Finding comfort through cacao for those battling cancer

Perhaps this discovery will not make it into the New England Journal of Medicine but it has helped somebody and I hope it can help many more.

It happened on Easter weekend. While most people are busy looking for chocolate eggs and bunnies, this one particular lady came into our store specifically looking for a box of chocolates for a friend of hers. As is customary when clients enter our store, I offered her a chocolate. I can probably count on one hand how many people refuse a chocolate when I offer it. This lady was one of the few. I listened intently as to why she could not have a piece of our fine Marsatta Chocolate. She began to explain that she is on chemotherapy and that although she loves chocolate she had no taste buds due to her treatment for cancer. She continued as I listened and said that it is really frustrating as some of the side effects include a dry mouth. She also said that she has to always have ice chips around to make her saliva glands happy. Ice chips melt and only last a short while and so that was that.

We were standing close by our display area that had our cacao beans and cacao nibs. I asked her if she tried any types of alternative medicines, routines or health foods that may help and comfort her. She mentioned that she had not and that the chemotherapy really zapped her energy. She sounded like my late father and sister who listened to their doctors and followed the strict schedule of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. I couldn’t believe she was out shopping for some chocolates for a friend all while feeling not the greatest! I wanted to help her and asked if she has ever tasted any cacao beans or cacao nibs. I explained to her our process of making chocolate over two to three days and that we not only used our cacao beans and nibs for our chocolate making but our customers eat them whole or just the nibs. She said “really"? I then said that some use our special cacao nibs in smoothies, in cereal and as a topping on fruits. Our cacao nibs are amazing and have a great taste to them.        I then asked her to wait a moment. I hurried quickly to the back and brought her out some freshly winnowed nibs. The smell of them is truley intoxicating. Before she tried them I explained what most people experience. “The texture is kind of crunchy, it kind of tastes chocolatey and the nibs kind of resonate harmoniously in your mouth for a short while.” I then said “Did you know that cacao is actually a fruit” It is. She smiled and then it happened… Her expression was surprising and with wide eyes she excitingly said to me “You know, I cannot believe this. I’m getting my saliva back! She said her mouth was not dry anymore and as she continued to have another couple of nibs, the insides of her mouth felt a whole lot better. I was pleasantly surprised and evidently by her big smile, so was she. She said that she could not wait to tell her doctor the great news. I can’t wait until she returns.

Now unfortunately, we didn’t find a cure for cancer that memorable day but our discovery will make a whole lot of patients who are going through various cancer treatments just a little more comfortable.  At least until we can find a cure.


Jeffray D. Gardner

Master Chocolate Maker

Marsatta Chocolate



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