still life of cocoa

The Gift of Quetzalcoatl

Quetzalcoatl, God of the Wind and Wisdom, one day descended to Earth by the rays of a morning star. The plumed serpent deity, finding the Toltecas very welcoming, respectful and hospitable, decided to offer them an exceptional present, in the form of a small bush with fragrant flowers. After nurturing the plant as instructed, some beautiful red pods replaced the bulbs. Quetzalcoatl taught the natives how to prepare the kernels by fermenting the beans, roasting and grinding them, and mixing them with sweet maize and water into a frothy drink that was until then reserved to the Gods.  The drink called Xocoatl soon became the love and pride of the Toltec, and their joy arose the anger from the Gods who could not accept humans drinking their sacred nectar. Consequently, the Gods sent the sworn enemy of Quetzalcoatl, Tezcatlipoca – God of Darkness and night, to fix the situation and bring back the plant and Quetzalcoatl to their realm. A sad but unresigned Quetzalcoatl secretly left the last seeds of the magic tree on the shore of the sea, where the seedling grew, and the plant soon prospered again; his last present to the World. The feathered Serpent then committed suicide by diving into a funeral pyre, his burning body transforming into colorful birds and his heart raising to the sky to become a beautiful morning star, also known as Venus.

 

An old Aztec illustration of Quetzalcoatl, the Plumed Serpent God.

Theobroma Cacao is the botanical name of the small evergreen tree that produces one of the most beloved food in the world, cocoa, and chocolate. The name “Theobroma” meaning “food of the Gods” is, in fact, a translation of the Aztek word Xocoatl, from which chocolate is derived. Mesoamerican civilizations used cacao in a very different way as we do today. The fermented beans were ground, toasted and mixed with maize powder and water, and the whole mixture foamed up by consecutive pouring between two cups. The drink was sacred and mostly served during religious ceremonies where sacrificial blood was sometimes added to the brew. Historians also discovered a spicy recipe with red pepper in it. The chocolate drink of this age was very bitter, though aphrodisiac and stimulating and reserved to the elite. Cacao beans were rare and expensive and sometimes even used as a currency, like pepper and cinnamon in old Europe.

Chocolate, in the form we enjoy today, was developed in the nineteen Century by the Europeans. The Dutch chemist van Houten discovered a method that removed most bitterness from the ground cacao. He later invented a press that separated the cacao fats, known as cacao butter, from the dry mass, also called cacao liquor. By adding sugar to the liquor and melting and mixing the hot cacao butter back to the compound, the soft chocolate could be molded in various shapes and enjoyed as we do today. The Swiss Daniel Peter later invented milk chocolate by adding to the liquor some powdered milk produced by the young Swiss industrial Henry Nestlé. Chocolate is found nowadays in all possible forms and shapes. It is maybe not mere luck if Swiss people ( like me 🙂 ) are the biggest consumers of chocolate today, with nearly twenty pounds per person per year, more than half of the average American consumption. Seventy percent of the world’s cocoa beans come from four West African countries: Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon. Global climate change and population rise are affecting the production of cacao severely in these countries, leading to price inflation and a shortage of supply that are already affecting the Western consumers today. Some experts predicted that chocolate could become a rare delicacy like caviar, in just twenty years from now.

A Theobroma Cacao plantation worker opening a ripe pod. We can see the unfermented fresh white beans inside.

In perfumery, the chocolate note is increasingly popular in gourmand juices that followed the landmark launch of Angel by Mugler. Until then, fragrances were either fresh, ambery or spicy, and the addition of the sweet ethyl maltol molecule in the juice was a risky bet from Mugler and his nose Oliver Cresp. Since then, lots of perfumers have tried themselves in creating fragrances with subtle notes of chocolate, ranging from the white chocolate vanillin character to the extra dark cocoa complex and spicy nature.

