Moctezuma's gold wasn't gold. It was chocolate.
The Aztec king was a hoarder of cacao beans, as it turned out, with a royal stash totaling 9,000 tons. The beans, back in the day, were the most common form of currency—so only the rich would actually be decadent enough to roast and drink them. He drank cacao with the best of them: Moctezuma downed, we're told, 50 golden goblets of the cacahuatl each and every day.
Turns out Moctezuma might've just been the 16th-century version of a New World coke addict. He was really into the brown stuff.
I can relate. I'm high on chocolate right now.
After melting an ounce of pure "Heirloom Belize" cacao from California's Firefly Chocolate into a mug of hot water, the skin of my arms tingles with dilated blood vessels, and my hairs stand on end with whatever's the opposite of horripilation. My sinuses feel oddly warm.
I have not partaken in the multi-part chocolate ceremony Firefly's founder, Jonas Ketterle, recommends—it begins with "gratitude" and a lot of deep breaths. But while I didn't find my "sacred grief" the same way Ketterle did, I'm willing to believe that I have been filled with energy that helps me "go into the day with the courage, creativity and heart to offer my gifts."
Somehow, chocolate has become the new party drug of the self-consciously enlightened. Go to a Berlin dance night called Lucid and you'll find 200 people sitting down for a chocolate ceremony—packing in their natural high before they rave till dawn.
For years, the club kids in Europe have been snorting the soft stuff: a mint-spiked chocolate powder with an oddly complicated sniffing device that looks a little like a designer slide rule. The powder, and the device, were invented by a Belgian chocolatier seven years ago, to give one last new thrill to aging members of the Rolling Stones.
The week before, I also tooted some cacao—although mine was nowhere near as classy as the European cocoa snuff. I got jittery as hell snorting a new substance called Coco Loko, made by a company in Orlando called Legal Lean, which also sells a drug-free herbal take on Purple Drank to spiky-haired Caucasian-Floridian rappers.
The $20, 1.5-ounce snuffbox of Coco Loko is precisely what its name suggests, a cacao-powder Four Loko that "infuses" its chocolate powder with a guarana-taurine energy cocktail. Legal Lean advertises, without any particular proof, a 30-minute endorphin and serotonin rush, not to mention "euphoric energy" and "calm focus."
Coco Loko snorts clean, as it turns out, with none of the pain of your average pixie stick. It's been ground into a pleasingly soft, fine dust whose mild discomfort comes only after the snort—a mix of viscous, chocolate cake-y post-nasal drip and the world's least-offensive brown boogers. Until you find a Kleenex, each inward breath smells pleasantly of chocolate. And then, so does your Kleenex.
The high is the high of Red Bull: a shaky, spacey, vacuous hollowness that makes me useless.
This is all perfectly legal, of course—it's chocolate.
But don't worry. Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer is on the case. Having seen disturbing images of people snorting that brown cocaine at parties, Chuck would really like the FDA to look into regulating that crazy cocoa powder. (Watch out brownie bakers—Schumer's comin' atcha.)
"I call this product cocaine on training wheels. That's really what it is," Schumer wrote in a letter to the FDA this month. "We ought to get rid of it." Schumer had previously been nervous about the prospect of caffeinated peanut butter.
So far, the FDA and DEA have done all they can to stifle their laughter, with the latter telling the Washington Post—apparently straight-faced—that they were "not aware of any agency concerns related to chocolate inhalants."
Now, sure, I'm not feeling anything my own mother hasn't felt at Papa Haydn, but maybe ol' Schumer is on to something, here—at least, if a 1985 book by Connecticut ethnobotanist Jonathan Ott is to be believed.
"I am the cacahuatl eater," Ott writes in his book, Ruminations of an Unabashed Chocolate Addict, "an unabashed chocolate addict, from earliest childhood habituated to this most subtle drug, which many have mistaken for mere confit or confection, a palliative for childish natures. But it is not so….Chocolate and not opium is the secret drug of happiness."
Ott, it turns out, is mostly a proponent of the drug—and figures that the vasodilating properties of sugar-free chocolate leads not just to warm tingles on one's arms but extra-sensual lovemaking.
Clearly, this chocolate thing is in need of greater study, but it doesn't look quite like the FDA is going to be the one to do it. Coco Loko, like other snortable chocolates, remains in the same legally gray area of "dietary supplement" as all those screwed-up protein powders at the GNC store. That is, unless someone complains of terminal post-nasal drip.