Cacao & The PDX Botanical Chocolate Shop You Need to Visit

IMG_8491-2.jpg

Chocolate, cacao to be exact,  has been a reverenced food for thousands of years.  Pottery fragments from around 1000 BCE place the origin of cacao at the Amazon River Basin.  From there, the Mayans brought it to Mexico where it was used in religious rituals, as a currency, and as medicine, typically as an aphrodisiac.  The tree, Theobroma cacao, named so because it produces the “drink of the gods” (derived from Greek; Theos meaning God and broma for drink) grows reddish yellow pods which when cut reveal a cluster of seeds enveloped in a slimy tart white coating. The seeds are put into large vats and allowed to ferment for several days after which they are dried and usually roasted to intensify the flavor.Today, cacao has gained popularity as a “superfood” and can be found in a powdered form, as the whole seed, as nibs ( unprocessed bits of the cacao pod), in tinctures, as sweet treats or in dozens of beverage varieties.  This exposure is excellent because cacao is a nutrition powerhouse. Cacao has a higher concentration of antioxidants than tea or wine and is a good source of iron, calcium, and magnesium. (2) Research supports the use of cacao for reducing high blood pressure, lowering cholesterol, improving insulin sensitivity and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. (2-4) The magnesium and caffeine in cacao act as mood-boosting constituents, which may induce feelings of happiness, relaxation, and mild euphoria. (5)

IMG_8466.jpg

“There’s something about chocolate that feels and tastes like a Marriage of Heaven & Earth:

The nutrient-rich mud of sweet terra firma meets the high heavenly flavor of Love, which alchemizes on the tongue & sends terrific waves of bliss upward to the brain, downward to the gut, and outward to the surface of the skin.

Chocolate tastes like a holy confection – a sacred sacrament. ”

So what happens when you mix the mood-lifting effects of chocolate with medicinal herbs and mindfulness meditation? Pure bliss. Nestled in the back loft of Milieu in Portland is a medicinal chocolate shop running on passion and serving up said bliss. Kian and Ayomide Nikzi of The Chocolate Laboratory have been creating botanical chocolates for over seven years, offering them at events, market stands, and online shops before opening the Chocolate Laboratory in Sellwood this April. “When we were first mixing herbs and chocolate, some were really bad, but we kept trying until we created some really great ones,” says Kian, who with his partner Ayomide, are the daily face of the store.

IMG_8468.jpg

The chocolate shop features vegan and refined-sugar-free herbal and drinking chocolates made by the couple as well as dozens of other medicinal chocolate brands from around the globe. All of The Chocolate Laboratory's goodies are made with globally sourced chocolate and locally sourced herbs. The star of this collection is the Chakralot, a handcrafted box of seven unique herbal chocolates designed with each chakra in mind. “I was meditating a lot and was in a really creative space with chocolate making.” says Kian  “I wanted to make something that would make meditating more approachable.”

The chocolates in the Chakralot each feature herbs meant to activate the chakra of choice.  The list of featured botanicals is vast, from root herbs and seeds featured in The Root Chakra truffle to mind enabling adaptogenic like ashwagandha and holy basil in The Crown Chakra chocolate. Each box comes with a complete description of each chocolate as well as a guided meditation link made to guide you through all seven of your chakras as you eat your chocolate. The flavors are delicious and intriguing, perfect for a quiet afternoon alone or just a moment of peace during a hectic day.    


References

1.    Grassi D, Necozione S, Lippi C, et al. Cocoa reduces blood pressure and insulin resistance and improves endothelium-dependent vasodilation in hypertensives. Hypertension. 2005;46(2):398-405.

2.    Taubert D, Roesen R, Schömig E. Effect of cocoa and tea intake on blood pressure: a meta-analysis. Arch Intern Med. 2007;167(7):626-34.

3.    Tokede OA, Gaziano JM, Djoussé L. Effects of cocoa products/dark chocolate on serum lipids: a meta-analysis. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2011;65(8):879-86.

4.    Buijsse B, Feskens EJ, Kok FJ, Kromhout D. Cocoa intake, blood pressure, and cardiovascular mortality: the Zutphen Elderly Study. Arch Intern Med. 2006;166(4):411-7.

5.    Shively CA, Tarka SM. Methylxanthine composition and consumption patterns of cocoa and chocolate products. Prog Clin Biol Res. 1984;158:149-78.

6.    Judelson DA, Preston AG, Miller DL, Muñoz CX, Kellogg MD, Lieberman HR. Effects of theobromine and caffeine on mood and vigilance. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2013;33(4):499-506.

7.    Mitchell ES, Slettenaar M, Vd meer N, et al. Differential contributions of theobromine and caffeine on mood, psychomotor performance and blood pressure. Physiol Behav. 2011;104(5):816-22.

8.    Vinson JA, Proch J, Bose P, et al. Chocolate is a powerful ex vivo and in vivo antioxidant, an antiatherosclerotic agent in an animal model, and a significant contributor to antioxidants in the European and American Diets. J Agric Food Chem. 2006;54(21):8071-6.

9.    Latif R. Chocolate/cocoa and human health: a review. Neth J Med. 2013;71(2):63-8.