Hi, my name is Juliette Bryant – a raw chocolatier, nutritionist, healer and mum. I have spent years teaching people about raw cacao and how to make the most delicious and nutritious chocolate. Despite raw chocolate being one of the loves of my life, I had never seen the cacao, vanilla, or any of the other elements that make up the chocolate actually growing until recently. On a trip to India I had the opportunity to visit a beautiful organic farm where all the ingredients needed to make raw chocolate are growing in one place.
We arrived at Tanshikar spice farm after a bumpy bike ride over the stunning countryside of South Goa. When we arrived the first thing I saw was a large reishi mushroom drying on the counter – I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I use reishi mushrooms for their many medicinal properties such as the ability to boost the immune system, regulate the heart rate and balance hormones. I’d never seen one so big! I knew this was going to be an exciting day for me.
Chinmay and Gaudi Tanshikar welcomed us with fresh lemongrass and mountain honey tea. They told us how they farm organically because their ancestral farm has been run on organic principals for generations. They explained how their methods of organic farming are sustainable, from their building, furniture, food and medicine; they do not have to rely on anyone else. Their principal needs are met from their local environment, permaculture in action.
The first spice we were shown was vanilla, this compliments raw chocolate wonderfully and it enhances its taste with a wonderful alchemy. In the wild, the plant is often found growing intertwined with cacao. Vanilla helps to soothe the nervous system and is said to be an aphrodisiac. I learned that in order to get vanilla pods the plant has to be propagated by hand, this increased my gratitude for this wonderful plant.
As we walked through the jungle, all around us were coconut trees. Seeing one magnificent specimen I was reminded of the coconuts many health giving properties and numerous other uses. Coconut oil can be used on the skin as a brilliant moisturizer; it is anti viral, anti bacterial and very soothing externally. When taken internally it helps with digestion and is said to help lower cholesterol. We will be using this as the base for our raw chocolate.
We then came across the raw cacao trees. I felt like I was in a dream – it was amazing to see cacao growing in front of me. The tree was crawling in red ants, which rather than being a pest where actually great helpers – they eat bacteria and fungus off of the flowers which enable the farm to grow without the need for spraying with chemicals. Isn’t nature remarkable? The same process occurs with the vanilla flowers.
Raw cacao is said to have over 360 active chemicals and minerals. Eating raw cacao helps with concentration, a healthy heart and a general sense of wellbeing. The process of turning the raw bean into making it taste like chocolate takes time. First the pods are collected and the beans placed in woven baskets and covered with banana leaves. The beans are turned, rinsed and recovered every day for a week. In this process, the beans slowly ferment creating the taste we know and love as chocolate. The beans are then slowly dried in the sun.
We then came across the spice nutmeg. I didn’t know this before, but there are four parts to the nutmeg plant and all of them are used at Tanshikar. The part we know best is the inner kernel. We were told about the long tradition of incredible uses of this plant to assist sleep, improve brain function and as a natural remedy for diarrhea, useful to know when traveling in India. The mace, which covers the kernel and is a delicate red color, can be used to lightly flavor food such as rice, almost like saffron.
Tanshikar have several beehives to produce honey and also to bring the many benefits of the magical bees to the farm. The care they had for the bees was evident – honey is only taken when there is enough for the bees, no protective clothing was worn and a loving attitude was present. I’m happy to have honey like this with its many health benefits and sweet taste.
Walking around Tanshikar I realised I was in an edible jungle which Chinmay’s vast knowledge brought to life. In England, I have seen a forest garden in its first years of development, but Tanshikar has been going for generations and there was an abundance of food and medicine, fuel and materials all around me.
Overflowing with inspiration from my visit, I’d like to share a simple recipe for some delicious raw chocolate using only the ingredients we got from the farm. You should be able to source these ingredients easily yourself. You can watch a video of my experience on the farm and the making of this recipe at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRslCYSoxmY or visit www.julietteskitchen.tv for more recipes and videos:
1 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup cacao powder
1 tsp ground nutmeg
2tbs local honey
1/4 vanilla pod or 1 tsp vanilla essence
If your coconut oil is solid, slowly melt it and remove from heat, pour all ingredients into a bowl and mix all together. Pour into a cake tin or chocolate moulds and place it in the fridge to set for 20 mins.