To’ak: Cacao of the Gods

At only $270 to $375 for a 50-gram bar, or just over 1.7 ounces, you can savor the confection which is fantastically unique, crazy delicious, and the rarest chocolate made on the planet today. It is unadulterated pure chocolate with a small dose of sugar cane.

The Ecuadorian To’ak Chocolate Company (pronounced Toe-Ahk) produces the luxury bar from the extremely rare Arriba cacao or Theobroma cacao, a tree previously thought extinct. Theobroma means ‘food of the gods’ in Latin and this tree only grows naturally in the tropical regions along either side of Earth’s equator in South America or West Africa. Connoisseurs describe this particular variety of cacao as having rich extravagant flavors and floral hints than any other known varieties. To’ak Chocolate, however, is not only eaten, but can also be made to drink from their finely ground powder.

cacao drinkThe To’ak method of production is to ferment the cocoa beans for at least two-years or more. The Vintage 2014 edition was aged for three-years in 50-year old French oak cognac casks. To’ak has also aged their dark chocolate in Laphroaig Islay whisky casks. As part of their growth model, the Ecuadorian chocolate company has partnered with Washington State University researching tannins. And if you think you might visit, see it with your own eyes, smell the aromas with your own nose, immediately taste with your own tongue, then do so while staying on the cacao tree-farm at Finca Sarita up in the trees for only about $15/night. But do not wait too long. A witching hour is afoot.

finca sarita treehouse

Finca Sarita treehouse, Ecuador

Witches’ broom is a fungal disease that attacks the T. cacao tree and like many waves of ecological problems and devastation, humans brought the disease onto these rare trees. In order to maximize bigger mass production of cocoa beans in the early 1900’s, industrialized nations and their titans of industry transplanted enormous monocultures of the T. cacao trees onto plantations in South and Central America. Unknowingly and unscientifically this put the trees at risk with unfamiliar pathogens to its immune system.

[Witches’ broom] has since spread throughout the Neotropics. Ten years after first being spotted in Bahia, Brazil, nearly 75 percent of the native cacao trees have been eradicated.


Witches’ broom disease is named for the abnormal, broom-like outgrowths that appear on infected trees. The disease cycle begins when spores of the fungus, which are dispersed by wind and water, enter the stomata—the pores of a tree’s leaves—or lesions on a tree. With high humidity and moisture, the spores germinate, and the tree undergoes severe physiological and hormonal changes, which divert the plant’s energy from normal growth to the production of the brooms.
New York Botanical Garden Science Talk:

cacao moleculeAs of 2015 there is no cure for Witches’ broom.  Consequently, the T. cacao variety might very well go extinct in a decade or two. Cacao farmers and botanists led and funded by their corporate executives have attempted to develop genetically modified, WB-resistant cacao trees with a cultivar named CCN-51. But it was unsuccessful in the end causing the cocoa to taste like rusty nails or dirt, if you know what that tastes like. Hence, this is the purpose for doses of sugar, vanilla, and/or cream. In To’ak’s fermenting method, whiskey and cognac divert any bitterness lingering in the beans. From To’ak’s webpage:

As chocolate-makers who also appreciate both wine and whisky, this struck us as an interesting concept. Winemakers and whisky distillers have been using the phenomenon of aging to their advantage for centuries. In the world of chocolate, the concept of aging had never been thoroughly examined prior to To’ak’s aging program. Starting in 2013, we initiated the world’s first-ever long-term aging program for dark chocolate, with some of our chocolate currently in it’s fourth year of aging. Since that time, we’ve consulted winemakers, enology professors, sommeliers, molecular scientists, conducted phenolic analysis in partnership with the enology department of Washington University, and experimented with twelve different aging vessels in countless different forms and conditions. Every year, we release to the public our finest expression of aged chocolate as one of our Vintage editions.

Would anyone reading want to go in maybe 50/50 or better, 80/20 with me on purchasing some of the finest dark chocolate and cocoa powder on the planet, probably in the universe? If I can’t get down there to visit and sleep up in the trees, I might just have to stop torturing myself, break open my piggy-bank and experience this Chocolat des Dieux.


Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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Untapped Worlds – Entries

I continue this series from the last post, Untapped Worlds — Departure

cell-systemThere is a popular saying in professional sports that “you [your team] are only as strong as your weakest player.” Another similar analogy is a wheel is only as strong as its weakest cog or spoke, or a chain its link. There are many other similar analogies that infer engineering or architectural laws:  the two strongest geometric shapes are the arch (or dome or sphere), and the other is the triangle. The reason this law is true is because of how weight or gravity are shared and displaced. Therefore, it stands to reason that other shapes and designs are insufficient for high levels of weight and gravity. Does this hold true for human social constructs? Are all human constructs impervious to and inerrant over time?

* * * * * * * * * *

Human_bodyWhen I was a high school senior I entered an engineering contest of wooden toothpick-bridges of some 13 physics class contestants around the Dallas area earning extra credit. The contest determined who could build the strongest toothpick bridge. The finished bridges of every possible design were placed onto a compression testing machine to decide how much weight each contestant’s toothpick-bridge could withstand before snapping and collapsing. The contest rules allowed for 2-weeks of preparation and construction before the day of reckoning. Fortunately for me they allowed parents to guide and assist. Being a mechanical engineer, my father was more than happy to partner up. He thrived in these sorts of engineering feats.

human-habitats_1The first order of building our bridge, as mentioned, was RT&D — research, testing and development. I had to go buy five different brands of toothpicks, preferably different shapes. Next, I had to purchase four different brands of epoxy-glue, preferably with different ingredients. Next, I had to get a bucket, C-clamps, our carpenter’s/mechanic’s multifunctional workbench, a measuring cup, and the water hose. Dad made me create a table on a sheet of paper with columns and rows showing the 5 different toothpicks and 4 different epoxy-glues and one column labelled “Break Weight.” From the closed table-clamp of the workbench holding one rigging, which held one end of the toothpicks, to the other c-clamp holding the other end of the toothpick, which held the bucket underneath, all hanging under the workbench… I slowly poured 1-cup of water into the bucket. Marked down 1-cup. Slowly poured another cup and human-habitats_2repeated this process until the toothpick snapped or sheared off. After hours of testing 3-4 times the twenty various combinations of toothpicks and epoxides, we had our strongest combination for the building of our bridge. Next came the design of our bridge given the structure of the contest’s compression testing machine and how it would apply measured force. Based on those specs, my “lead engineer” deduced that the best design was a complex version of the Howe Truss design with many more trusses forming an A-shape (see slide show below). Precise methodical construction began following the blueprints Dad and I had meticulously drawn. Each set of joints had to dry overnight.

Two weeks later and at the end of the official contest, the winning bridge held just over 300 lbs before breaking. It was our bridge. The closest runner-up held up to about 97 lbs.

Your “bridge” is only as strong as your weakest truss/joint.

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Becoming and Being Human

What is it that makes us human? What factors and influences make us who we are as a person? Some answers would be versions of the mental, emotional, physical, and intangible/spiritual aspects that make up our person. Though this is not an entirely wrong four-dimensional answer, I feel it falls short. It’s too vague.

I think what makes us human, what makes us who we are and who we are becoming has four primary influences:  1) resources and food, 2) our physical body, 3) our brain, and 4) social life, pretty much in that order with fluctuations. What do these four influences involve?

Resources/Food — How we are conceived and raised, from embryonic to young adult, depends largely on our parents’ available resources:  food, shelter, and protection all relative to our parents’ learned wisdom, and to an extent their parents before them and so on. But it’s more too. Those resources are relative to what Earth and/or others provide or take away.

