(NaturalNews) Editor's note: This article has undergone extensive revisions from its first publication in order to clarify the definition of certain terms and correct several errors. These corrections are based on hours of additional research and conversations with cacao experts.
Most people have never eaten real chocolate. Sure, we've all wolfed down plenty of "chocolate" candies, bars and cakes. But as you'll see here, very little of that is actually made from real chocolate. Virtually all the chocolate used in modern foods is derived from a genetically divergent cacao plant that lacks the true phytochemical potency that gives real chocolate its many beneficial properties.
So even though almost everyone has tasted chocolate, very few people have actually experienced true "heirloom cacao" from the original, phytonutrient-rich plants.
The term "heirloom," by the way, is highly debated in the cacao industry, with some arguing there is too much genetic cross-pollination to guarantee heirloom status of cacao trees. While that may be true with younger cacao trees, it's not the case with older "original" cacao trees that were seeded long before the newer genetic variations were developed.
Cacao is believed to have originated in a region now spanning the border of Ecuador and Colombia. (It may have also appeared at the same time in Peru, Bolivia and Venezuala). Its plants were discovered thousands of years ago, and the cacao fruit and seeds have been used throughout South American culture for as long as human history can remember.
The Ecuadorian cacao I'll be referring to here is called "Arriba Nacional complex by trinitari." I refer to it as "Arriba" cacao for short. There's some confusion over this term as well, and this is one of the things I sought to clear up in the updating of this article: "Arriba" actually refers to a geographic region within Ecuador where high-grade cacao plants were grown and harvested. But it also became synonymous with the high quality of cacao from that region in much the same way that "Bordeaux" is actually a wine-producing region of France that soon become synonymous with a specific variety of fine, whether or not it was from the Bordeaux region. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bordeaux_wine_r...)
For that reason, the term "Arriba" means different things to different people, even within the cacao industry. To some, it's a genetic variety of older cacao trees. To others, it's a geographic region. I'm using it here to refer to a higher-grade cacao from older Ecuadorian cacao trees, most of which (but not all) originated in the Arriba region near the Guayas River.
This is widely considered to be the finest cacao from Ecuador, harvested from older cacao trees growing just the way they grew thousands of years ago.
In comparison, virtually all the chocolate used in candy bars, chocolate chips, chocolate cakes, breads and so on is derived from a new, genetically divergent plant called CCN-51 -- a pale shadow of the original cacao tree it was supposed to replace.
Most consumers have no idea the chocolate they've been eating is made with what is effectively a weakened cacao variety. And if you've been eating that variety of chocolate all your life, you're in for a real surprise when you get your hands on what I'm calling "Arriba Nacional" cacao, which has a deeper, more complex and "floral" flavor profile than common cacao varieties.
My first taste of "Arriba" chocolate
My first experience of this "Arribe" cacao was enjoyed in Ecuador, where I lived on and off for two years. One day I drove to a nursery in Zamora, a small city to the East of Loja (in Southern Ecuador). There, we picked fresh cacao pods right off the trees, sliced open the tops and began to eat the cacao fruit.
Yes, cacao trees have fruit. It's a thin layer of sweet fruity flesh surrounding the cacao bean, sort of in the way a lychee fruit has a layer of delicious white fruit flesh surrounding its central seed. Cacao fruit tastes a little bit like fresh lychee fruit, in fact, with a hint of chocolate flavor in it.
Once you eat the fruit, you're left with cacao seed pods. This is where "chocolate" comes from. The seed pods are dried and fermented, then shelled and ground into a liquid from which the oils are pressed out. The resulting fine powder is a cacao "cake."
This fine cacao powder (along with cacao paste and butter) is what goes into fine chocolates, often sweetened with sugars or enriched with milk fats. Hence the name "Milk chocolate."
However, the higher cost of cacao from older, more genetically "original" trees has kept it out of the hands of all but the most selective chocolate artisans. The number of chocolate-making shops in America that use such rare cacao in their confections probably numbers less than ten. That's why virtually no one in North America has ever tasted this type of cacao before.
How I met the founder of Pacari
In Ecuador, there's a company producing this "Arriba" cacao that's truly raw (never goes above 118 degrees during processing), truly organic and "single origin" meaning it's all from one region and not blended with other cacaos from other countries.
That company is called Pacari, and its founder, Santiago, introduced me to his line of cacao products one evening at a raw foods gathering at Matt Monarch's house in the Valley of Longevity near Vilcabamba, Ecuador.
There, I had the opportunity to taste 100% raw, unsweetened, full-potency "Arriba" cacao -- and it was a superfood experience that forever changed my perception about just how powerful and even enlightening superfoods can be.
Now, Pacari hasn't always produced 100% raw cacao. Their cacao used to reach temperatures much higher than 118 degrees. But now they are intentionally producing truly raw cacao by keeping the processing at less than 118 degrees throughout the drying, shelling, grinding, pressing and packaging. This has been verified with a laser temperature sensor at every stage, and we'll probably be bringing you film footage in the near future showing you all this.
