Transcript of ‘The Inside Story on Organic Cacao**’
Lucien: OK. Welcome, everyone. I am here with the two founders of www.thebestdayever.com, also the two gentlemen responsible for The Longevity Now® Conferences. These are two amazing things that have been developed over the last ten years. And you two have known each other for awhile and have just done some remarkable work together.
I’d like to first ask Dave, What’s it like having worked with Len Foley over all these years and watching it come to fruition with TheBestDayEver.com and The Longevity Now® Conferences? And now we have the LongevityWarehouse.com. This is quite amazing development we’ve seen over the last decade.
David: It’s awesome. I mean, it’s just the evolution of a long friendship. It’s also the evolution of the information itself. I believe Len Foley and I have been guided by where the information is leading us. It’s a development of living foods. It’s the development of superfoods. And now we’re seeing the development and fleshing out of the super herb idea, or as Ron Teeguarden calls, it the ‘Tonic Herb’ idea.
We’re just following along with where the energy is going, and I think we’ve been very successful because we’ve been tuning into that and where people are at. We’ve been asking questions like, What do people want to hear about? What do they want to learn about? We’ve also been very effective at communicating to all the folks out there as to where the cutting edge is and how they can participate.
Lucien: We have this particular interview to talk about the cutting edge of chocolate and where that’s leading us, Dave, and that brings us over to Len Foley.
Len Foley recently spent some time in Ecuador going over our amazing chocolate farms, reviewing them, checking to make sure that they’re up to the highest standards. He had some great experiences in Ecuador that he’s going to share with us today.
So, Len, I’d like to turn it over to you now. What was your experience going down to Ecuador? What were some of the surprises? What were some of the pleasant ones, as well as some of the other experiences you had that could educate our listeners in terms of what’s going on down there in the chocolate trade?
Len: One of the biggest surprises was actually getting into Robert Williams’s vortex, his world, which is basically the chocolate world of Ecuador, and really experiencing that firsthand. I’ve known Robert Williams for a few years now and really have a lot of respect for his genius in being able to source the best superfoods and the best superherbs in the world, in my opinion, and I believe in Dave’s opinion, as well. He actually only picks the stuff that he personally eats, and he only eats the best. So, one of the things that I discovered when I was with Robert was, first of all, we don’t actually get our chocolate from farms, which may come as a surprise to a lot of people. There are no “farmers” who actually produce our chocolate. We get our chocolate from fields.
The difference is, and this may be very shocking to a lot of people, when I was in Ecuador we drove by many chocolate farms. In fact, thousands and thousands of acres of cacao fields that I personally toured and drove by and drove around and met some of the farmers that were actually caring for these different farms. What was very interesting about that was that all of the chocolate farms that I saw, and I’m not saying 85% or 99%,
I’m saying all of the chocolate farms that I saw in Ecuador were growing CCN-51 chocolate bushes. They weren’t even really chocolate trees. I think people need to realize that even if you’re getting purely organic cacao, the chances of you getting organic cacao that is not CCN-51 are very slim.
The reason why I say that is that to create a CCN-51 cacao plant does not take that much time. In fact, the cacao bushes… And I call them bushes because they’re only about five or six feet tall, and they have to grow these bushes in between banana plants to actually shade them. As David will explain in a minute, cacao needs a lot of shade. The old way of growing cacao was you would have these thirty- to forty-foot trees that would be anywhere from 35 to 40 years old. These older trees would produce a pretty consistent crop, but not nearly as much as these CCN-51 plants.
These CCN-51 trees, or bushes as I like to call them, you can literally plant a seed and within three to five years you can start producing chocolate and actually reaping chocolate from these plants. A lot more comes off of these bushes than what comes off an actual cacao** tree.
A cacao** tree, which is the only chocolate that we supply at the Longevity Warehouse®, comes from old trees at high elevation from naturally occurring fields. The difference between the chocolate that comes from a cacao** tree and chocolate that comes from these “bushes” is that when you enter these fields, you literally become a target for thousands and thousands of insects. There are amphibians and worms and frogs, just everywhere you look. There are mosquitoes and flies because it’s a naturally occurring ecosystem that you’re entering into.
