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Where Did Chocolate Originate?
When many people think of the beginnings of chocolate, they imagine European chocolatiers with big white hats, lovingly stirring chocolate in a small charming cobblestone village. While Switzerland, France and Belgium are part of chocolate’s history; the origins of chocolate go back much further to Mesoamerica -where cacao was an integral part of not only cultural and spiritual practices but of the economy as a whole.
The first mention of cacao was in the Florentine Codex written by Spanish friar Bernardino Sahagún in 16th century. The Codex, also known as Historia General, is an ethnographic chronicle detailing the daily lives and practices of Mesoamerican society. Some historians refer to Friar Sahagún as one of the world’s first anthropologists. Thanks to his detailed accounts, we know exactly how chocolate was consumed.
According to the Aztec and Mayan, cacao was a sacred gift from the gods and was treated with the upmost reverence. There were parades honoring the god of cacao, which included drinking cacao as part of ceremonial practices. Even the word “chocolate” comes from the Aztec word “xocoatl” which translates to “bitter drink.”
How Was it Consumed?
This bitter drink consisted of pure cacao and an array of spices mixed with water. So how did chocolate transform from this watery, bitter drink to the chocolate we know today?
It is said that the Spanish did not think the native Mayan spices would be marketable in Europe. So they decided to remove them and add sweeteners, and thickening agents like milk. The result is the European sipping chocolate and bars we are familiar with today.
What to Order for the Mayan Experience?
If you are interested in tasting an authentic drinking chocolate, come in to the shop and order a Mayan Tradition with water or a 100% cacao with water...if you dare. For those looking for more of a sweet treat, we have an array of chocolate drinks, and even the European-style sipping chocolates.
If you are interested in learning more about the origins of chocolate, we host AirBnb experiences that dive into chocolate’s rich history as well as the production of cacao and it's flavor profiles. Click here to find out more.
Step 1: The Wine List:
We recommend choosing your wines first because there can be such huge variation in the palates of different wines. Each chocolate could potentially pair with hundreds of wines of different varietals that happen to share a similar flavor note, but each wine may only have one or two chocolate mates.
We have paired chocolate with wines of all types before, but reds usually pair with chocolate the best, followed by whites then sparkling wines. Consider dessert wines, fortified wines, and other unique wines for a more interesting experience. Just keep in mind when choosing wines that chocolate is a big bold flavor, and it can easily overwhelm a very delicate wine.
Step 2: The Pairing
This is where these events can become a little confusing, because it’s difficult to know how to pair wines without an in-depth knowledge of wine tasting. If you have trouble, feel free to stop by our store for a few pointers, and if you’ve decided the process is not for you, you can hand off the pairing to us for a small fee.
We paired this with our Shangri-La chocolate, which is a 55% dark chocolate with goji berries and black sesame. The fruity notes of the Lafage pair well with the sweetness of goji berries, and those olive notes add saltiness that pairs well with the nuttiness of black sesame.
Use your intuition- if two flavors sound good together, go ahead and pair them.
Step 3: The Style
Will your guests move at their own pace while chocolates and wine glasses are set out around the room, or will you lead a group and describe the pairings as you go? This depends on the number of people involved and the style of gathering you’re holding. For large groups at a party, a tasting room, with a more relaxed move-at-your-own-pace atmosphere, may work better than trying to pour tastings and pass out chocolates.With a more intimate group, pouring each tasting can be a moment when you can chat with each of your guests or guests can talk amongst themselves. Generally, a guided tasting is more formal because it requires that your guests are attentive and quiet as you describe the pairings.
Step 3: The Day Of Prep
Share with Us:
You now have all of the information to get started on your home tasting! Let us know how it goes by tagging us on Instagram or Facebook.
Chocolate + Coffee : Health Food?
Neither chocolate nor coffee is considered particularly healthy, but many recent studies support that both coffee and chocolate can actually be very beneficial to your health. Why has scientific opinion changed on these common treats?
