What Is The Best Variety of Cacao?
Cacao is not only delicious; it’s one of the greatest antioxidants on the planet, with benefits that far surpass its satisfying taste notes. And since it comes in a number of varieties, the question of which one is the best is getting more popular each day
Every species of cacao has high levels of antioxidants, more specifically flavanols and polyphenols, that fight free radicals and help prevent cellular damage. They support your immune system and help protect you from disease. This incredible effect gives it the superfood or superfruit label, and some cacao varieties have unique characteristics that make them even more special.
The History of Cacao
The sacred drink of many Southamerican tribes dating back thousands of years, cacao was used in almost every ritual, ceremony, feast, and festival. It was so valuable that there’s reports of cacao beans being used as an early form of currency.
The Latin name for the cacao tree is Theobroma Cacao, which translates to “food of the gods.” This only showcases how every culture who touched it realized its incredible healing and powerful features.
Ancient texts and ceremonial drawings on antique vases show how cacao was used. They roasted the cacao beans and crushed them into a paste, after which they mixed it with water, chili peppers and cornmeal to be poured between pots until covered with a thick foam.
Since there was no sugar in Central America at the time, the liquid was quite bitter and the Mayans formed a word for it, “xocolatl,“ meaning “bitter water.” Although today we know better than making “bitter water” with our cacao, learning how much power they used to give to these incredible beans is absolutely astonishing, given the fact they had no scientific data about their actual health benefits.
Cacao came to Europe after the Spanish brought it back with them in the early 16th century. When they lost their monopoly on import, it quickly spread throughout Europe. Cacao is still being used in many medicinal treatments, its effects becoming an increasingly popular topic for modern research for beauty, skin health, and even pharmaceutical industries. Cacao is chemically one of the most complex foods with a magical effect on our body and mind.
The Benefits of Peruvian Criollo Cacao
Often named one of the best cacao species in the world, the Peruvian Criollo cacao comes from the Peruvian part of the Amazon rainforest which has been a melting pot for many different ancestral cultures throughout centuries. These cultures have relied on sustainable farming systems which help develop and support native communities and their fair trade approach.
Cacao has been a part of spiritual and other types of cultural ceremonies for hundreds of years, so it comes as no surprise that growing and harvesting cacao beans has been treated with a special approach.
Known as a powerful superfood with rich aromas, cacao brings on a plethora of benefits. Here are just some of the ways cacao can improve your overall health:
- Boosts your immune system and helps fight disease - Cacao has extremely high levels of antioxidants which help your body fight against free radicals and their oxidative damage.
- Helps lower your blood pressure - cacao improves the level of nitric oxide in the blood, helping lower your blood pressure
- Improves mood and has antidepressant properties - the potent antioxidants found in cacao trigger the release of serotonin, the happiness hormone, which has a positive impact on mood and symptoms of depression.
- May help lower the risk of heart disease and stroke - cacao seems to lower your bad cholesterol levels and help optimize your cardiovascular health.
- May be beneficial to those suffering from asthma - studies show that cacao contains anti-asthmatic compounds, theobromine and theophylline which can potentially reduce the constriction of the airways and tissue thickness.
These are just some of the vast benefits these amazing cacao beans of the Amazons provide. Add cacao to your diet and feel good knowing you’re doing something amazing for your overall health and longevity.
Ways To Implement Cacao Into Your Daily Life
Once you get your bag of this incredible cacao variety, you can start exploring all the ways you can use it and make it a part of your regular diet. Here are some ideas to get you started:
The best part about making a really delicious hot cup of cacao is the possibility of getting a huge variety of flavor profiles - just by changing the liquid of choice makes all the difference in the world. Every plant-based milk will give it a different flavor note. Hazelnut milk will make you feel like you’re drinking Nutella, cashew or macadamia milk will make it extra cream, oat milk makes it really sweet, coconut milk gives it a rich tropical flavor, and hemp milk adds on a higher amount of protein.
Another thing that makes all the difference are spices. Cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, vanilla bean - these are all potent spices that really pair well with cacao, giving it that luxurious taste that makes you reminisce about Christmas. If you like it minty, you can make a peppermint hot chocolate, and if you like it spicy, add some chilli powder or cayenne pepper to the mix.
As for sweeteners, you can choose everything from coconut sugar and monk fruit sweetener to yacon syrup and agave syrup. And lastly, you can mix in some other superfoods such as maca, lucuma, or even medicinal mushrooms, and turn it into a real, healing, sacred drink.
Raw Vegan Chocolate Treats
From raw pralines, mousses, and brownies, to cakes and cookies, raw cacao powder can definitely be the star of any dessert you can think of. Due to its creamy texture, cacao can be used in the base, filling, coating, or ganache, and even turned to ice cream.
For an extra crunch and even more cacao goodness, don’t forget about cacao nibs. They are perfect as a topping for any type of chia seed pudding, yogurt, mousse, and even pancakes.
Make Your Own Chocolate Bar
For those who really want to take it to the next level and try making their own chocolate bar, you can explore a variety of different flavors and extracts that can make you forget you ever bought chocolate from the store.
Once you try Criollo cacao, it’s hard to imagine ever going back to any of the other cacao varieties. It’s richer in taste, creamier in texture, and really incredible for your overall health and longevity.