When I traveled through a lot of these CCN-51 hybridized farms, we didn’t hear a single thing. We didn’t see any animals. We didn’t see any amphibians, no worms or frogs, and not a single mosquito. I could walk around in shorts and a t-shirt on these farms and not worry about being bitten by a mosquito. Whereas, when we were in these fields that Robert Williams had found, I literally had to put a hat on with a hood over the hat pulled down over my face and my hands covered because there were so many mosquitoes everywhere. That by itself was a shocking revelation. The reason why there are no mosquitoes or insects on a lot of the CCN-51 farms is because they’re so heavily sprayed with… we have no idea what.
It’s not enough to go to Ecuador and meet farmers or meet the people you’re buying your chocolate from and hear their story. You actually have to have somebody in Ecuador who lives there and speaks the language and actually works with the people who produce the chocolate that you’re getting. Someone who knows exactly where it’s coming from, when it’s been harvested, and who actually is harvesting it. It’s important to be connected to someone who has a relationship with all these people. If you don’t have a relationship with these people, chances are that they’ll say they’re giving you one thing but you’ll be getting something completely different. It was a really eye-opening experience.
Another difference is that we can’t supply as much chocolate as a lot of other chocolate suppliers because ours is literally hand picked from tall, huge trees that make it much more difficult for us to actually get that chocolate. It’s a much more labor-intensive process than somebody walking up to a five-foot bush and just pulling the beans off. Our people literally have to climb the trees or get these long shears to cut the chocolate down.
This labor-intensive process is actually supporting many local people. Again, it’s not local farmers. These are local people who have these fields on or near their property, and they just harvest the chocolate for us. Robert goes in and works directly with all these people and has relationships with them for them to harvest this for us.
Again, these are not professional farmers. They’re not professional “business” people. They’re just folks that are lucky enough to have these really high-elevation crops on their land, and they’re kind enough to enter into a relationship with our company through Robert Williams, so we can supply the best chocolate in the universe.
You will taste the difference when you try this chocolate, because it is so highly mineralized and so potent. It tastes and feels like eating an herb when you eat this chocolate**, because it’s just so potent. I would take the Pepsi® Challenge against any other cacao out there, because it’s that powerful.
The reason why I wanted to have this interview with Dave and yourself, Lu, is because I think this is a story that needs to get out there. People need to realize that not all raw organic cacao is created equal. We really need to explore where chocolate is being sourced from and why ours is absolutely the best.
Lucien: Awesome. That’s really interesting, and I want to come back to Robert Williams and some of the other things that are going on in Ecuador. But right now I’d like to turn it over to you now, Dave, and just talk about you.
You’re a cacao farmer yourself. You’re growing cacao. You’ve had some great experiences with cacao. Not only that, Dave, you’re also one of the main personalities responsible for the huge influx in the raw cacao movement. We’ve seen this whole transformation over the last decade of cacao being introduced into our health food stores, Whole Foods®, different markets, different products, various forms of raw chocolate, superfood chocolates, and this is in large part due to the time you spend tirelessly giving various lectures in town after town after town, giving the download on the benefits of raw cacao**.
So, what Len had to say, how does that relate to your experience as a cacao grower yourself and the ramifications of that in terms of the qualities that the cacao possess by the high-elevation crop compared to, say, the low-elevation CCN-51 bushes? What are the differences that we can expect from those two? And what are some of the insights you have as a cacao grower, the things that are needed to produce a good quality cacao tree?
David: First, I want to talk about the different varieties of cacao that are out there, because when we start throwing names around like CCN-51 or Arriba Nacional, or Criollo varieties of chocolate; or Amelonado or Marañón, or any of these other names, it can become awful confusing very quickly.
I want to quickly summarize where we are in our understanding of the different varieties of cacao and why we go to the original indigenous wild cacao from Ecuador**, which is Arriba Nacional, instead of the hybrid CCN-51, which is sold really because it’s a very hardy bush. It is a bush more than a tree. It’s extremely hardy, and it produces very high amounts of chocolate very quickly, not very good chocolate. In fact, it’s poor tasting. But that’s why CCN-51 has taken over Ecuador, and we’ve got our guys in there fighting to keep Arriba Nacional in the game. That’s really one of the main thrusts of our work in Ecuador is to resuscitate and revive the original Ecuadorian chocolate, which is Arriba Nacional.
There was published in 2008 an article called “Geographic and Genetic Population Differentiation of the Amazonian Chocolate Tree,” and this article is probably the most important work ever done in differentiating the different types of cacao that are out there. It was a genetic examination of all the cacao from Central America all the way down into the Amazon, including Ecuador and Colombia and Venezuela.
