The Versatility of Cacao

By: Amiah Taylor

I think as a Black woman, being called something that belongs behind a patisserie counter, is a rite of passage.

Hey baby. Hot chocolate. Crème brûlée. Cocoa goddess. Peanut butter. 

I honestly wish I was making this up.

My cringeworthy favorite is a phrase that was whispered entirely too close to my ear by a stranger.

“I like a little chocolate swirl in my sundae.”

There is a versatility to cacao. In my experience, it is the main ingredient in most of my catcallers favorite desserts. But when cacao isn’t being used to refer to a Black woman’s skin, it’s actually a practically unstoppable ingredient.

There are records of cacao being harvested and enjoyed as far back as 1900 BCE in Mesoamerica. The ancient Mayans thought cacao was a heavenly food, gifted to them by a feathered serpent god called Kukulkan. Cacao beans were currency and they were even given to soldiers as a reward for battle successes.

Many people drink hot chocolate for the warmth, the comfort, or perhaps even just the nostalgia. But the Mayans actually drank a frothy chocolate concoction specifically designed for invigoration. With one of the main ingredients being chili peppers, talk about a pick-me-up!

The ritual of drinking chocolate daily is a beautiful and longstanding practice that you can cultivate in your own daily routine. The founder of Verte, Blair Lauren Brown, has tapped into this indigenous tradition and loves to begin her day drinking cacao. “I love love love this product as my morning jump start. It’s my morning go-to that makes ALL the difference!”

She created her Mood + Energy Lifting Sipping Chocolate as a homage to the Indian and Aztec populations from central America where the stories and adoration of cacao speak to an enduring history of spirit and love.

As we often have noticed with populations whose spirituality is interdependent with nature, their guiding instincts lead them to powerful healing ingredients. One of the reasons chocolate has been revered for literal millennia is a neurotransmitter called anandamide. Remember the cacao beans that were given to ancient Mayan soldiers as a reward for battles? It’s no wonder. Anandamide affects brain areas that influence pleasure and reward, physiologically imparting a sense of euphoria. Often called the “bliss molecule,” anandamide is quite a force to be reckoned with. It’s a natural anti-inflammatory that reduces fear and anxiety and increases your overall sense of wellbeing.

And it doesn’t stop there, anandamide also works well collaboratively. Combine it with other natural healing ingredients and you essentially have formed the Avengers. When you read the ingredient list for Rasa’s Coffee Alternative, it’s like taking roll call for a bunch of muscular crime fighters who want to keep the city —your body—safe. Depression wreaking havoc and draining the city’s energy supply? Not on rhodiola’s watch. Pathogens stealthily invading, doing their best not to signal the immune system? That sounds like a job for the mushroom of immortality, reishi! Ben LeVine, the Chief Herbalist of Rasa has called the Cocoa Rasa blend particularly decadent and delightful. “Cacao Rasa is a favorite of ours because the blend combines 1750 mg of 7 stress-busting adaptogens (ashwagandha, rhodiola, eleuthero, reishi, shatavari, codonopsis, & he shou wu) with nutrient-dense and antioxidant-rich cacao. Not only does it taste amazing, but the natural mood-boosters in cacao makes you feel great as well, a win-win combo.”

There are so many options to drink cacao, it would be silly not to point out that you can eat it as well. The chili lime chocolate that Calivolve offers always makes me feel like an ancient Aztec when I eat it. The Aztecs loved a chocolate beverage called Xocolatl and it was quite rich and bitter and of course, contained chili peppers.

So whether you like your chocolate spicy, sweet or full of stress busting superheroes, there’s always an option for you here at Poplar.

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