Drinking your coffee with milk and sugar turns coffee from a calorie-free antioxidant drink to a sugar-filled sweet treat. Because of this, the benefits of coffee have been obscured for years! In fact, many scientists now say that drinking black coffee is very good for you- and is perhaps the best way to get all the health benefits of coffee. Black coffee (up to two cups a day) has antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic effects in the human body. Coffee drinking is even linked to lower mortality, obesity, and depression rates, while other promising research suggests that coffee consumption can even postpone the onset of neurodegenerative disorders like MS, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.
Coffee is good for you, but chocolate is truly a superfood. Chocolate’s fatty acids modify LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and its many polyphenols increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol when consumed regularly, and the benefits increase as chocolate gets darker. Regular dark chocolate consumption also results in lowered blood pressure, leading to decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Pure cacao is also one of the strongest antioxidants in the world, ahead of acai and blueberries, and is high in omega-6 fatty acids, like those found in olive oil. Chocolate is also a huge mood booster, and regular dark chocolate eaters even have lower rates of depression than the general public!
Chocolate also gives many of the known benefits of coffee because it contains trace mounts of caffeine as well as larger amounts of theobromine, a byproduct of caffeine metabolism. So, when you break off a piece of your favorite dark chocolate, you’re getting all of the antioxidant and heart-protective power of chocolate along with some of the alertness and anti-carcinogenic powers of caffeine.
At Chocovivo, we only serve dark chocolate with no added binding agents- which means our chocolate is purer and better for your body. And, because we serve both chocolate and coffee, you can get the health benefits, mood boost, and increased alertness of coffee and chocolate all in one place!
Coffee and Chocolate have a lot in common and when specialty coffee shop House Roots Coffee in the San Fernando Valley heard about our Cacao Bitters they thought it would work perfectly with the coffee and tea mocktail program that they were working on (read about House Roots' mocktails in Food & Wine).
They started working with our chocolate bitters and at a recent preview event, that coincided with Valentines Day, they did an evening of mocktails paired with a trio of our chocolates. 75% Cacao (the evening’s favorite), Cherries + Almonds + Black Peppercorns (paired best with the Old Fashioned), and Coffee and Vanilla (of course! it’s a coffee shop).
In the Blood Orange Espresso Old Fashioned, the espresso (replacing the bourbon in the traditional Old Fashioned) really gives the drink a complex flavor profile and the addition of the Cacao Bitters along with the blood orange juice accentuate that. Our Cherries Almonds Black Peppercorns bar really paired well with this delicious drink.
The Blood Orange Tea Manhattan is made with a fruity caffeine free tea and the addition of our Cacao Bitters gave the drink a nice subtle chocolate tone. Very refreshing and sure to be a favorite on the upcoming menu.
The evening was very well received. All who attended had an enjoyable time and several commented that they had a new appreciation for pure, minimally processed, and minimal ingredient chocolates.
These drinks will be part of the specialty evening drinks menu that they are going to introduce later this month. If you are in The Valley and looking for a great cup of coffee or an espresso any time of day, or a special chocolate inspired mocktail later in the day, please be sure to check out the folks at House Roots. We look forward to doing more with them in the future.
House Roots Coffee
16155 San Fernando Mission Blvd
Granada Hills, CA 91344
Recipe: Blood Orange Tea Manhattan - courtesy of House Roots Coffee
2 parts blood orange tea, chilled
2 parts blood orange juice, with pulp
(If blood orange iced tea or juice isn't available, use your favorite fruity tea and juice)
1 part lemonade
Cacao Bitters to taste (about 2-3 drops to full eye dropper per cup)
Rim a chilled glass with Chocolate Dust
Optional: garnish with mint
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, shake, and pour into a chilled glass.
Stay tuned for more information about how Chocolate and Coffee have so many parallels, working so well together. Sign up for our newsletter below (lower right on this page).
Hemp, what's the hype?
Our hemp cacao butter is a great snack option for those who want the protein and smoothness of nut butter, but without nuts. While we like to think of it as a nut milk or nut allergy alternative, hemp has numerous benefits beyond that. For some cultures it has been a diet staple for centuries, using both the seeds and oil as a dietary supplement to aid in digestion, provide essential nutrition, and even alleviate symptoms associated with PMS!
