Ancient Highs in Central America | Is Cacao the Best New Party Drug?

How raw chocolate is taking the place of drugs at raves and coffee at business meetings

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Dec 21 2015, 12:00am


The seed of the fruit of an Amazonian tree that was brought to Central America before the time of the Olmecs, cacao beans were so revered by the Mayans and Aztecs that they used them as money.

And cacao-based bliss balls have been around forever. They sell them by the check-out at Wholefoods. But recently, it seems like people have begun to take their cacao devotion to a new level. And because cacao works on the heart, and the heart’s electromagnetic field is way bigger than the brain’s, then maybe, just maybe, soon there will be a love revolution.

The other day, I heard of someone who had started serving it in a teapot at business meetings.

At Morning Gloryville, the early morning rave, cacao has replaced coffee. And at a Christmas party I went to last week, they hadn’t bothered with alcohol but I had the best conversation with a stranger under a table.

“A great cacao party feels like a rave must have felt in 1988, back in the day when everyone would drop an ecstasy pill from the same batch always at the same time”

“It invites us to enjoy our senses and think, oh, life can be so good!” says Ruby May, a Berlin-based group facilitator and ritualist. “It’s a tropical plant. It grows where there’s so much water and sun and nutrients. It has that feeling of abundance.”

Ruby is co-founder of Lucid, a dance party in a basement in Veder, Berlin. Once a month, on a Sunday afternoon, 200 people drink cacao together, meditate, and then have a six-hour electronic music dance-off, before going home to sleep.

It’s funny when you think about how it’s actually chocolate, which we’re trained to treat as naughty. But cacao, the raw material before heat, milk and sugar, has too much health in it to explain here.

The basics: cacao is extremely high in magnesium, the ‘relaxer mineral’; sulphur, the ‘beauty mineral’; iron and chromium. Antioxidants: off-the-scale. It’s one of the most powerful superfoods around.

And then there are the feelings. Ingested, it triggers a cascade of amino acids and neurotrasmitters including monoamine oxidase enzyme inhibitors, which allow seratonin and other neurostransmitters to circulate in the brain; theobromine, which stimulates feelings of euphoria and contentment; and phenethylamine, the chemical we produce when we fall in love.

"A great cacao party feels like a rave must have felt in 1988, back in the day when everyone would drop an ecstasy pill from the same batch always at the same time."

I got some of this information from raw food expert Kate Magic, who once co-ran a cacao-only night called The Chocolate Disco. Kate doesn’t do booze or drugs, but she always makes a cacao (which is ecologically-friendly by-the-way: less energy intensive to produce with less packaging, and most raw chocolate companies are small and fairtrade) as a drink before she goes out. Plus she takes a bar with her, “so that when I get tired, I eat some chocolate and that keeps me going. I’m always the last one on the dance floor in the morning.”

Note the sense of moderation. The best way to consume it is thoughtfully, setting aside time and space to be completely present because “the more intention you put into it, the deeper your experience is going to be,” says Ruby who, next year, is co-facilitating a series of workshops called Lady Cacao’s Secret Chamber.

This is why a great cacao party feels like a rave must have felt in 1988, back in the day when everyone would drop an ecstasy pill from the same batch always at the same time. Hearts in sync, you see your friends properly and they see you properly, and there are new friends, because everyone always misses being together, don’t they?

“Except that unlike ecstasy, cacao doesn’t make you pay for being happy with an equal part of sadness two days later.”

This is because synthetic drugs—including anti-depressants—weaken or block the body’s neural pathways, creating dependence.

Cacao strengthens these neural pathways, encouraging the body to produce chemicals like seratonin itself. It’s technically addictive, although less so than caffeine, and it’s probably important to remember that joy doesn’t need any substance to come out. Then again: “You can feel a bit depressed and think, how will I cope with this, but cacao gives you the energy to know that life will be good,” says Kate.

The kind of key change you get when, one afternoon, you calmly decide to make truffles as Christmas presents, and by the time your housemates get home, you’re dancing in the kitchen to Mr Blue Sky. And you realise that you’ve been licking the spoon.