Snorting Cocoa: Chasing A Chocolate High In Bruges

The chocolate shooter was created for the legendary Rolling Stones.  
chocolate shop in Bruges
At Chocolate Line, a handmade chocolate shop in the romantic city of Bruges.

Chocolate without the calories—four magic words that egged the foolhardy traveller in me to snort chocolate on a whim. Geert Cumptich of the Chocolate Line, a handmade chocolate shop in the romantic city of Bruges, convinced me that snorting chocolate is the panacea for all ills, including the cold that had been plaguing me for two days. And when there are no calories, no reasonable person should have grounds to refuse.

Cumptich explained that the idea of the chocolate shooter (which I was yet to see), came up when chocolatier Dominique Persoone was asked to create some fun chocolate elements for a party that the band Rolling Stones were throwing in Brussels. When an invention has been made for an audience known for inhaling powdered substances, it’s right to be suspicious. When it was offered to me, it was probably sensible to refuse. But the scent of rich chocolate was already in the air and had taken over my ability to reason. So I agreed.

cocoa-filled store

The air in the store was heavy with the scent of rich chocolate.

A gadget came out of Cumptich’s drawer: a shiny glass machine with two protruding arms and several levers. With the grace of a seasoned user, he positioned it on the table, caressed the apparatus with a clean cloth and then brought out a small box of the stuff. The stuff in question was a box of cocoa ginger powder. “I will give you the stronger one, the raspberry one is for the uninitiated,” he said.

I was uninitiated, I thought feebly. And by now, I was worried.

“When I say three, inhale deep and let the chocolate go straight up to your brain,” he said with a smile. I was unconvinced, but wasn’t quite sure how to back out or protest. I positioned my nostrils next to the shooter. On the count of three, he hit the button and the shooter sent a shower of chocolate powder up my nose. On cue, I inhaled so it would go in deeper.

chocolate shooter machine

The chocolate shooter is a shiny glass machine with two protruding arms and several levers.

The next few seconds were a blur. There was a sweet scent about my brain. My nose felt warm, my head felt light, and I was smiling. The pure cocoa powder, mixed with a hint of menthol and ginger warmed my brain. My sinus headache started to clear up. Every breath I took felt sweet. Suddenly, I felt that the world around me was made of chocolate.

Since much of our sensation of taste comes from smell, this experience gave me as much pleasure as eating chocolate, and since the smell stayed in my nostrils for quite a while, I felt like I was on a real chocolate high. Cumptich explained that the feel-good hormones that chocolate normally releases take time to go from your stomach to the brain. But this process gave the chocolate instant access to the brain, making the snorter (me) an extremely happy person. It wasn’t psychological, it wasn’t the power of suggestion, he insisted.

Whatever the truth, I had just snorted chocolate. And it felt good.

Appeared in the December 2012 issue as “Snorting Cocoa”.

  • Natasha Sahgal is a traveller and writer. Her itchy feet take her around the world, making friends wherever she goes.

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