatey aroma & flavour that we know and love. Without fermentation cacao can be quite bitter and astringent.

The fermentation process takes approx  5-7 days (depending on the process adopted by the artisan, the environment and the particular batch). It’s a labour intensive process, a lot of love & care is required at this stage to ensure that the beans ferment just right. Just by way of comparison, I tried to make sauerkraut last year and even tending to my small jar was pretty labour intensive – daily pressing to ensure the cabbage is submerged under the brine just right, getting the seasonings just so… let’s just say I’ve decided to support local sauerkraut producers from now on.

Some big companies don’t even both with fermentation. For them, profit margins are the key driver and the fermentation process is expensive, so they mask the missing flavour profile by subjecting the cacao to heavy roasting and then add a whole bunch of artificial preservatives, vegetable oils, flavours and sugar.

Cheap and nasty isn’t our thing. We’ve been super selective and only partnered with farmers who grow and process their cacao to the highest quality – this includes having a legit and well managed fermentation process. It’s such a different buzz connecting to a food that’s been crafted as a labour of love as opposed to a commodity produced to make shareholders money.

Thanks again to Ubud Raw for the gorgeous picture. These guys are fermentation experts and we are so happy to partner with them.

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How do I spice & sweeten my cacao?

Short answer: experiment and play!

Long answer:

Spice

There’s truly not ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to spice your cacao. Anthropologists believe that Mayan peoples (1800BC-AD 250) were spicing their cacao with chilli, vanilla & magnolia. That still sounds like a delicious combination.

We’ve a friend who is a self-confessed cacao aficionado. Max led the charge in preparing cacao for any large gathering, usually before a community meeting or kirtan. He was particular in his method and no batch of cacao was left un-spiced with cayenne pepper. Perhaps it reflected his Mexican roots, or his Aries constitution, but Max believed that cayenne pepper was fundamental in “activating the cacao”. We’re not sure if cacao needs ‘activation’, but we can say that adding a pinch of cayenne pepper adds a real kick & certainly amplifies the heart-warming effects of the cacao!

Over the years we’ve experimented a lot (often depending on what’s available). Ground cinnamon, turmeric, and a dash of cayenne is a regular combo for us. So is adding nutmeg, cardamom and a swirl of vanilla pod.

Some days we keep it simple & just add a small sprinkle of sea salt flakes. If you’ve ever had chocolate with sea salt -it’s a very similar effect and the juxtaposition of salty/sweet is a taste sensation. Just beware not to be too over zealous with your addition of salt – it can sink to the bottom, leaving a super charged salty shot at the end! (We speak from experience).

Sweetener

When it comes to sweeteners, we very much encourage you to experiment again. Natural sugar defiantly seems to work best (i.e. steer clear of refined sugar). In Mexico we used locally made honey, but we found it harder to source honey that we felt good buying in the UK. Our new favourite is agave syrup, available at our local Morrisons. Organic coconut sugar, which is derived from the sap of coconut palms, is also a delicious alternative. Maple syrup is also a great option and brings a unique depth of flavour. We’ve never tried stevia with cacao, but some people swear by it.  

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Enjoy creating your concoctions! Please share your favourite flavour combinations with us, we love continuing to be inspired.

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Choc Coated Peanut Bites

Choc Coated Peanut Bites

While living in Mexico, we mastered the art of creating our own peanut butter. We were inspired by Celia, a tremendously inspiring Mother & Grandmother, who we served alongside in the kitchen. Celia roasted & blended the peanuts at home and then brought in tubs of mouth-watering peanut butter that she sold to hungry yogis & meditators. Since then, we’ve spent years perfecting the perfect peanut blend. It’s exceptionally easy too – our fav, Minimalist Baker, has a great recipe on how to make your very own nut butter. For us, the only thing that pips our love of freshly made peanut butter is artisan cacao paste….

This recipe is a fantastic fusion of two of our favourite obsessions – home made peanut butter and cacao paste.

Ingredients

Peanut Butter filling

  • 1 cup canned organic coconut cream
  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (or agave syrup)
  • Pinch of sea salt

Dipping Chocolate

  • 100g Cacao Artesanos Cacao Paste
  • 100ml melted coconut oil (plus extra)
  • 2 generous tablespoons smooth peanut butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (or agave syrup)

Plus

  • 1/2 cup peanuts, roughly chopped, toasted
  • Sea salt

Method

Peanut Butter Filing

Place all the ingredients in a saucepan over low heat and melt together, stirring constantly, until nice & runny.

2. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 10–15 minutes.

3. Once slightly cooled, pour your mixture into a silicone, square ice-cube tray and transfer to the freezer to set for a minimum of one hour or until completely firm.

Dipping Chocolate

4. Melt the chocolate ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring regularly, until thick and creamy. Set aside to cool slightly.

Combine!

Remove one of the frozen peanut fillings from the mould and, using tongs, a spoon or even your fingers, dip it in the dipping chocolate.

Place on a wire rack and quickly top with the chopped peanuts and a pinch of salt. It’s recommended to work quickly before the chocolate sets. Repeat until you’ve coated all your peanut fillings. Transfer to the fridge for 20 minutes to chill and firm.

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Rich and Creamy Avocado Cacao Mousse

Rich and Creamy Avocado Cacao Mousse

(It’s Vegan too!)

This creamy cacao mousse is the perfect way to cap off a meal. We’ve made these so many times for guests and they are always blown away at how rich and creamy these are, despite not having an ounce of dairy in them. Plus, they are really EASY to make – what’s not to love?!

Ingredients

For four servings

130g ripe avocado (either 1 large avo or one and a half little guys)
4Tbsp Cacao Artesanos Cacao Paste
90g whole (unsalted) cashews
140ml oat milk
6 Tbsp maple syrup or agave syrup

Method

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until silky smooth.
Spoon the mousse into your serving dishes (we suggest individual little dessert pots, if you have them).
Chill for 30 minutes prior to serving in the fridge.

Optional: Feel free to add small cacao paste shavings or crushed nuts to decorate.