Cacao: stardust of the upper yoga class

Cacao” blossom and bean, taken at our Bali permaculture garden

Cacao is good for you. For most people this statement marks the start of a midweek Cadbury bender into the depths of the unhealthy house mates’ section of the kitchen cupboard, only to wake up on the couch 8 hours later, the morning news blaring, surrounded by purple wrappers and brown stains.

Blame yourself! You didn’t read the purple wrapper right! It says cOcao rather than cAcao you well-meaning but ever so naughty fudge nozzle!

Ok let’s clear this one up:

When referring to cacao one refers to a product derived by separating the peeled, fermented and dried cacao beans of the Theobroa cacao (cacao tree). In this form, cacao is bitter and far from sweet. This ancient South American crop is what was used in legendary cacao ceremonies 2000 years BC. This is what was turned into frothy bitter drinks, potentially spiced up with chilli peppers. In the Mexican highlands where it’s too cold to grow cacao, the native Aztec tribes would use this priced-commodity as currency. An avocado would sell for 3 beans, a fat Turkey would fetch up to 100! They even associated cacao with the Mesoamerican deity ‘Quetzalcoatl’, who was cast away from the other gods for sharing chocolate with humans.

This is the stuff your yoga teacher is referring too.

toddlers-tasting-lemon-april-maciborka-david-wile-thumb640As a proud care taker of several cacao trees in tropical Bali I can guarantee it is rare to see a pleasant look on one’s face when being fed a raw cacao bean right off the tree, especially if they are used to the silky smooth brown stuff from purple wrappers.

Do I blame Cadbury for smoothing out the bitter beans with lashes of milk solids, refined sugar, emulsifiers and a refining process which involves high heat and alkalizing? (by this time cAcao has turned into cOcao) Absolutely not! Putting ingredients together in a way that pleases our pallet is just one of those quirky human habits. Inventing machines that can do in a day what we couldn’t do in an entire life time is another one. Cadbury is doing their corporate job of bringing food to the masses. It’s down to you to discern what you want to put in your mouth.  

Caramello Koalas. Silky smooth with a sweetness not suitable for the faint hearted. The gooey caramel center will ensure your reach your carbohydrate capacity before finishing the entire bag.
Caramello Koalas. Silky smooth with a sweetness not suitable for the faint hearted. The gooey caramel center will ensure your reach your carbohydrate capacity before finishing the entire bag.

I wonder which part of the chocolate is more addictive. The legendary godlike qualities of the pure cacao? Or simply the survival instinct driven sugar and fat rush one may experience during and after consumption of rich and creamy milk chocolate, washed away with nutmeg heavy chai tea on a cold winter afternoon? If the latter is the case it might explain why heavily sweetened and processed bars still rule the confectionery aisles of your local supermarket.

Dependency on wine, coffee and chocolate appear to be the most socially accepted of all substance addictions. Such habits are not to be hidden and limited to mid-morning sessions in a smelly public toilet of an inner city car park. Coffee addicts find themselves having in depth discussions with their barista (dealer) on single origin acidity and the pros and cons of manual drip grinding.

I’d be curious to know what would happen if cocaine became legal. Would we find raw cocaine bars downtown, serving up organic lines of Columbian? Grey business men in equal colored suits snorting their way to Monday morning courage whilst praising the tickle on the back of the nostril that one only gets from single origin cocaine?

Only time will tell. I have no interest or experience when it comes to cocaine but growing up in Holland I can guarantee that Marijuana has already taken on Starbucks status over in Amsterdam. The level of social acceptance when it comes to addiction may well be heavily influenced by government legislation.

I’m off to buy chocolate now, strictly for research purposes. Blessed are the cacao deities, the brown bars of beauty and you, may you be enjoying delicious chocolate for the rest of your healthy life.

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