They say the path to Hell is paved with personalized Instagram ads.
Wait, no, it's "good intentions," isn't it? I always get those two things mixed up.
Don't get me wrong though, in general, I 100% do believe that personalized ads on social media are effectively the opening of the rabbit hole that's sooner or later going to lead the Alice in all of us down into a dark, corporately-controlled, advertising Wonderland. But that's a rant for another time (and probably a whole other place).
Rail as I might about personalized ad content though, I have to admit that it's popular with the people who sell stuff because, well, it genuinely sells stuff. Case in point, I give you Crio Bru, a company that produces several versions of roasted ground cacao that you brew and drink just like coffee.
A few months ago, I was mindlessly scrolling my photo feed (or Shorts or Stories or Reels or whatever the kids call them) in the never-ending search for pictures of smoked meats and/or whatever Cincinnati Bengals content I could find when I saw an ad for Crio Bru, and I was immediately intrigued. For years now, I've been into trying to find the perfect expression of coffee for me. I've coarsely ground, finely ground, dripped, French Press-ed, Chemex'd, and cold brewed some of the tastiest coffee beans I could get my hands on, but I never really found the brew that sang to me. In fact, for the past year or so I've mostly been drinking cold brew almost exclusively, because the flavor is less sharp and, to my palate, generally offers more subtle, dark notes of chocolate in the brew. That's important, because over time I've come to realize what I really want is more chocolate flavor, good chocolate flavor. Distinct, dark chocolate flavors.
So when the Holidays began to peek at us around the calendar this year, and my wife asked me the annual dread question, "What do you want for Christmas?" I was excited to have a suggestion. Usually I shrug at her in reply, because the things I want are either expensive enough that I'm waiting for the Powerball to hit $2 Billion again or it's a $10 spherical ice mold I can order at my leisure with two-day shipping.
Yeah, I'm that guy when it comes to gifts, but let's put a pin in that for now. We can dissect my personal failings later.
Anyway, sometime over the fall I sent her a link to a Crio Bru starter pack and forgot all about. Luckily, she did not, and this year there was a box of ground cacao samples packs gift wrapped just for me under the Christmas tree.
Now, before anyone cocks their head, wags a finger, and clucks, "My guy, you're making hot cocoa," let me assure you that this is not Swiss Miss. There's no sugar, no tiny processed dehydrated "marshmallows", and you can't just mix two teaspoons of this stuff into a mug of water and stir rapidly. What comes in the little bags is pure ground cacao beans (which may or may not officially be nibs, but the roughly 17 seconds of online research I put into the question failed to provide a definitive answer) which, like coffee beans, have been roasted to one of several familiar degrees: light, medium, dark, and French. The lighter roasts tend to be sweeter and slightly floral, while the darker get more earthy and toasty.
There is one potential downside to this stuff, though, if you're used to getting a daily jolt from your java. Brewed cacao is effectively caffeine free (99.9%).
Hey, where are you going? Wait, wait! Just hear me out!
So, yeah, it's basically caffeine free, but it's packed instead with theobromine, a molecular compound from the same family as caffeine. Both are stimulants, but theobromine gives a milder boost without the potential for the jitters or the bouncing-off-the-walls-I-can-smell-purple effect its cousin can deliver. Cacao is also considered a "superfood" and comes with a whole host of health benefits, including the potential to reduce blood pressure (try that caffeine), improve insulin sensitivity, and even enhance one's mood. There's not much to feel guilty about with this stuff, except maybe not sharing it.
Opening the bag and inhaling for the first time reminded me of cracking the wrapper on a bar of 70% dark chocolate. And while I'll admit that brewing does require a little more patience than I'm used to compared to coffee (I love it in my French Press), the resulting elixir is exactly what I've always wanted from coffee but could never previously find, an adult dark chocolate brew.
I still can't believe it came from an Instagram ad. Next thing you know someone will be demanding I admit that maybe, possibly, targeted personalized ads aren't always the Devil's work.
Maybe I'll brew another cup of cacao and think about it.