Photo Credit: Michal Grosicki
I made one of the most important decisions of my life because of the movie “Chocolat”. (If you haven’t seen it, number one, what is wrong with you, and number two, go get it.) When “Chocolat” released in 2001, I was 2 years into single motherhood, frazzled from working 4 part-time jobs, and in desperate need of a positive change in my life.
In a nutshell, “Chocolat” (starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp) is about a single mother (Binoche) who moves into a sleepy, conservative French village and opens up a chocolate shop. She makes all of her own chocolates and has a knack for getting to the root of her customer’s deepest issues and helping to solve them with her magical chocolates. (Johnny Depp plays her gypsy love interest, btw.)
During that period, one of my four part time jobs was working at an herbal shop twice a week. I had recently graduated from a professional herbal program in 1998, and didn’t know what my herbal career was going to look like. The owner of the shop where I worked liked my dedication to helping customers with herbs.
She was ready to step away from the day-to-day of running the store, and offered to sell me the shop. At the time of the offer, I couldn’t see myself owning and operating a retail business. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I wasn’t ready to commit to something that felt so… permanent.
Until I watched “Chocolat”.
Like the main character in the movie, I was also a single parent, and helping people with my own magical herbal concoctions the way she helped her customers with chocolate sounded so exciting! I saw myself in that story, and knew I wanted to help people with the things that I made.
The rest, as they say, is history. I’ve been running the store (through multiple names and concepts) since January of 2002.
That’s not the end of it, however. Not only did I discover the direction of my herbal career, I also discovered chocolate, dark chocolate, to be specific. The main character in “Chocolat” would never eat a cheap candy bar, so I gave it up too. The bitterness of real dark chocolate took a little while to get used to, but after a while, like any true chocolate lover, once I acquired the taste for 72% and above, there was no going back. Besides being so packed with health benefits, I believe with all my heart that chocolate can heal your soul.
Because of the delicious and transformative power of chocolate, I’ve included it into many of our tea formulas. The first of these was Chocomaya Chai, created in 2006 and is still one of our most popular blends. The name might sound a little strange, but the reason for it is that chocolate was first discovered and used by the ancient Mayas in Central America.
They made a bitter concoction of cacao beans with the addition of other ingredients, including chili peppers. Chocomaya Chai is a blend of traditional Indian chai spices like cinnamon, cardamom, and more, along with bitter dark raw cacao powder and a hint of chipotle, which is a type of smoked spicy chili pepper. I wanted to honor the original spirit of a hot chocolate drink while making it my own modern recipe, a mash-up of flavors from Mexico and India.
Besides being a tasty drink, Chocomaya Chai promotes robust health for all ages, and holds a special value to anyone over 40. True dark chocolate is considered to be a superfood because of its antioxidants and beneficial qualities for the heart and brain. However, the spices are also healthy, and are legit remedies for helping heal the body.
Traditional chai spices stimulate the digestive system, relieve gas and bloating, and help kill bacteria and other potential food-borne pathogens. Many of the spices are also anti-inflammatory and stimulate the circulatory system. Better blood flow throughout the body means better detoxification and cellular health.
Cinnamon, one of chai’s main spices, is touted to help balance blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Fennel seeds are beneficial for the eyes and also for hormone balance. Basically every single ingredient is going to do something positive for your body.
I used to make Chocomaya Chai for my family on holiday mornings. It’s also perfect to enjoy for Halloween. Certain teas, like this one, hold particularly magical powers, in this case, promoting family closeness and the creation of fond memories. What teas are traditional favorites for you and your family? Please share your stories with us!