What came to light as a result of that was different clusters of different types of cacao. Amelonado is the kind that’s growing in the Amazon. I’ve had that in the Amazon. It almost looks like a melon. That’s why they call it Amelonado.
There are Criollo varieties, which are all Central American varieties. You hear Criollo thrown around quite a bit. Criollo is a dainty, beautiful tree. I grow some Criollo varieties that we brought in from Central America into Hawaii. It’s a very dainty mountain cacao**. It’s very delicate and beautiful, and it’s a fun tree to grow but it’s delicate. It’s not a very hardy species, and it’s definitely not a very high-producing species. Nor is it necessarily the best tasting, either. It’s kind of this thing that gets thrown around in the chocolate world, “Criollo is the best.” Not really, though. It could be in some areas, but not really.
There’s Guiana, there’s Iquitos cacao. There’s Marañón. There’s Nanay, Purus, and Nacional. The Arriba Nacional is what we’re talking about here. Here we’re talking about a very tried and true type of cacao that’s been grown in Ecuador since the beginning of time, and it had to be differentiated around the turn of the century, maybe 1900, because there were a bunch of Venezuelan cultivars that were being brought in, and of those hybrid varieties, CCN-51 came to dominate.
Again, the variety that we work with is the wild original Ecuadorian cacao** that’s really a tree that grows in the jungle. Some of them are 35 or 40 years old. Some of those trees are much older than that. And they produce a much richer mineral-content cacao** that has a richer darker flavor, more of a coffee flavor. It has more lignans in it.
You know, those folks who are coffee drinkers and are listening right now, the lignan is that black stuff that’s in roasted coffee. Lignan is what really can give that richness of taste, whereas a young CCN-51 hybrid is not digging that deep into the soil. It hasn’t been there that long. The beans are really big, and they don’t really have that lignan formation, which is a lot of the magic of chocolate that gives it that deep essence, that deep aroma that you’re used to with a really good chocolate.
Now, out of all of these cacao varieties, Arriba Nacional, the way we do it is we actually get it right from the pod. So, there’s no trickery going on. There are no beans that have already been processed.
Because once they’ve already been processed into cacao beans, it’s hard to tell what you’re dealing with. But when you get it from the pod, you know exactly what you’re dealing with. The cacao** is processed through our technology right from pod, which is the fruit that contains all the cacao beans in it…it’s really a nut tree, by the way. Each pod contains about thirty cacao nuts, or cacao beans. And they’re processed right along into different chocolate products—the chocolate powder, the cacao butter, the paste, the whole cacao beans that we’re working with, and the nibs. Those are all the products that come out of the Arriba Nacional Project that we have going on in Ecuador.**
Lucien: OK. Fantastic. We were talking about this earlier, Len Foley and I, doing business down in Ecuador isn’t as easy as it would seem. It seems like if you want to start selling some chocolate, you would go down to find some local farms and find a supplier, and then you’d just ship your chocolate up, and you would distribute it. But for those who have been monitoring the Longevity Warehouse® since our inception, you’ve noticed that it took us quite a long time before we were able to actually get raw cacao on our website available to people.**
It’s not as easy as it would seem. So, Len, can you shed a little bit of light on how business is conducted down there and what a great ally we have in Robert Williams, who is protecting us and making sure that we get a very high-quality cacao, and some of the back-door dealings that go on down there? Just so people get an idea of what it’s like to do business down there, because there’s the whole business side as well as the health side.
Len: That’s actually a really good point. Just so everybody knows, anybody can do business in Ecuador. You can go down there tomorrow and buy dehydrated bananas and raw chocolate. You can get pretty much anything you want. But if your goal is to get the highest quality foods at reasonable prices that you can deliver to people for reasonable prices, that is a whole different story.
It is very difficult for somebody who has a high-quality standard to go into Ecuador and demand that quality standard and expect them to actually adhere to it. Ecuador is a very poor country, and money speaks a lot louder than anything else. Money is very powerful there, a very powerful motivator for people to do whatever it takes to make sure that they’re able to make that money. The bottom line is they want your business, and they’ll say pretty much anything that they need to say in order to get that business.
Again, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to be getting food that’s going to be super heavily sprayed, but again it may not be the best ever. And unless somebody’s down there living…You know, living down there with Robert for over seven days, we traveled over 1,000 miles together, all through Ecuador checking out these different farms all over the place.
