Dark Velvet, Light and Airy


That is the number of days without a touch of chocolate for me. Of me, I had hoped, because it was my offering, but I am not at all sure how that works or what it would even have looked like. I did give chocolate to others: a Belgian 72%, a Swiss 85%, and one from San Fransisco, 72%. But, I had none for myself. And it is over anyway, Lent is. It was worth the wait.

On Easter Sunday—after I had ascended into the clouds many times all morning, I finally settled sometime early after Noon in another kind of cloud: cloudforest. It is a chocolate what?

Cafe? Not really—sounds too quaint, and this place is not. Shop? You can, but it isn’t. Is it a bar? They have them here—squares, not bars, of chocolate—but too many images come to mind, although you may become intoxicated here.

This place (I am here again, four days later writing this) is like a shrine. Not a place of worship, but a locus of reverence, where cacao is near the center of attention. “Near”, because as a customer I too, felt at the center of the experience. I do enjoy chocolate, but I love to share it. And sharing is easy here because A. and T. and all the other staff are equipped with knowledge and passion. That is a combination quite lovely.

[I have just sampled a square of processed chocolate, 70%, that is infused with the oil of bursera graveolens, also known as “holy wood.” It is an oil known for stimulating the immune system and fighting inflammation. But, this chocolate is not for everyone—not even close.]

I ordered a maple drinking chocolate, pictured above with seltzer water for cleansing the palate between sips, and it was dark velvet as it graced my lips and coated my tongue before seeming to slither down my throat, as if alive. If that sounds horrible, please think of another dark and delightful drink that is delicious in its decadence, and then transubstantiate it into something foreign, something from far away. Because chocolate is not from around here.

As I went up to the counter to visit, and to comment on the addition of vanilla salt to my drinking chocolate this second time (positive comment, but only the second time around should you have it with the salt; the first time must be pure), we discussed the feel of the place, how it is light and airy, stark in its beauty. I told them what I had written, what I was thinking, and how evocative chocolate can be when it is thoughtfully experienced. And, how luxurious, I said, thinking that what was in my cup had come from another hemisphere, a place I have never been. Oh, sure, statistically, some of the air in my lungs today has come from South America, even containing some gasses from roasted cacao in that village near Antigua, Guatemala, the one A. had visited, where she had that experience. But, I as a conscious being have not been there, so luxury it is, best appreciated as a continuing moment. It is a rarity that cries out whispers to be shared.

T. then told me that they’ve ordered a large print of a photograph of cacao trees with ripening pods, a print that will be displayed in the entryway. And he said that it is dark, with areas of shade, and I am listening about the darkness and I am into it, imagining the photograph and what it will look like there as I turn toward its future. And I know that shadow and shade require light, and I am thinking mysterium opscurum, and of the history and other kinds of darkness and light that are within all of life.

I can almost taste it—all of that life—as I think about dark velvet, enjoyed without hurry, in a light and airy place.

Photograph “Only One Thing Missing” © 2018 Timothy Waugh