Here are my picks of the week related to Chocolate-rich fragrances:

Not among my favourites, but for the true fans of pure chocolate scents, Demeter Fragrance Library might please you with an amazing amount of sweet variations such as Brownie, Chocolate Chip Cookie, Chocolate Covered Cherries, Chocolate Mint, Dark Chocolate, Devils’ Food, Hot Fudge Sundae, and probably a few more already, at the time you are reading this article.

Mancera is a luxury brand created by the extremely prolific Pierre Montale for his daughter Amélie. The line is perhaps more feminine than the original Montale collection, but a lot of these fragrances are perfectly unisex anyway.  Choco Violette is part of the Christmas 2016 collection and still available for sales today. Lots of harsh reviews will scare away many Fragrantica readers which is a shame since this accord of chocolate, hazelnuts, and violet is for me very pleasant and undoubtedly very original. Montale brought us here in a sweet and powdery universe, in the boudoir of a gourmand concubine. I find the perfume perfectly wearable for a man, especially if sprayed on a scarf or a handkerchief. The opening of hesperidic notes soon fades in favor of a strong note of dark chocolate and roasted hazelnuts, softened by the powdery violet and white musks. The projection and sillage are rather weak, keeping you in a selfish comfort that will last easily for half a day. Nice choice for a wet winter. From the same brand also try Choco Vanille and Rose and Chocolate which might even fit you more than this one.

 

Lait et Chocolat from the South of France house of CHABAUD is precisely what it says: a chocolate milk drink in a perfume bottle. I would not advise trying drinking it, even if it is almost irresistible. Chabaud is good at making gourmand juices; you might want to try also the other fragrances of the milky series such as Lait Concentré, Lait de Biscuit, and Lait de Vanille. I still haven’t figured out how to wear such scents on a daily basis, and only use them for special effects on clothes or times of the day when I want to experience sweet notes. I would be pleased to hear from you if you chose such fragrance as your signature. Yummy and gourmand indeed!

The exclusive Italian house of IL PROFVMO is also noticeable for its gourmand fragrances and their selection of chocolate scents such as Chocolat, Chocolat Frais, and Chocolat Amer. Do not miss them if you find them in a serious profumeria. Chocolat is a warm exotic fragrance with tones of vanilla, citrus notes of tangerine, and a delicate blend of spices, plums, rose and the note of immortelle which I love so much. This is one of my favorite choco-fragrance of the moment!

Black Orchid by Tom Ford is already considered a classic of luxury perfumery and rightly so since this fragrance is a landmark of complexity and elegance. Have you ever seen a black orchid? If it would exist, it would surely smell like this outstanding fragrance. Dark chocolate notes appear already in the opening and accompany us to the dry down. Fruity notes make a perfect bridge between the sweet chocolate and the rich floral notes of jasmine, gardenia, and ylang-ylang. The base of the fragrance is vibrant and long-lasting, with musky, ambery and woody notes appearing alternately. What makes this perfume so unique and magic, perhaps, is the truffle note,  which is more subliminal than perceptible. Maremma, by the Italian house of Tiziana Terenzi, is a very similar creation that also deserves mention.

Lilac Love by the Oman luxury house of Amouage is as beautiful to my eyes and hands as it smells lovely to my nose. Do not expect here to find the replica of the natural fragrance of the lilac trees of your garden. Instead, it is a very sensual blend of floral and sweet essences. The Essential oil of lilac does not exist, and lilac has to be anyway reproduced by the assemblage of various floral oils and molecules, here ensured with rose, jasmine, heliotrope and few others. Coumarin from tonka beans and cacao notes give a bitter-sweet tone to Lilac Love. Orris root and musks provide the powdery effect that complete perfectly this feminine juice.

I hope that the over-consumption of chocolate many of us had during the festive season did not discourage you from reaching this point of my article and gave you the desire to sample all these beautiful perfumes, well suited for the cold days that remain to bear until Spring shows the tip of his nose.

I wish you a very fragrant week, cheers my friends!

Laurent

 

 

 

About Laurent 70 Articles
Born in Switzerland but lived half of my life in fragrant Asia, I want to share my passion for scents and flavors

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