It was a real eye opener. He would explain this to me again and again, but I didn’t really get it until I was there. Once you’ve driven by acre after acre after acre of all these different cacao fields, and you realize that almost everything you’re looking at is hybridized, it puts it all into perspective.
Then you wonder, where’s the real chocolate? Where can I find the real chocolate? And then when we drove onto these dirt roads, into these areas that probably very few people ever venture to enter, and then you see that that’s where our cacao comes from, in these very intensely muddy areas.** All the cacao is grown from natural rain water, and the mud is so thick. You get mud caked all over your shoes. It’s everywhere. It’s just like this big, thick, muddy…it’s all mineral mud. It’s all highly charged mineral mud, but it’s amazing.**
It’s not a place that you want to vacation to. It’s not a place you want to go down and do business in. It’s a place that you’re going to source the best superfoods and the best chocolate from.I really gained a deep appreciation for exactly what Robert is doing. He is basically out there in the jungles of Ecuador sourcing the best products, and he doesn’t care what it takes.
So, we’ve been very patient with Robert, because we realize that what he’s doing is not normal business practice. He’s literally trying to source the best products in a world that is a little bit difficult to navigate. It takes a lot of skill. Obviously, he speaks fluent Spanish, so that helps him quite a bit, and he knows a lot of people there through relationships that he’s cultivated over the years. He has a very strong network of people that he works with, trusted comrades that he knows will only give him the real deal when he asks for it.
So, yeah, it was a big eye opener for me, and I realized just how impossible it would be if I were to try to do this on my own, or travel down to Ecuador twice a year and try to source products. I know for a fact I would be lied to. I would be ripped off. There is no way I would be able to go down there and do business without getting ripped off, because I’m not from there. I don’t live there.
We’re very fortunate to have somebody like Robert Williams, who is working on the front lines for us all the time, living this lifestyle and really just trying to get the best of the best in any way that he can. We’re very fortunate to have him.
Lucien: That’s fantastic. That sheds a really great light onto what he’s doing down there. And Dave, I know you’re very aware of Robert Williams’s dedication to high, high quality. For the people who are listening,
Dave, can you talk a little bit about the way cacao fits into our modern culture? I know in some of your presentations at The Longevity Now® Conference, you’ve explained in great detail about how indigenous peoples would make a daily cacao drink, and that would be their medicine into which they would mix their local herbs.
For example, in the Amazonian system, they would be mixing some of the Amazonian herbs in with the cacao. Can you talk a little bit about how that translates into a modern Western lifestyle? In a similar way, how can we make a daily cacao drink? Should we be making a daily cacao drink? What should our approach be? For example, modern Americans, how should we integrate a daily ritual into our protocol, and with what other things should we be mixing our cacao?
David: Chocolate itself is the world’s favorite food. It has always been a tremendous delivery system for medicine. That’s it’s original incarnation. That’s the way it was originally used all along. In fact, most of the original cacao beverages, and it was always served as a beverage actually, were unsweetened. They would have been taken bitter.
You’d take your bitter herbs, you’d put your chocolate in there, you’d crush it up as best as you can. Back then, all they had was molinillos. They didn’t have blenders. But they did the best they could, and they’d make a hot beverage out of it, and they’d drink it down, and that was their medicine.
It was something that I’m sure in India or in China, they had approximated to with their different formulas, like the chyawanprash formula, taking their top herbs and mixing it with honey and trying to get to that lignan-rich aromatic chocolate flavor that they weren’t able to get in their regions.
In Chinese medicine their whole super-pill idea, where they take all their favorite herbs and roll them up into a honey ball and try to get that rich dark flavor, but couldn’t get it because they didn’t have chocolate.
Well, here in the Amazon and here in the New World, in Central America and Ecuador, on this side of the world, they were able to get to it. They were able to nail that particular combination of essences, the herbal essence and the chocolate aroma and flavor, and bring together what I believe is really the future of healing in terms of herbalism. Because you can take an herb and powder it and try to eat it, and you’re going to gag most of the time. But when you mix it with chocolate, it’s a whole new story. It actually comes into your body as food. Your body identifies it as food, and you immediately eliminate the biggest problem in herbalism, which is compliance. Will you actually eat it?
