I Believe in Chocolate.
In 2020, just before Covid descended, I had the good fortune to be on retreat in Costa Rica where I visited a cacao forest, learned about the trees, and their adorable little flowers pollinated by the mosquitoes in the jungle. I saw the way the vanilla vines snaked around the cacao trees, a perfect match in combination. I was amazed at the football sized cacao fruit hanging from the branches, the fluffy white flesh inside the pods and the seeds, which were destined for fermentation in a makeshift forest kitchen / classroom. Juan showed us how the seeds were fermented in boxes for about a week, and then roasted over an open fire. After roasting, Juan turned the beans into large, flat bowls where he taught us how to grind the beans into an oily powder which took a long time with several people taking turns. The powder went into a tall wooden container where it was whisked with boiling water into a hot, frothy beverage. We were invited to enjoy the cacao by holding our small cups in both hands, by observing the color, taking in the heavenly scent, and finally, taking small sips, noticing the taste and how it made us feel. Drinking cacao in this way is different. There is no sugar, no milk, nothing to distract your tastebuds from the bitter fruitiness of the roasted beans.
In Mesoamerica, where cacao grew natively in jungle forests, the drink was revered and considered a powerful elixir by both the Aztecs and the Mayans. It was a sign of status, used in ceremony, and sometimes used as currency. Spanish missionaries brought cacao to Europe in the 1500s, the Dutch figured out how to separate the oil from the powder, and the rest is sweet history.
I have always loved chocolate. It was present at all the holidays we celebrated in my family’s home. I joke with friends who grew up with strong religious upbringings and say that I grew up believing in chocolate. I associate chocolate with happiness, and so does my brain.
From a neurological standpoint, chocolate is a magical elixir. The Aztecs and the Mayans knew this simply by experience. Today we know that cacao helps the brain create serotonin and dopamine…our body’s happy chemicals. Serotonin is related to a calm and peaceful feeling, while dopamine is that straight hit of euphoria we get when chocolate hits our tastebuds.
It is my pleasure to offer you a curated collection of traditional Mexican drinking chocolates, cacao elixirs and fine drinking chocolates. All of our chocolates are responsibly sourced and blended in small batches. I have chosen California makers, and am especially proud to offer Sonoma County’s premier ceremonial cacao ORA from Graton.
Come in today and meet your new favorite beverage.