Cacao, Capsaicin, and the Happy Button

As people, we are always striving to discover what makes us happy. It is everyone's quest: a white picket fence, a slice of the American Dream, or maybe just a little chocolate. There's more truth to that last one than you might think. Brain scientists have long sought to uncover how "happiness" works on a chemical level. The brain chemistry surrounding happiness is fairly complex, but specific chemicals called endorphins are one of the keys to joy.

The body produces endorphins on its own accord, often associated with strenuous activities. Endorphins are the cause of the phenomenon know as "Runner's High". There are two foods that are known to prompt an endorphin response in the brain: chocolate and chilies.20130906-130048.jpg The spicier the pepper or darker the chocolate, the more pronounced the effect. If you can handle the bitterness or heat, the endorphin response creates a very unique and organic kind of joy. This is something chocolate lovers have known for quite some time, and didn't need the science to back it up. The Aztecs used cacao as a medicine, a drink mixed with chili peppers. No milk or sugar, it must have been an intense experience, but whatever was ailing you, you'd feel better afterwards. Consider it a universal happy button.

20130906-124743.jpgFortunately we can temper our experience with a little milk and sugar, to spare our tongues some of the heat. At the boutique we carry a wide variety of spicy chocolates for you to get your fix of Cacao and Capsaicin.

20130906-124802.jpg•Chuao Spicy Maya Spicy 
Level: Hearth Fire in Winter
The Chuao Spicy Maya is a very popular dark chocolate with a good kick. They use a blend of cayenne and cinnamon to merge the taste of the spice with the flavor of chocolate. This chocolate might be better described as "spiced" than "spicy". The combination is very pleasant, creating a very full spectrum of flavor in every bite. 


20130906-124753.jpg•B.T. McElrath Chilli Limon
Spicy Level: Forest Fire
We used this chocolate during a tasting event, and quickly found this chocolate to be a bit too spicy for the average chocolate lover. The touch of lime gives the bar a subtle tartness that helps keep the bitterness of the chocolate in check and accent the flavors of Chili Moledo. This bar allows some of the deeper nuances of the chili to rise to the surface.

20130906-125241.jpg•Ethereal Chocolate Ambrosia
This is easily the spiciest chocolate I have ever tasted, and I was not expecting it. Chilies is listed so briefly in the name, and the box is so innocuous I expected a nice hint of chili alongside the caramelized pecans. The flavor is very good, very strong, but it has an afterburn like you wouldn't believe. An impressive chocolate to be sure, but not for the faint of heart.

Whether its the endorphin response, or simply the delightful taste of these chocolates, I found myself lifted throughout the rest of my day. Chocolate has a reputation as a mood enhancer, throw in some chilies and you've got yourself a happy button.

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