What we’re doing is we’re just taking an ancient system of herbalism, which is the cacao drink with all the herbs in it, and we’re just upgrading it to the modern age, to our present-day time. We’re able to take several herbs we really like. If we were in the temperate regions and we like horsetail and nettles, then we’ll do that. If we love the Amazonian herbs, like pau d’arco and cat’s claw, then boom! We can do that. We can go back to those original formulas.
We’re able to take some of the original superfoods that were eaten with chocolate, like maca and acai, then mix those together and make that happen. We’re able to take some of the Chinese herbs and the Ayurvedic herbs, whether it’s astragalus, or He Shou Wu, or gynostemma, and tulsi and ashwagandha and shatavari, and we’re able to mix them with chocolate now in a way that probably the ancient Vedics and ancient Taoists had always wanted to get those flavor components. And now we get that at home. And it all begins with the drink.
I just recently rewrote my book, Naked Chocolate, that I wrote with Shazzie about five, six years ago now. And in there, I was going through the recipe section in part four, which is a very, very important section of that book, and I think one of the most important sections written about herbalism ever, because what it’s doing is saying, ‘Hey, you want to overcome any objection to herbalism?’ Let’s put everything into a chocolate drink. Here’s how you do it. You can do it in a number of ways.
And just for the folks who are listening right now where this is new to you, you can take your tea. Let’s say it’s green tea, something real simple. And you blend the cacao into it. It could be cacao powder. It could be cacao paste. It could be cacao beans. It could be a little bit of cacao butter. Whatever works for you. However you want to do it.**
Blend it all together, and you get this amazing combination. And if you need it a little bit sweetened, then use a little bit of honey, or maybe you blend a few berries in there, and boom! You’re right on track to developing these chocolate drinks that I’m referencing here. That’s how you start. It’s very simple. You take your herbal tea, blend a little cacao into it, boom! You’re off to the races.
I do this a lot whenever I turn people on to my teas, because I’m a tea maker. It’s genetic. I don’t know. I just have this thing about tea making. And I put a little bit of cacao paste into the tea when it’s hot, and it melts, and then I serve that to people with just a little tiny bit of honey, not too much, just to give it a nice little edge. The tea might be something like, I like the Dragon Herbs® Longevity Tea, the gynostemma tea. People drink it and say, “My God! What is going on here?” Because it has the essence of a hot chocolate. It has the essence of something we’re familiar with, but people can’t land it because they didn’t see me actually even blend anything. I just took a little piece of the cacao paste, threw it in there, and it melted. So this is really kind of a fun party trick and an easy way in for beginners.
Those folks who are more intermediate and advanced students, then what we’re really doing for you is we’re taking a very powerful wild cacao variety, the Arriba Nacional, from Ecuador and just making it available to you, processed pure all the way through.
Len: Hey Dave, I want to address something that you just mentioned, just before we end here, about the cacao paste. There’s a little bit of a misconception about cacao powder being the finest version of cacao you can buy, meaning the most blendable version. In actuality, the paste is better to blend into drinks than the powder.**
I was shocked, not just to hear about this, but to actually experience it. Robert Williams actually taught me this. When you put cacao in a warm, or even in a cold drink, in the paste form, it actually is much more absorbable into your body and it’s much less gritty than the powder.
Now, the powder is not really gritty at all, but for those of you who have been drinking cacao powder for a long time, I encourage you to try the paste because you’ll experience something a little bit different than what you’ve grown accustomed to, either with powder or taking the nibs or with the beans. The paste is a fantastic, fantastic drink additive.
David: I’d have to agree with you, Len. I think that’s absolutely right on. I think the paste is a very, very special product, because all of the oil is intact. And all it is, is the cacao beans are stoneground for 18 hours in order to break down the molecular size so the whole thing becomes much more bioavailable. There are no additives, of course. It’s 100% cacao, and it’s all raw, cold-processed.**
Lucien: We’re so excited to have these products available at www.longevitywarehouse.com. We want to thank both Len Foley and David Wolfe, two pioneers in the health industry, for getting us these products, making them available to us, keeping multinational corporations and GMO at bay, supporting the small organic farmer, and really taking care of the planet through the businesses that we choose to support and the information that we’re putting forth through TheBestDayEver.com, the media blog, and through so many avenues. This has been fantastic information.
I want to thank you both, David Wolfe and Len Foley.
**At Longevity Warehouse, we source only wild jungle grown cacao from heirloom trees in Ecuador. To read more, click here.
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