by Cindy Le Sauvage Guilbert
Born in Guernsey in the Channel Islands and now living for the past 12 years in the Pyrenees Orientale, I work with plants, herbs, flowers and chocolate and enjoy mixing the two together when I am not painting watercolour mandalas.
La Magie de Xocolata
The windows are wide open and the sun is streaming in, bouncing off the crystals hanging in the room, although the fire is lit. It is winter after all in our sleepy mountain village of St Laurent de Cerdans.
There is a knock at the door and there stands a friend who has come to share some Magick with us.
She opens her case, brimming over with bags containing a Pandora’s Box of delicious, aromatic Cacao ….. Beans, paste, powder and butter. The aroma is mouthwatering. Accompanying all this are crystallised flowers, nuts and fruits to create a treasure trove of chocolate delights. Mmmm Chocolat!!
We called on a few local friends to come and join in the magick making and we listened and took notes as she absorbed us into the fascinating world of Cacao.
We were given a cacao bean to eat, a deep intense but bitter flavour. Next was a piece of cacao butter to rub into our skin which made it feel soft and smooth whilst we were drooling over the incredible scent of chocolate. An expensive moisturiser but it left our skin soft and smooth.
Now it was time to get on with the creating … everyone got involved in preparing the equipment and then we all became engrossed in the chopping and grating and setting out the flowers, fruits and nuts, weighing the paste, butter, vanilla and agave. Agave is a natural sweetener and as she is a purist and perfectionist she prefers not to use sugar and cream.
Now we were ready to commence the creation of raw chocolate. We all took turns, stirring, adding the ingredients, checking temperatures – and then there it was – a beautiful glossy smooth liquid, it filled the whole house with a wonderful exotic aroma and we were all on cloud nine, but there was not time to inhale and dream, it was THE moment, a race to make the chocolates before the mixture goes past its prime as left too long it will become thick and grainy.
The atmosphere in the room was electric as we laughed and panicked at the same time, but soon we had trays full of delicious handmade raw chocolates. Incredibly shiny and topped with violets, roses, lime and chilli, nuts, dates and the list went on. We sampled each batch and all made up a box, one of each flavour, to be devoured at a later date, although some folk just couldn’t contain themselves and departed the atelier empty handed but full of the naturale magick of cacao.
Before she left we relieved her of some of her paste and butter as we definitely wanted to create our own chocolate specialities to give to friends as gifts. We played and experimented and our selection included filled chocolates with confit de rose, caramel, marzipan, and mendiants topped with ginger, crystallised violets, cranberries and crystallised orange peel sprinkled with edible gold and silver glitter … a box of homemade gems.
We then began to run out of the paste and butter so we looked around to source the ingredients locally. After all, we are in the land of chocolatiers so it can’t be that difficult, can it? Actually yes, it proved to be very difficult. We googled raw cacao, chocolate making suppliers, raw chocolate etc etc and to no avail. Mind you, during this searchfest we did come across some fascinating facts and folklore about cacao.
FASCINATING CHOCOLATE FACTS
♥ The Olmecs were the first people to eat cacao and it was as precious as gold. They used to trade and make offerings to the Gods.
♥ Some trees are 200 years old but only produce usable cacao for the first 25 years.
♥ Chocolate is also incredibly good for you providing you don’t add too much milk and sugar.
Anyway, I digress. After many more months of searching I saw a photo of a beautiful old chocolaterie posted on Facebook by The Good Life France and loved the style of it. I wrote and asked them if they knew of any suppliers of pure cacao, preferably online as it is rather a long shopping trip from here in the Languedoc Roussillon to Calais or Lille.
They kindly investigated for me. In the meantime, we continued to search locally, this time from a different angle, and lo and behold, we found a very informative site right here in Perpignan. Eureka!! .
We discovered that the first chocolate to be produced in France was in a factory built by Jules Pares in 1814 in Arles sur Tech, fifteen minutes down the mountain from where we had been living for the past twelve years and knew nothing about it … that means it’s the bi-centenary this year and surely that deserves a celebration!
I’ve written to the company to suggest such a thing: it would be a shame if it went by un-noticed. There is also a new Moulin des Arts in Arles sur Tech … mmm perhaps a chocolate festival beckons, in a sleepy little French village …. well it’s not unheard of is it?
Cindy Le Sauvage Guilbert naturale.magick@gmail .com