You know those things you love and are attached to and have a hard time letting go of? Maybe because, well addiction or nostalgia or you just can’t imagine your life without it. Well I’m like that with chocolate. Every sworn abstinence just leads me back even stronger, pulls me closer like a crazy lover full of desire and ecstasy. And I like it. I love it. And I won’t stop because now I know I can have it as good medicine rather than guilty pleasure. Don’t get me wrong. There is plenty of pleasure, just without the guilt.
CACAO VS COCOA
Good chocolate makes all the difference. It’s certainly not like the Halloween candy bar stash that makes you high at night and very very low in the morning, or the processed hot cocoa with fake-o marshmallows on top that warms you up but leaves you wanting. So what exactly is ‘good chocolate’? Its raw and real, unprocessed, fair trade and organic.
The difference between cocoa and cacao is very simple. Cacao is the raw bean that has been fermented, cocoa is the processed cacao bean turned into powdered cocoa through heat. Cacao is raw and cocoa is what the bean is called after being heated and processed. So? The raw fermented cacao is FULL of antioxidants. Unbelievably 40 times higher than that of blueberries. Cocoa is roasted and has about 60% less antioxidant goodness, its basically been processed out.
Raw cacao is also choc-full (adorable pun intended!) of magnesium, in fact its the highest whole food source of magnesium which is a brain and heart super-food. Something I only recently found out is that raw cacao has a much higher and more bio-available (easier to digest and metabolize) calcium content than cow’s milk. Contrary to what we think we know about cacao is that it actually helps with weight loss, and stabilizing blood sugar. This makes it good for those with type 2 diabetes. It’s packed with coumarin (also found in cinnamon) and chromium which imbues it with these health-giving benefits.
The main reason we all eat this Theobroma ‘food of the Gods’ so passionately is that it makes us feel good. Cacao has an amino acid phenethylamine or PEA, the feel-good neurotransmitter responsible for that feeling of LOVE as it releases the pleasure-inducing endorphins. In Ayurveda cacao is an aphrodisiac or rasayana, boosting immunity by restoring the reproductive tissues and bringing SOMA or bliss to the mind and emotional body.
A DAILY DIET OF GUILT-FREE CACAO
So how best to get this good stuff into the daily diet and reduce cravings for the not-so-good stuff? Recently at Spice Lounge, an event I offer in Vancouver, we got to know the cacao bean a little more intimately and made a spice blend Gomasala where the star was cacao. This blend with a base of sesame seeds is for sprinkling lavishly as a finishing spice on avocado-toast, scrambled eggs, popcorn with ghee, soups, roasted veggies, chicken, fish…. really it adds nutritional enhancement and divine flavour to food of all kinds.
Included in our Spice Lounge was a cacao chai that can be enjoyed as a morning elixir or late afternoon drink to reduce sugar cravings. We had it in the evening and the group were all euphoric, there was a tangible mood of luscious love in the air. This cacao chai would make the most delicious holiday drink with whipped cream or frothed almond milk and perhaps a splash of ginger liqueur
CACAO SPICE MOON CHAI
Makes 8 cups.
This heavenly cacao chai is rich in antioxidants and digestive spice medicines. Cacao is the star ingredient of this chai and can be enjoyed any time of day as its tea base is the herbal but full bodied rooibos (red bush).
Rooibos is high in antioxidants and is anti-inflammatory and known to relieve stress and nervous tension. Along with the antioxidant, mind-relaxing and pleasure-inducing benefits of cacao this is a beverage for everyone during the cooler season and the busy holiday season.
4 sticks Cinnamon
2 TBSP Cardamom pods
1 tsp whole Black Peppercorns
1 tsp ground Nutmeg
2 TBSP Cacao nibs
3 TBSP Cacao powder
1 tsp dried Ginger
4 Rooibos teabags or 4 tsp loose Rooibos tea.
Honey to taste
Pre-toast all the whole spices together in a skillet (this optional step releases the aromatic molecules).
Gently crack the spices in a mortar and pestle or grinder, chunky style.
In a medium sized pot add 10 cups of water with spices and slowly bring to a boil.
Add the rooibos tea. Simmer together on very low for at least an hour to infuse the spices.
Add the dried ginger and cacao powder (and nutmeg if you are using ground) and stir well. Allow to steep for another 15 minutes.
Turn off heat and allow to steep for at least another few hours. This gives a deeper, richer chai.
Strain into a big glass jar to store in refrigerator or pour into mugs ready to enjoy.
Add honey (I like it sweet and spicy so I add 1 heaped tsp per cup)
Top with optional whipped cream or frothed almond milk and a dusting of cinnamon or cayenne.
Enjoy your Cacao Spice Moon Chai and the soulful magic of this Winter Solstice season. I’d love to hear how you adorned and enjoyed your personal Cacao Chai!
YOUR SPICE ORACLE FOR THE WINTER SOLSTICE SEASON
Pulled by The Spice Mistress
With Love and Fragrant blessings as always,
The Spice Mistress