To make our butters, we grind raw cacao nibs in with the hemp seeds, so you're getting the real deal. No powders, no filler oils. Just nibs, hemp seeds, and a bit of organic cane sugar. If you need some convincing to try this flavor, see the benefits below.
Health Benefits of Hemp:
- With 20 amino acids, hemp seeds are one of the few plant-based complete proteins
- Rich in essential fatty acids, including Omega’s 3, and 6
- High amounts of Vitamin E
- High in fiber
ChocoVivo Hemp Sampler
At ChocoVivo we incorporate hemp into more than just our butters. We have a hemp milk option for hot chocolates, as well as a seasonal bar: Pineapple, Hemp and Coconut. If you're not familiar with the flavor, come in and ask for our Hemp Sampler!
What is your deserted island food?
Do you remember this road trip game? The scenario: you are sent to a deserted island and you can only bring ONE food item, what would it be? My go to answer for this has ALWAYS been a chocolate peanut butter cup. Since I was young I would rationalize to my friends, “well, the chocolate would give me some energy, the peanut butter some protein.” It sounds legit enough, right?
Twenty years ago, the option I was vehemently defending would have been a Reese’s. I am well aware now, that taking candy as my only food source sounds great when you are five, but completely ridiculous in 2017. While there are many options today on the market considered “healthy” combos of nut butter and chocolate, many of them are no better than a Reese’s when it comes to added sugars, mystery oils, and lack of nutritional substance.
Nutella not only has palm oil, which studies find could raise inflammation, but 23 grams of sugar per serving! Look into "healthy" variations out there and you'll notice few stray from this formula.
Why is it that two foods, with proven health benefits, nuts and cacao often end up in a slurry of additives? Lets review for a second…
- Vitamins: A, B, B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, C, D, E
- Minerals: Magnesium, Potassium, Calcium, Iron, Zinc
- Antioxidants: twice the amount of red wine
- Lowers cortisol and increases serotonin
- Lowers blood pressure
- Increases blood flow to the brain increasing cognitive functioning, focus
- Vegan protein source
- Lowers LDL, bad cholesterol
- Positively affects insulin sensitivity
Cacao Almond Butter: Best of Both Worlds
Much to the delight of my inner child, it is very possible to combine these two ingredients in a simple way, and we do it at ChocoVivo. In our Almond Butter, the only ingredients are Raw Cacao Nibs, Almonds, and Organic Cane Sugar. That’s it. With 5 grams of sugar per serving, this is a treat you can justify and enjoy.
Due to the natural oils, our butters are very similar to the all-natural nut butters you purchase at the grocery. They will separate, so you’ll need to stir, or warm up before using. They can be stored for up to six months at room temperature, but if you are like me, they won’t last that long!
There is no reason to cut out the delicious duo of chocolate and nuts. In their purest form, they can sustain you when you need an energy fix, post workout, or between meals.
Stay tuned for more ChocoVivo Combos
In the next few blog posts, I’ll be highlighting the ingredients of all of our nut butters, convenient ways to use them and recipes. Plus, a preview of new products we will be launching soon!
Chile’s Lake District is the perfect region to experience lush landscapes, crystal clear lakes and endless outdoor activities. It is also a great option for those who would like a taste of Patagonia, but do not have the time or equipment to go further south to the more remote areas. This region was by far my favorite part of the trip, and I’m excited to share with you my top 5 must-sees of the Lake District!
Our time in the south was spent around Lago Llanquihue
We stumbled upon this restaurant by chance on our first day in the region, and it became a highlight of the trip. Weekends are the best times to go, when locals bring their families and children play outside. Situated on a hillside overlooking Lake Llanquihue the views are outstanding. Ask to sit on the deck to get the full experience!
Small farmhouse near the restaurant overlooking the lake and volcano
Rancho serves all you can eat meat and vegetables "a la parrilla" or grilled. The food is fresh and delicious with many local specialities, including regional beers!
