Every year, my grandparents come over to America from the Philippines.  Besides looking forward to seeing them of course, I look forward to my pasalubong or present from back home.  My favorite is the chocolate.  They have about half a dozen cacao trees growing in the yard and they are always teeming with fruit.  My grandmother processes the chocolate at home.  It is quite tedious.  The seeds have to be cleaned, fermented, dried, roasted, shelled, and turned into a paste, which would then be put into molds.  I think it’s the best tasting chocolate in the world though I may be a little biased in my opinion.  The chocolate scent is so potent that Keith got a headache while we were grinding up some for hot cocoa after dinner.


The cacao seeds come in football-shaped seed pods that are about 6-8 inches long and 3-4 inches in diameter.  When they are ripe the pods turn yellow-gold and  some turn red and burnt orange in color.  When we were little, my brother and I volunteered to pick the fruit and we used to suck on the pulpy and slimy seed pods to remove the flesh and we would spit them into a bilao (a huge plate made from woven bamboo).  Care for a little saliva with your chocolate?  Because they were so slippery I ended up swallowing a bunch of seeds accidentally and I used to be so scared that cacao trees would grow in my belly!

Here’s a great resource on the History of Chocolate from the Field Museum website.

Spicy Hot Chocolate


  • 2 cups whole milk (Organic Valley)
  • 2 T. cocoa powder
  • sugar to taste
  • dash of cayenne
  • dash of cinnamon

Pour milk into a small saucepan and heat slowly.  Whisk in cocoa, sugar, and spices, and keep stirring until hot but not boiling.  It should get a little frothy on top.

I love the cayenne because it makes the chocolate taste more sharp plus the milk does not coat your tongue which I really dislike whenever I eat dairy.

Alternate Recipe:

If you want something  like what the ancient Maya and Aztecs drank, add more cocoa powder and cayenne.  Also you’ll want to replace the dairy with water and replace the sugar with flower nectar/a little honey.  According to the History of Chocolate article above, they also added a some cornmeal into their bitter cocoa drinks.  What?  No sugar, no milk.. and cornmeal?  I wonder if there is a correlation between not eating milk and sugar and the extinction of the Mayans and Aztecs?



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