Like many other city dwellers, Konstanze Zeller moved to the Hudson Valley because she needed more space. After losing access to one of the city kitchens she used to develop her line of raw organic cocoa products, she bought a fire-damaged stone farmhouse, circa 1780, near Kingston. Extensive renovations transformed the charred remains into a gracious home and the base for her business Cocarau, which creates and sells cocoa confections, health-promoting elixirs, and CBD infused products
Born in Austria, Zeller had a long history with chocolate.
“I was surrounded by chocolate my whole life but it’s all sugar, it’s all bakery, it’s all the stuff that’s not actually good for you,” said Zeller. “I wanted to make something that tastes good but also has health benefits.”
Zeller, a makeup artist, who worked in Berlin and New York City, with such famous makeup masters as Kevyn Aucoin, discovered her passion for healthy cocoa products after a long illness.
“I was very sick a couple of years ago and did seven months of detox to get healthy. When it was over I wanted to eat chocolate, but I didn’t want to eat sugar and even a lot of dark chocolate contains a lot of sugar and soy lecithin fillers.”
Research taught her that raw cocoa has a lot to offer.
“It has way more minerals, more vitamins, way more enzymes than processed cocoa and it gives you a way bigger energy boost. It increases your endorphins, which makes you way more energetic. So raw cocoa is almost comparable to a coffee, but with no jitters or nervousness.”
Bringing her first raw cocoa lavender-infused bite to a photo shoot was all it took to generate buzz. Models asked for more, slipping bites into their backpacks for snacks on the go, and gradually the raw couture line took off.
There are now four subtly flavored bites, an Orange Bliss, a Matcha Tea, an Espresso, and her original Lavender, plus she’s developing a chili-infused bite for an after-workout or sauna snack. None of the dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free, vegan bites contain sugar, but are instead sweetened with nutrient-rich berries, raw organic honey or molasses.
“I probably would have been a baker if I had not chosen to go into fashion. I wanted to create something healthy but knew it had to taste good or I wouldn’t want to eat it. A lot of dark chocolate really tastes like straw. They say it’s really healthy but why would I eat that if it doesn’t taste good.”
Zeller’s powdered elixirs are developed with the help of an herbalist at New York City’s The Alchemist’s Kitchen. The elixirs include a Holy Body Powder designed to promote an overall sense of well being, a Superlative Beauty Powder that promotes cellular renewal and a Sensual Supreme Powder with spices such as cinnamon and vanilla, but also the adaptogenic herbs, Epimedium and Cistanche as well as reishi mushrooms.
“The Sensual Supreme is an aphrodisiac,” said Zeller. “But aphrodisiacs are not only for having sex. Everything in our life is driven by our hormones. Creativity, energy, how much passion you put into anything, so a lot of people take it to increase their energy and get more creative.”
Because Zeller believes in the health benefits of CBD, she also created an organic, vegan Sublime CBD Elixir with the adaptogenic herbs Astragalus, Eleuthero, Rhodiola with hints of the maqui berry.
“I think it’s an amazing herb. I work with Hudson Hemp and it’s amazing to hear how it not only helps people but it rejuvenates and nourishes the soil.”
While that particular elixir contains CBD, it has no THC, the main psychoactive component of cannabis, so it won’t show up on a drug test.
“The powder form of CBD is totally stripped of the THC. I can take as many spoons as I want and not have the effect that I don’t want, getting high. You can even mix it into sparkling water for a drink I call a CBD champagne.”
The powdered elixirs and other Cocorau products are sold at several local stores, including Anderst, Bluecashew and Outdated Lite in Kingston, the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, Sunflower Market in Woodstock, and Olsen and Company in Saugerties.
While Zeller may have relocated to the Hudson Valley for more space, she really enjoys the creative community she finds herself in,
“I moved to Berlin when I was 23 and it was so interesting to be in a city that was finding itself. There was so much creativity. All the great ideas I got from the street drove my creative impulses as a makeup artist. I had the same impression from New York City 20 years ago. New York City was so creative, there were so many nightclubs, there was so much makeup and so many crazy people doing interesting art, but it’s so expensive right now. Creative people get pushed out because nobody can afford it. That’s why a lot of them moved up here.”
Zeller meets plenty of creative locals when hosting themed dinner parties in her farmhouse, named 7 Miles To Kingston, which she also rents out for weekends and events. The dinner parties are often arranged in partnership with local businesses, such as Bluecashew, and feature food prepared by local chefs. A recent dinner was a “plant-infused” meal with CBD dishes, at which Hudson Hemp gave an educational talk.
“The next dinner in the middle of June will be with music and installation and art.”
Although Zeller still travels to the city for work, she’s spending more time in the Hudson Valley.
“I fell in love with the area and don’t want to be in the city anymore, so now I am mainly here. Sometimes I still do a makeup job but not so many. Between Cocorau and hosting dinner parties I’m really busy.”