#13 – The Secret Life of Chocolate

Chocolate has a secret life.

One where, instead of being formed into industrial bars, women combine it by hand with local herbs to make drinks. One where it is a healer, not a creator of addiction. One where it’s revered – held so sacred that it’s used in ceremony and as currency, not bought for a few pennies, wrapper discarded. One where it’s bitter, potent and intense, not sweet and sickly. And one where nobody feels guilt when they imbibe it.

Our guide to this world is Marcos Patchett, author of the 700-page The Secret Life of Chocolate. This book, which covers everything you could possibly want to know about cacao – including how it was ancestrally used, it’s pharmacology and it’s mythology – will completely change your view of cacao.

There’s a lifetime’s worth of research in this book.

Come join us as we dive into a cacao-flavoured world!

The run-down:

1:52 About the book

7:20 Why Marcos wrote the book

12:19 The effect of imbibing extracted plant compounds v. the whole plant

15:10 How cacao was originally drunk and how chocolate is eaten in the West now

20:25 The book-writing high point

26:40 Alison, Andrea and Marcos talk about their relationships with chocolate

34:00 Chocolate and disordered eating

36:58 Cacao’s medicinal effects

44:00 How chocolate’s effects are mediated by the eater’s intention

59.40 The cultural side of cacao’s history

1:07:25 Self-medicating with chocolate as part of disordered eating

1.10:25 Practical steps to start eating chocolate ancestrally/authentically

It blew my mind to realise I’ve been blocking benefits of chocolate by feeling guilt” Alison

*Due to equipment failure, this episode does not have as good audio quality as normal. But it’s totally listenable and wonderful content!*

If you want to buy your own copy of the book, Marcos is offering a 20% discount. Use the code CHOC20 on the publishers website:

For those in the US: https://bit.ly/3dVRX1d

For rest of world: https://www.aeonbooks.co.ukderful


The modern research suggests quite strongly that cacao is protective against heart disease and stroke and type 2 diabetes.” Marcos


Resources mentioned:

Our 6 Books We Love episode

Jonathan Ott – The Cacahuatl Eater

Susana Trilling – Seasons of my Heart

Mama Coca

Only eating the chocolate mindfully produced a positive increase in mood” Marcos

Where to find Marcos and his work:

Marcos’ book’s website: https://thesecretlifeofchocolate.com/

Marcos’ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nocturnalherbalist/

Marcos’ herbalist website: http://nocturnalherbalist.co.uk

You Tube The Nocturnal Herbalist

Sourcing your own cacao:

You learn so much doing it from scratch, and the quality is so much better” Alison

To source your own cacao as beans: Look for raw (i.e. not previously roasted) Criollo or Forastero beans.

Europe: Where Alison has sourced organic cacao beans:

http://macrolibrarsi.it and http://cacaopuro.com

She is currently working on European sourcing of a known single-origin bean, in home-chocolate-maker quantities. Stay connected with her if you’d like to know what she finds.


Organic arriba criollo cacao beans

Forastero Cacao

To source ready-made roasted and ground cacao paste’ search for cacao liquor or cacao paste.

Marcos suggested cacao amor (UK-based), you can get a 20% discount with the code: nocturnalherbalist20

Rebekah Shaman also sells this in the UK

Blocks of organic ground cacao paste (US)

Valrhona industrially-roasted ‘couverture’ (this is the ‘base’ chocolate that many fine chocolate-makers use to make more complicated bars and small chocolates)

Other resources:

All about metates and grinding stones

Snippet of someone grinding cacao in a metate (You can also watch Marcos doing this on the cacao preparation videos on his You Tube channel (linked above))

Mexgrocer (scroll down to read a description of Mexican chocolate drinks):

Video of preparing traditional drinking chocolate in Oaxaca, Mexico

Dark chocolate has fuelled many things in my life” Marcos


We’d love to continue the conversation. Come find us on Instagram:

Andrea is at Farm and Hearth

Alison is at Ancestral Kitchen

The podcast is at Ancestral Kitchen Podcast

Original Music, Episode Mixing and Post-Production by Robert Michael Kay

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