Single parenting in a pandemic: ‘I cry alone in the car so the kids don’t...

Lia Hynes

Author Ruth Gilligan: ‘I have slowly colonised our flat’s small second bedroom into my writing...

Sophie Grenham

About 400,000 women in Ireland have this condition and don’t know


The Cabinet Sub-Committee on Covid-19 currently has no women sitting on it. Why?

Lynn Enright

And now Dermaplaning. When will it be okay for women to have hair?

Kate Demolder

A look at Government’s plan to replace direct provision by 2024

Lauren Heskin

How to recreate the glossy, lived-in hair at Victoria Beckham AW21

Holly O'Neill

3 Mother’s Day gifts that aren’t flowers or chocolates


Non-colour nail polish for when you’ve finally removed your gel nails

Holly O'Neill

Image / Self / Health & Wellness

Why is everyone being weird about hot chocolate on Instagram?

by Holly O'Neill
16th Feb 2021

Get in the sea, sea swimmers. Instagram's most online wellness warriors have a new obsession to post about every. Single. Day. Meet the cacao ceremony (or hot chocolate, to you and me).

Just as you got a slight relief from the daily sunrise sea swimmers Instagram Stories every morning, as they became restricted within their 5-kilometre limits, they were replaced with an equally annoying, “I began my day better than you did” obsession.

Now that the Instagram wellness crowd can’t get high on seawater smugness, they’ve found a new doctrine to congest your social feeds with. Except that this time, it’s chocolate. Or to be more specific, chocolate that has been rebranded as a spiritual experience.

Searches of cacao ceremonies in Ireland are up 110% in the last year according to Google trends. Cacao is everywhere you go online now. Posted 3 hours ago, at 5 am. For the third time this week. “Starting the day off with a cacao ceremony for peace and intention” (as soon as they’ve posted the Instagram Story, assumingly).

Did the Aztecs and Mayans who honoured cacao intend for this ceremony (“ceremony!”) to be momentarily halted so that one could take a quick snap for Instagram, with some crystals and sage and incense laid out surreptitiously in the background?

The wellness crowd love a mystical beverage. First, there was bone broth (or chicken carcass water, to you and me) then there was Bulletproof coffee (or butter in black coffee, to you and me). Next came Moon Juice elixirs (we have no level of comparison with these people) and then, creeping its way slowly into your local cafe, are the adaptogenic coffees (no, me either). The latest is the cacao ceremony, or what you and I would call hot chocolate. Except you drink it sugar-free, with other people, at the crack of dawn. Not alone, in front of Netflix, at night, with a vat of spray-can whipped cream on top, like a normal person.

Google it and you’ll find that results might find you conversing with Mayan deities, having diarrhoea or crying from suppressed trauma (all my favourite ways to unwind in the morning). All the pictures of the ceremonies online look like the Manson family at Spahn Ranch.

When it comes to all matters of modern wellness, it’s best to refer to Goop, who quite literally do this for a living. Warning: intensely Goop-y level of notions ahead.”A cacao ceremony is what a much-better-tasting, easier-on-the-digestive-tract, non-hallucinatory ayahuasca ceremony might involve. The idea—communing with the spirit of a powerful plant—is similar, in any case. Like a cup of Parisian hot chocolate without the sugar. If you love chocolate, magical realism, sleeping like a baby, and dreaming a weird mysterious dream, I cannot recommend a cacao ceremony more highly,” says Goop.

Who would like to join me in the rebranding of eating cheese while standing in front of the fridge at 11pm as a spiritual experience that will realign chakras, alter minds and shift energies?

Still a bit unsure about what it is?

Cacao use and rituals date back thousands of years, spreading from Olmecs to Aztecs and Maya. The Mayans believed it was a gift from the gods. In its modern format, you wake up early, make your cacao, post a picture of it on Instagram, set an intention then drink in unison and meditate. For the honour of drinking a sludgy version of hot chocolate in your home, you pay about €50 for the cacao which will make you 16 servings and then pay to have other people watch you drink it on a Zoom call. Ceremonially, of course.

“I spent €50 on the chocolate and the ceremonies,” says a colleague, “then didn’t go to the 5 am zoom call.”

You can’t help but think that anybody who woke up to an hour of peace, quiet and chocolate drinking would think they’d had a great start to their day. Well, if wellness can be drinking a vat of chocolate, that doesn’t seem so bad, says you. Of course, if I woke up for an hour of peace, quiet and chocolate drinking I would say I’d had a great start to the day. Sounds better than an ice bucket or sound bath. Sadly, this is hot chocolate with all the joy taken out of it. Think less Cadbury and more gritted dirt. Cacao is sugar-free, thick, cloying and bitter.

What everyone seems to agree on though is that it is a spiritual experience, that’ll give you an energy boost and focus and a sense of connection. After that, you get a lot of talk of “opening the heart” and “unlocking your magic.”

Like all modern wellness phenomena, everyone taking part is looking for a cure from all sorts of modern ailments, from stress to sleep deprivation to a lack of energy. Unfortunately, like crystal light therapy, it’s one of those things that I think is my loss for not understanding, as it seems to bring so much joy to those who post about it relentlessly on social media every morning. I’m struggling to get on board with it when dedicated followers refer to cacao as ‘her’ and ‘Mama Cacao.’

I know. People are just trying to do whatever it takes to get through the day. Lay off them. Chocolate is most people’s go-to for a mood shift. Of course, chocolate is life-changing. Let’s just not try to claim it as a spiritual experience. Especially when it’s sugar-free.

Photography by Unsplash.

Also Read

6 steps to improve your gut health this January, according to a gastroenterologist

Gastroenterologist and gut expert Professor Barbara Ryan on why our...


How a vegan who’s concerned about climate change copes with the excess of the festive season

How does a vegan who’s concerned about climate change and...


Evan Rachel Wood, AOC,FKA Twigs
From Evan Rachel Wood to the survivors of mother & baby homes, we must listen to women’s testimony

What happens when we demand stories of women but don't listen to or respect the answers? Lynn Enright on the power of women's testimony, and how historically — in Ireland especially — it has been ignored.

By Lynn Enright

Do probiotics actually work? We get the final word from an expert gastroenterologist


‘Nothing prepares you for the yearning that comes when you want to have a baby at a later stage of life’

Does fertility ‘fall off a cliff’ as you enter your...

By Amanda Cassidy

I tried a 4-week perimenopause hormone reset programme, here’s how I got on

Night sweats, weight gain, broken sleep, mood swings and increased anxiety, all while living through a pandemic. Lizzie Gore-Grimes on getting her perimenopause hormones under control.

By Lizzie Gore-Grimes

The dos and don’ts of supporting someone who might be suicidal

Take some time to know how best to approach a...

By Erin Lindsay

Altar State
These gorgeously curated Irish gift boxes have a selection for everyone from foodies to sea swimmers

Altar State have put together carefully selected gift boxes of...

By Megan Burns