Last Saturday we drove up to Mid Wales to meet with artisan chocolate maker Pablo Spaull at his secluded one-man chocolate factory. Named by Food and Travel magazine “the first hippie chocolatier”, Pablo kindly invited us to taste his signature chocolate range, speaking enthusiastically about how he discovered his passion for raw chocolate, how Forever Cacao was born and the challenges he had to overcome in the process of establishing the cacao supply chain.
Passionate about traditional cultures and indigenous tribal peoples, Pablo opened up about his friendship with Dilwyn Jenkins ‒ the brave advocate of Peru's Ashaninka tribal people who passed away in 2014 ‒ and why it is vital to put indigenous people in control of their rainforest. He also told us about the unconventional Cacao Club, where he hosts transformational gatherings and healing ceremonies in collaboration with Andrea Proffitt, showing that cacao can also be a heart opener and a soul connector.
Tell us about Pablo before Forever Cacao.
The 90's were spent DJing and producing electronic music and performing at venues all over the place, early 00's I got into providing DJ skills & music making workshops to young people – in the care system, young offenders, youth clubs, schools, PRU's and the home educated community. I've always followed my heart and done what I enjoy doing.
What is your most vivid childhood memory?
1983. Riding my bike around Glastonbury festival and experiencing live music in a field! Also we were a bit short of camping utensils so my usual breakfast of weetabix was served crushed up in a bottle of fresh Worthy Farm milk.
What sparked your interest in traditional cultures and indigenous tribal peoples?
It's where all the wisdom is and if it's not recognised and celebrated – it will be lost. This applies Worldwide.
Food and Travel magazine called you “the first hippie chocolatier”. What are your thoughts on this?
It's cool, I'm not ashamed of my hippy credentials – they serve me well!
Tell us about your friendship with Dilwyn Jenkins. What are some of the most inspiring lessons you’ve learned from this relationship?
Dilwyn was the kindest wise man I've had the pleasure of meeting. Nothing was too much trouble for him and he had a way of getting things done that was so gentle and heartfelt that whoever he encountered felt compelled to help him on his quest. His ethos and dedication to his work with the Ashaninka were most inspiring. He is a great loss to humanity.
What are some of the biggest issues that surround the chocolate industry at the moment?
Hybrid strains and deforestation are high in the craft chocolate world alongside child labour and slavery in the confectionary commodity industry. Many large companies are always looking to save money in production which usually results in an inferior end product and questionable ethics.
What was the most challenging step when establishing the cacao supply chain?
Every single step had its own set of challenges – it took 7 years before any beans actually made the trip to the UK. The communication, language, technology, transport, quality control, education, post harvest facilities and tools all play a part. It's a very complicated set of variables which work very well when all lined up however with one part out of place the whole thing falls apart.
How often do you travel to Peru and how does a regular day look like for you while you’re there?
As often as possible – once a year minimum. There's no typical day really, it depends on whether there's a visit to the jungle or meetings in Lima.
What was your first impression of the Peruvian rainforest? What have you learned or observed that surprised you the most?
First impression was awe. It made me realise that we humans as a species are the problem for the planet and as an organism herself – Mother Earth / Pachamama / Gaia is a powerful force and will be fine once we stop abusing her and treating her like a resource to be plundered – the Earth can provide everything we need if managed compassionately.
Do you bring back home any of the recipes that you discover during your travels?
Ceviche is a favourite and Quinoa features quite heavily too. Lucuma is another of Peru's wonderful flavours.
You founded the Cacao Club in 2016 with Andrea Proffitt. Tell us a bit about this venture and what inspired you to start showing people how use chocolate for spiritual purposes.
Cacao Club was born out of the need for somewhere to dance with like minded people without alcohol in a safe space. Combine that all with Cacao and it's a win win situation. The fusion of my years of experience as a DJ and collectively putting on festivals and parties seemed to make perfect sense. It's a wonderful opportunity to create a different experience each month with interesting new music and sacred sound artists – we transform our venue into a relaxed, colourful and welcoming environment where people can express themselves fully and still get home before midnight without nursing a hangover the next day!
Where do you go when you want to relax or get inspired? What are your favourite places in the area?
Llanrhaeadr Waterfall (Pistyll Rhaeadr) is one of Wales's best kept secrets and the perfect place to recharge your Earth batteries. I'm lucky to live surrounded by nature so just going out of my back door is pretty inspiring and relaxing.
What was the most meaningful gift you have ever received?
Tough call – it has to be the hand written notes of love from my kids that they leave in strategic places for me – in pairs of socks when I'm halfway around the World!
Are you eating chocolate every day?
How addictive is raw chocolate? Hell yeah, I get through around 100g and find it helps with focus, clarity and a sense of general well being. Also it keeps you in your heart space which really helps with decision making.
What was the best book about chocolate you have read so far?
The Science of Chocolate for all the geeky stuff.
What is your favourite (non-chocolate) dish?
Anything fresh from the field to the face that's been grown with love works for me. I like to eat food from a plant not food made in a plant.
What book can one find on your side table?
Currently it's Becoming Supernatural by Dr. Joe Dispenza.
Can you recommend three songs that go well with chocolate?
All songs go well with Chocolate, however current favourites are Everything Everything – Night Of The Long Knives, Gorillaz – We Got The Power and Jane Weaver – The Architect.
What are you currently experimenting with?
Inner work at the moment which no doubt will lead to some flashes of inspiration to bring into fruition through chocolate. I'm currently developing a range of drinking chocolate.
What are your dreams and ambitions for Forever Cacao?
These change and morph all the time – while I love what I do I let the business drive itself – when it starts to feel forced it's time to take a break. Finding the perfect work/life balance is what it's all about for me and with two children and a dog it veers on the life side more often than not. I'm not overly ambitious however would love to see cacao widely available and accepted as the plant medicine it originates from and as an alternative to antidepressants, coffee and alcohol. Also recognised as the heart opener it is for bringing people more in touch with themselves, their inner guidance systems and connecting us to the collective consciousness we are all a part of – there's my inner hippy talking again!
Thank you, Pablo for your hospitality and for the insight into your chocolate making venture.