Leading article: Demon drink

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Some hot news: people who drink cocoa live longer. Indeed. Perhaps some respect will be at last allowed to this proud beverage, for far too long the butt of easy sneers mostly directed at its association with slippers and cardigans.

True, you might well point to the detail of the research which led to this ground-breaking conclusion, arguing that it's possible to make too much of studies involving around 500 pensionable Dutchmen of a generally benign disposition. You might further suggest, displaying exactly the mindset outlined at the end of the paragraph above, that contented elderly Dutch cocoa-drinkers are not likely to be inveterate risk takers. You might even add that such a life might not necessarily be attractive, no matter how prolonged.

If so, I would suggest that you are exhibiting several prejudices, not the least of which is cocoaism. Perhaps it's time to remind everyone that the first cocoa drinkers were the ancient Maya, who were also enthusiastic practitioners of ritual human sacrifice, which might help convey a more "edgy" image. And, moreover, archaeologists have found unwashed cups.

Cortez added sugar, which must explain the stout reference. The great conquistador was aware, too, of cocoa's aphrodisiac qualities, derived from the presence in the bean of a chemical stimulant, phenylethylamine; it is, then, quite legitimate to speculate that the traditional early retirement habits of the cocoa drinker might not be entirely connected with listening to Book at Bedtime. Professional standards and scruples, however, compel me to confide that there is more phenylethylamine in pickled herring. Over to you.