ChocolaTao founders Chef Joel Chapman (left) and acupuncturist/herbalist Traver Boehm.
Paul Wellman

One day, while sitting on my colleague Matt Kettmann’s couch and discussing something important, my attention was diverted from the many wine bottles that surround him, patiently awaiting their 15 minutes, by a small, shiny object on his desk — the unmistakable, tinny shimmer of a candy-bar wrapper. He caught me looking and said, “Oh yeah, I should probably give you that one,” and then handed me the ChocolaTao Herbal Chocolates bar, labeled “Bella Luna: PMS Relief Formula.”

“What are you trying to say, Matt?” I asked.

He laughed and handed me another: the “Hungry Kitty: Female Libido Formula.”

What might be labeled sexual harassment was nothing of the sort, just your standard-issue brainstorm sesh — and eating the chocolate, legitimate research. In fact, ChocolaTao was born of research, of a sort, when Traver Boehm was an intern at the Yo San University of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Los Angeles. Herbal remedies are a huge part of a curriculum in Chinese medicine, and Boehm’s professor was a stickler. “I was taught that you always, always give herbs raw, and it tastes horrid, horrid, horrid,” he said. “I prescribed some to a patient, and she brought them back and said, ‘There’s no way.’”

Boehm asked if there was anything he could do to get her to take them, and she said, “Put them in chocolate.”

That night, inspired by this patient’s wry remark — and, perhaps, the spirit of Mary Poppins and that famed spoonful of sugar — he went to 7-Eleven and bought a bunch of Hershey bars, which he put into a frying pan along with his best herbal remedy for erectile dysfunction. Boehm then put this concoction into the freezer, and, in the morning, he ate it. “It tasted like crap,” he said, “but that night at 2 a.m., I came to the throbbing conclusion that my herbs worked.”

Firm evidence of its effectiveness aside, there was still the matter of taste to contend with, and anyway, Boehm had a master’s degree to finish. He shelved the chocolate idea; moved to Santa Barbara; set up his practice, Revolution Wellness; and got the CrossFit gym he co-owns up and running. He also joined Toastmasters, where he met Joel Chapman, Special Events chef at UCSB. Boehm asked Chapman if he could put herbs into chocolate; Chapman — trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris with an emphasis on pastry and chocolate-making — said no problem and whipped up some truffles with Boehm’s blend of PMS-remedy herbs. (“I thought, If I can get PMS remedies into chocolate, I’m going to win the Nobel Prize,” Boehm said.) He brought them to the gym, and gave a couple to a trainer who’d been complaining of cramps — she took them, then “came back the next day and said, ‘I want to buy all of them,’” Boehm recalled.

Today, the truffles have evolved into ChocolaTao bars, sold in seven different formulations, including “Cool Nights” for hot flashes and night sweats, “Deep Breath” for stress relief, “Elevation” for mood enhancement, “Study Buddy” for concentration and memory, and “Rock Hard” for male libido.

“We try not to take it too seriously,” said Boehm, although they do go the extra mile, donating 10 percent of proceeds to causes including Wounded Warrior, CALM, Make-A-Wish, and his alma mater. (He even sent a box of the chocolate bars to that old professor as a “thank you and I’m sorry this is what I’m doing.”)

The bars contain 68 percent cacao organic chocolate, antioxidant-rich goji berries, and medicinal herbs blended to be treatment-specific. They’re meant to be eaten a little at a time, although herbs are far milder than Western drugs, so it’s safe to overdo it a bit. (Which is key in matters of chocolate.) And they’re weaker formulations than the remedies Boehm might prescribe to a patient in his practice. “They’re meant to bridge the gap,” he said — call it a gateway herbal remedy — mild, yes, but designed to deliver some tangible benefits.

As for me and the two chocolate bars that Kettmann gifted me? Let’s just say that they were delicious.


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