Food of the Gods?
The best-known active ingredient in cacao is a bitter alkaloid called theobromine. The Latin prefix "theo" is of course the same root as in the word "theology," meaning the study of God. Bromine comes from "broma" which, in the variation of "brosi" is Latin for "food."
Theobromine, then, is literally translated into "food of God" or "food of the Gods."
Why would cacao be named "food of the Gods?" If you just eat regular mainstream chocolate, you'll probably never know. To really attain a deeper experience of cacao, you must eat a finer variety that's naturally high in theobromine and other alkaloids. And once you do that, your experience may give you a greater understanding of why, over the last several thousand years, the indigenous people of South America have used superfoods like cacao to support their connection on a spiritual level.
In the cultures of South American people, eating high-grade, wildcrafted cacao is not merely an act of consuming calories. Nor is it a form of entertainment as is often pursued in first-world countries. Rather, eating cacao is a way for them to connect with the universe. It is a deeply spiritual experience, to be savored and honored, not to be wolfed down with processed sugar and ice cream.
Throughout the cultures of South America, food was a way in which people were able to gain insight into the universe around them.
I realize it seems odd in our modern cultures to think of food as a source of enlightenment or wisdom, but this idea was pivotal for South American cultures, and it actually makes good sense: Since we become what we eat, to eat the seed pods of a sacred plant is to become one with that plant. Certain plants alter brain chemistry and function, expanding consciousness and inviting us to explore alternate realities before returning to their physical world, blessed with the gift of new experiential insight. Such is the nature of the "sacred plant journeys" also routinely practiced by medicine healers (shamans) of South American cultures.
While cacao is not a psychedelic plant, it is well known as a source of unique antioxidants and bitter alkaloids that may support healthy moods while brightening your day. Maybe this is why this superfood was called the "food of the Gods."
Straight from Ecuador: 100% organic, raw "Arriba" cacao
Now, after five thousand years of history, YOU can experience Arriba Nacional variety of cacao straight from the rainforests of Ecuador.
Thanks to our connections in Ecuador, we were able to coordinate with Santiago to receive a large shipment of this unique cacao, straight from Ecuador.
This is the real stuff: Pure cacao from original "Arriba" trees, truly raw (not just a false claim, but really truly raw), truly organic and harvested with the help of local farmers in a genuinely fair manner that honors their livelihoods. (The Pacari company works in many ways to help support local cacao farmers, and while it's not yet certified as "Fair Trade," they are working in that direction.)
Right now, we have available for immediate shipment from our store:
• Raw "Arriba" Cacao Beans • Raw "Arriba" Cacao Paste • Raw "Arriba" Cacao Butter • Raw "Arriba" Cacao Nibs • Raw "Arriba" Cacao Powder • A combination "chef's pack" of Powder, Nibs, Butter and Paste (regular price is $83.80, but for this article we've marked it down to just $54.72, a nearly 35% savings)
These are all single-source, straight from Ecuador, made from the cacao beans of older, "original" cacao plants, organic and raw. Just as importantly, this is perhaps the finest cacao you will ever taste in the world. It is one of life's "bucket list" experiences to ingest this plant and tune in to how it is interacting with your body and mind. To miss out on this plant that our world has to offer is to truly miss out on one of life's real gems.
Additionally, all the products have absolutely no sweeteners, no filler, no preservatives, no GMOs, no soy, no wheat... nothing! Just pure, raw high-grade cacao from Ecuador to you.
As a result, don't expect this to taste like a candy bar. It doesn't! This is not candy. This is a potent superfood in its purest form, unadulterated and uncooked. It is the closest thing you can find to venturing into the Ecuadorian rainforest and harvesting your own wild cacao pods.
This raw cacao is grown in Ecuador, harvested by Ecuadorian farmers, then processed by hand in small batches. It's never cooked! The result is some of the finest cacao you will ever encounter on our planet.
When you get some of this, consider it a treasure. I recommend not feeding it to anyone who isn't enlightened enough to appreciate what they are consuming. Most children, in particular, are expecting sweet "junk" chocolate and will likely not appreciate "Arriba" cacao.
And if you do give this as a gift to someone, please explain the history of cacao to them so they understand what a magnificent food treasure they are consuming. This is the stuff of Kings and Queens. Just a few hundred years ago, only ultra-wealthy royalty would have had access to such exotic foods. Today, we can all experience it!
In addition to his lab work, Adams is also the (non-paid) executive director of the non-profit Consumer Wellness Center (CWC), an organization that redirects 100% of its donations receipts to grant programs that teach children and women how to grow their own food or vastly improve their nutrition. Click here to see some of the CWC success stories.
With a background in science and software technology, Adams is the original founder of the email newsletter technology company known as Arial Software. Using his technical experience combined with his love for natural health, Adams developed and deployed the content management system currently driving NaturalNews.com. He also engineered the high-level statistical algorithms that power SCIENCE.naturalnews.com, a massive research resource now featuring over 10 million scientific studies.