Once every year or so, the foodie and druggie news beats will overlap in a quirky little Venn diagram of craven marketing and disingenuous pearl clutching. In the past, this has manifested in the form of stories about Cocaine energy drinks or the insidious nature of THC laced edibles. Joining their ranks is a new chocolate experience concocted by Belgian chocolatier, Dominique Persoone: Chocolate Snorting.
Persoone, and his company The Chocolate Line have created a two-spooned, trigger-activated catapult contraption, modeled after Victorian snuff-shooters, for those that can’t just shamefully enjoy wolfing down a King-sized Kit Kat like the rest of us. Once loaded with chocolate powder, the device springs the loads up into the users inhaling nostrils, allowing the chocoholic to “enhance the pleasure of the chocolate experience.”
Mr. Persoone has acknowledged there’s a “kinky” appeal to snorting chocolate, but denied that his device is any sort of tacit drug promotion. Disinclined to agree, but willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, I decided to snort some chocolate for myself and report on the results. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time (or $100) to give for his plastic doodad to ship overseas and had to improvise.
I went to my local fancy grocer and picked up two high-end chocolate bars, each above $5 (so you know I’m not fucking around). Bougie chocolate is very much in a salt or pepper phase right now. Not wanting to destroy my sinuses more than necessary, I had to avoid these tempting flavors in my quest for samples. I settled on an austere Ghiradelli Twilight Delight with 72% cacao for my first flavor. Like I’d even consider fucking with 70% cacao. Wanting to balance out my stuffy first pick with something a little more fun, I chose Vosges’ whimsical Blood Orange Caramel Bar for flavor profile two. “But these are solid chocolate bars!” you’re likely screaming at your screen. Fear not. Back home, waiting for me, was a meticulously cleaned coffee bean grinder ready to pulverize these bars to dust.
That night, with friends watching and taking photos, I prepped for what would either be the beginning of my descent into chocoholism, or more likely, just something that would make me cough a bunch and have brown boogers for a day.
First up was the Ghiradelli bar. Once a few chunks were ground and primed in the tiniest measuring spoon I had, I took my first pensive whiff. “Underwhelmed” doesn’t begin to describe how I felt. I’d expected the same sort of burning that every adolescent male experiences the first time he tries to impress his friends with a “Haha! Look. Drugs!” before railing a line of Pixie Stick sugar. This was not that. There was no burn at all. But there also wasn’t anything more than the faintest hint of chocolate smell. It was like a Hershey’s kiss had farted in the other room. A second bump yielded similar results and now, with a fine layer of chocolate starting to melt on my nose and lips, I started to wonder “people pay a hundred bucks for THIS?”
But the Belgian’s wares were infused with other flavors, so hopefully my second course would bring this all home and make me a believer yet. The Vosges bar almost took itself out of the running when I started to crumble pieces into the coffee grinder only to discover what I should’ve already guessed, that the caramel in it would be more gooey than solid. Fortunately, German engineering prevailed and the grinder dusted the bar anyway.
Fucking nothing, yet again. Two more attempts with the blood orange caramel bar proved (ironically) fruitless and I was starting to bore the friends that had come to watch me injure my respiratory system. These bars made for eating weren’t cutting it. I would have to go deeper into The Heart of Dark Chocolateness.
Raiding my pantry, I found Hershey’s dark baking cocoa and Swiss Miss hot cocoa packets. As my inhalants got more debased, so would I. Gone was the measuring spoon and dainty airborne approach. I had to transition from Willy Wonka dandy to Scarface if I was to get anything out of this experience.
Swiss Miss seemed a gentler way of easing myself into the harder stuff. Not just in name, but because past me had fortunately purchased the “Simply Cocoa” iteration of this stuff which redundantly touted “Five Simple Ingredients” as the box’s tagline. Sugar, cocoa, nonfat milk, salt, natural flavors. I could handle that. In fact it seemed downright health conscious to sniff some. I started chopping fat lines of the cocoa using the very grocery rewards card with which it had been purchased. I rolled up a bill and tooted that cocoa. Clearly I have the most robust nostrils in the world, as this too proved ineffective at hitting me hard. Without blinking an eye, as my friends watched in what I assumed was awe (but more likely disgust), I said “fuck it” and took down the second line with my other nostril.
No more pussyfooting around. If unsweetened Hershey’s dark reserve Dutch baking cocoa, widely regarded as the Peruvian Flake of powdered chocolates, didn’t give me something I’d have to call bullshit on this whole operation and out Mr. Persoone as some sort of Snickers Oil Salesman. The dark powder was intimidating as it contrasted the light wood grain of the table. I snorted. I choked. I was rasping and wheezing like I’d just done a cinnamon challenge. Success? My eyes watered and I felt the percolations of a future sinus infection. But I also smelled chocolate. Intensely. I was decidedly NOT in love with the cocoa, but finally, my mission could end. I coughed for a minute, blew cocoa snot from my nose and was ready to clean up before someone suggested we take this experiment to its only logical conclusion.
Dominique Personne’s claim about the kinkiness of this experience was right. But he was wrong about its drug parallels. My cocoa party ended with the same hedonistic display of so many of its cocaine counter parts. A woman lowered her pants, laid down on my couch, I sprinkled a bump of baking cocoa on her ass, and sniffed it off.
As I write this, I’m still a bit wheezy from the whole ordeal, and my boogers still resemble potato bugs. But I’m alive, I haven’t ruined chocolate for myself, and I didn’t send $100 to a huckster in Belgium.
Follow Justin Caffier on Twitter @justincaffier