Friday, 14 September 2007

Kakao Maroa chocolate shop


12 Jun 2007


Ave F Lacroze lies on the outer aspect of Palermo near Av Libertador. The avenue slopes gently towards both Palermo park and the main line leading from Retiro to the provinces beyond Belgrano. Above are wonderful homes looking onto quiet, leafy streets bathed in Autumn sunshine and below are restaurants, cafes and cake shops. Amongst them is Kakao Maroa.  It is a chocolateria owned and run by Maria. She is young, attractive, slight with shoulder length fair wavy hair and the most expressive eyes in Buenos Aires. This delicatessen is one of her two babies, her other being cared for by her husband whilst she works making chocolate. When you enter you feel the sense of space and style. Tiled floors lead into a large, almost Japanese style interior with simple sofa bench seats and webbed tables. Elena, my tango partner and I are taking tea there after walking and talking tango in Palermo Park. My tea is jasmine, served in pure white china with tea strainer. We insist on chocolate with the tea, the combination being wonderful. Maria and her staff make the chocolate by hand with no preservatives, so technically it will survive for three months. In practice it lasts about three minutes.

A short while after our arrival Maria joins us at our sofa. She is intrigued by an extremely tall, good looking and apparently fascinating couple who conversed about tango and life in a combination of Spanish, German and English. Speaking good English honed at Oxford, England and spilling a few words in German learned in Vienna, Maria invites us to taste a special chocolate. This, I should hasten to add, is offered as a gift in a moment of excited conversation that tells her she had two chocolate aficionados at her table. Two identical chocolates are produced on a china plate. They are red in colour and appeared fine in design and texture. My hand is pulled sharply back as I seek to reach one of them. No; instruction as to taking the chocolate have to be given and followed implicitly.

First sit comfortably. Take the chocolate between the forefinger and thumb. Place it on the tongue. Close the eyes. And wait. Elena, being Austrian, counts silently to ten in Spanish. I, being a man, reach out and hold her free hand. The seconds ceased to count, but blur into a timeless journey through flavour and experience. The outside world disappears from view and from mind, to be replaced by a gentle flow of dreams through which small fireworks of flavour explode as the chocolate melts and suffuses.

After ten seconds you breathe, but not before. The inhalation picks a sharpness that hovers somewhere between the tongue, the brain and infinity. Only later, in a near post orgasmic moment of relief does Elena venture the words in German "what was that....what happened?". In the Amazon, native people capture large red ants. Their lives are lost for their venom which is the special ingredient filed in tiny amounts into the chocolate. Life now will not be the same. Chocolate is re-defined into 'pre' and 'post Kakao Moaroa'.

Leaving the dream - seeing Maria's expectant, expressive face - is another milestone in the experience of Buenos Aires and a point from which there is no return. Certainly not to normal chocolate!
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