Crispy pork, multigrain bread, fresh butter, homemade pickles, and in season artichokes and salads
At this restaurant and most we visited afterwards, herbal infusions were offered as an afternoon tea or post meal digestif. As someone who studies herbs, this was one of my favorite parts of Chilean culture and the most unexpected discoveries.
Post meal herbal infusion of dried eucalyptus leaves and fresh fennel
The Mapuche people of Southern Chile for centuries have used indigenous herbs and superfoods to create medicinal elixirs and tonics. These practices are still common in contemporary Chilean society. Typically when you see a tea infusion station at a hotel or restaurant it will include fresh and dried leaves of eucalyptus, fennel, coca, cinnamon, and local herbs such as melí and maquí. As well as miel de ulmo, which is honey made from bees who feed exclusively from the Ulmo tree.
After eating at Rancho Espantaparajos, don't forget to stop by their little store which sells a ton of local ingredients. I picked up a few herbs to make my own infusion, and added ChocoVivo Cacao Bitters for its digestive properties. Raw cacao can be mixed in with any of the herbs mentioned to give an antioxidant and flavonoid boost.
Trying a Cochayuyo seaweed salad
2. Drive the Lake Circuit
Set aside a full day to drive the lake circuit of Llanquihue and take in the incredible vistas. You will not be disappointed! The lake is surrounded by small towns built and settled by Germans in the late 1800s. With many of the original buildings still standing, it is worth getting out and exploring a few including Frutillar, Puerto Varas and Puerto Octay. In total the circuit will take between 5 and 7 hours.
Perfect road trip snack to keep me energized, a ChocoVivo Paleo Bar with Maqui super fruit juice
Manicured gardens and parks were in full bloom
Herbs for sale in a native market in Frutillar
3. National Park Vincente Perez Rosales
There is a reason this is one of the most visited national parks in Chile. On a sunny day, the landscape is a spectacular mix of snowcapped mountains, black volcanic soil and icy blue lagoons. The park has hiking trails to the volcano or waterfalls, fishing expeditions, kayak tours, and trips across the lake Todos Santos to Argentina.
View of jade colored lake Todos Santos
Hiking trail to the top of Volcano Osorno
4. Horseback Riding
Through our hotel we booked a sunset ride along the lake with Alanca Puerto Varas horse tour. This was one of the most magical experiences we had in Chile.
Bonding with our horses before the trail ride
The owners of Alanca, Cristian and Carolina spent the first part of the tour allowing us to get to know the horses, learn the Chilean saddle, and differences in riding styles. Then we were taken by Cristian on a two hour tour through the temperate forest down to the beachfront, where he explained the biodiversity of the region and identified many of the flora and fauna unique to Chile.
Sunset trail ride, during summer sunset happens in the south at 9pm or later!
The tour ended with "once", or snack, prepared by Carolina. Once is a Chilean custom of tea, local honey, jams, cheeses and homemade breads in the evening.
5. Carretera Austral
Beginning just south of Puerto Montt, the Carretera Austral is a long highway (770 mi) extending to the southern most tip of Chile. Mostly unpaved, this highway curves along the fjords and open beaches of Patagonia with vistas of untouched landscape. We saw only a tiny fraction of the highway on our drive to National Park Alerce Andino, but wished we could have driven more.
South of Puerto Montt the landscape begins to change
National Park Alerce Andino is home to a large swath of Chile's temperate rainforest. If you are interested in camping, this would be the spot!
Waterfall in National Park Alerce Andino
How to Get There:
Puerto Montt is a quick hour and forty five minute flight from Santiago and the closest airport to Lake Llanquihue. I highly recommend renting a car at the airport as you will need it to get to all the spots mentioned. Also look into getting a GPS and a 4 x 4 as many roads are unpaved.
Where to Stay:Casa Werner
What to Pack:
The weather during the summer months is significantly colder and wetter than Santiago. It can change within minutes, so it's best to be prepared!
- hiking boots
- water repellent pants
- plenty of socks
- bathing suit
- light layers, light puff jacket for the cold
Thanks for following my Chilean travel series! Next week we will be moving north to join Patricia on her Cacao Expedition in Nicaragua.