Chocolate: A Search for the Food of the Gods – Part 2

Last week, digestive therapist and Green Pearls ambassador Caspar described the journey and beginning of his chocolate retreat at Macaw Lodge in Costa Rica. Today part 2 follows, with his impressions and conclusion.

Traveler Palms Macaw copy
Nature as far as the eye can see – this is Macaw Lodge.

We are birthed into the secluded and private Macaw valley. Chef Lisbeth, her kitchen staff and lodge manager Natalie have prepared the table and a beautiful welcome dinner is waiting to be served. This is our home for the week!

The next morning a breakfast of fresh fruit, fresh fruit juice, coffee, tea, plantains and the traditional gallo pinto are a great way to start the day.

In a little while Andreii and Manfred will be taking us on a tour of the gardens. These two guys tell great stories and are a wealth of information.

Cacao Tree
On the search for the food of the gods: cacao.

We are surrounded by good life. There are medicinal plants, edible plants and plants of pleasure.

On a slope we find coffee trees and the sacred cacao trees we are here to craft from bean to bar. Chewing on a piece of sugar cane and in the company of these people, in this place, I taste the sweetness of the moment.

Cacao Beans Fermenting
Here, cocoa beans ferment and wait to be processed further.

From bean to bar

The guys from the farm picked some cacao pods and took the beans out a few days ago. They have been fermenting and sweetening in between banana-leaves like honey covered treasures.

To the Mayans cacao beans were a currency; a value so precious it was their money.

Chocolate maker Henrik loves chocolate. He is the owner of Maleku, a boutique chocolate label that will soon have its own cacao farm here in Costa Rica. Henrik has picked land based on the soil. he will control the trees’ growth, their harvest etc. He makes chocolate the way a vintner makes wines!

Cacao Peeling
We peel the cocoa beans together.

Henrik roasts the beans and has us peel the hot shells off.

Cacao Grinding
From the beans to a paste.

The nibs are ready to be ground into a smooth chocolate paste. This will take hours upon hours upon hours of continuous grinding and since Macaw Lodge is on solar power, this will be the only machine running for this long.

I can’t wait until tomorrow to see what our next steps are but we still have a full afternoon ahead of us. Lizbeth teaches a beautiful cooking class and Manuel leads a somatic psychology workshop and hearts are cracking open. Through trust and vulnerabilities the group is connecting and friendships are forming.

After having slept another night among the trees I listen to the sound of the waterfall and the toads in the wet grass. Today we have our first Digestive Therapy session.

Sacred Cacao Bannersm

Eating = Emotion

It is the accepted standard that people with anorexia, bulimia etc. need more care from a psychologist than from a nutritionist. But, even if you’re not dealing with an eating disorder, your relationship with food and digestion is largely psychological:

Stress, anxiety, fear, excitement, gratitude. We all know that these emotional states change our blood pressure, our breathing, etc.

Internally, emotions affect inflammation, the functioning of our immune system, the digestive response and more. It also changes cortisol levels, thyroid hormones, adrenaline, dopamine, serotonin and so much more, this is the chemistry of craving and reward, of weight-gain and weight-loss.

Emotions affect how our food is processed !

Eating is a primary survival need and to ensure our survival, evolution figured out ways to motivate behavior before we had a neo-cortex to rationalize how and why. All mammals are biologically driven this way. This is the domain of the limbic system, of neurotransmitters, of memory, of emotion. We are wired for emotional eating!

HOW we eat may be more important than WHAT we eat !

Jungle salad
A fresh, delicious jungle salad – there is hardly anything more yummy!

Lunch today includes a salad of leafy greens and vegetables from the jungle gardens. If you think kale or spinach are superfoods, wait until you eat from the rainforest !

Making Bars
The filling of the chocolate forms.

A retreat about chocolate and life

After lunch Henrik is back and we get to play with chocolate! We are going to each make a bar from the beans we started in the grinder yesterday and Henrik has also brought some pre-made Maleku chocolate for us to melt and temper. Everybody will make 2 bars and the molds they use will be souvenirs to take home.

Chocolate Bar
The result of hard work and patience.

Creativity and personal expression are flowing out of people; some want to crush nuts and add them to their chocolate bar while others prefer sea salt. I like mine pure and clean. Simple.

Yoga under Bamboo
A yoga session right beneath bamboo – there is hardly a more relaxing place.

The following days will be filled with yoga and ayahuasca, with rest and sea kayaking, with Digestive Therapy and delicious dinners. They will be filled with good food, good conversations, personal growth and the growth of friendships. The air will be filled with tears and with laughter. This the beauty of real life, this is a vacation, this is a retreat, this will happen again next year.

Everyone is unique, everyone chooses his own perspective.

We all choose our perspective and we choose relaxation and growth, beauty and appreciation. We choose happiness and health !