Body — How we develop as a person is directly influenced first by the available resources for our parents/family, then eventually what resources are available to ourself and how much mobility is required (or in modern time, “chosen” mobility as opposed to several million years ago) to achieve and adapt our physical body. This is also closely connected with the next influence…

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Brain — How our modern brain develops not only helps decide what type body and personality are most productive and healthy for survival, but it also determines what resources can be found, created, or modified to improve its self, the body, and to different extents our environment. From 800,000 to 200,000 years ago paleoanthropologists and climatologists determined that brain size increased rapidly during dramatic climate changes effecting resources, then bodies. Larger more complex brains helped the earliest humans to interact with each other and survive in new adapted ways as their environment became unpredictable. And this leads me to the next influence…

space-habitat_1Social life — Over hundreds of thousands of years our ancestors learned the impact of group survival. I often call it “strength in numbers” because not only is it very hard (impossible?) to do solo all tasks to live and survive, but it’s also easier to come up with ingenious solutions or improvements when you have a large think-tank to access! And no surprise, the more diverse the think-tank, the more ingenious the solutions created. And it may be no further surprise, language and its articulation or expression between think-tank members are critical and proportional to the group’s or social network’s complexity.

The dynamics of these four flexing and fluid components — or in bridge design, tension and compression limits — make up the strength, health, and adaptability of the whole, the human. It would follow that a most dynamic human would be one where all four components, influences, and subcomponents, are continuously being monitored, tested, mixed-racemodified, strengthened, balanced, and rebalanced. A most dynamic human would have an above average or higher access to the best Resources, an above average or higher Body performance, an above average or higher Brain complexity-performance, and an above average or higher managed Social life. And with the fact that human existence is always relative to many fluid forces and influences inside as well as outside of self — i.e. from parents, to Earth and others — why would anyone desire and choose, as a whole, to be solo, weaker, and less than average? And given that our brain works on a mere lean 12.6 watts and is prone to degrees of ambiguity, superstition, memory-errors, and deception as shown in the previous two posts of this series, shouldn’t we at least thoroughly dissect and reëxamine who we are more than once or twice in our adult life, asking what more could we be…for ourself, those we love, and others?

A Complete 4-D Checkup

In order to make all four dimensions/influences improved, stronger, wiser, more dynamic and thus better support, manage, and invigorate family, people, and life’s compressions and tensions, I feel we must identify and understand more deeply these subcomponents of each dimension; learn how they function and interact with the other three and beyond our own brain and bodies.

In the next post of this series, Untapped Worlds — Reside, I want to breakdown the subcomponents of all four influences that make us human and offer suggestions of how to expand them, strengthen them, and thus making them more dynamic. One of these four influences/components is on the brink of rapid historic expansion and/or change!

Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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Oh Lord, Forgive Me My Zins

7 Deadly Zins

I am more a cocktail sort of guy, but this red Zinfandel not only grabbed my pocket-book, it enslaved my palette too.  And if you enjoy a good laugh along with good friends, food and wine, then read their back label, written below.  I plan to try as many of their wines as possible and become a zinful wine-O myself (wink).  Oh, and I am also a big fan of anything that mocks or makes a parody of orthodox religions; pick any one of them!

I’m raging with ire, an ocean of fire,
My Wrath is the path to all I desire.
Oh Lord, forgive me my Zins.
I’m inflated with pride, near-bursting inside,
A self-centered repenter, Vanity’s bride.
Oh Lord, forgive me my Zins.
I’m mired in mud, inert as a slug,
Sloth is the cloth that’s woven my rug.
Oh Lord, forgive me my Zins.
I eat day and night, consuming all in my sight,
A Glutton with nothing but a huge appetite.
Oh Lord, forgive me my Zins.
My will I ignore, my Envy’s a chore,
Over-zealous and jealous, I want so much more.
Oh Lord, forgive me my Zins.
I’m ravenous to feast, an insatiable beast,
I concede to the Greed demanding release.
Oh Lord, forgive me my Zins.
I hunger for trust, my cravings a must,
My sin is the Zin enslaving my Lust.
Oh Lord, forgive me my Zins.

If you are interested in learning more about this fine, reasonably priced wine and their winery, then please visit their website: