In the small harbour town of Pittenweem on the east coast of Scotland, there is a link between Zimbabwe, a secret key and a sacred cave. The first clue: Pittenweem means “place of the cave”. After asking the townsfolk and passers-by for directions, we find an iron gate in a steep and narrow road a few metres from the harbour. The words “St. Fillan’s Cave” are carved above the gate. Peeking through the bars, we can see a few steps, then darkness. Only a key allows visitors to enter. According to a small sign, the key can be found at 9 High Street. The treasure hunt continues.
9 High Street turns out to be a chocolate shop, “Cocoa Tree Cafe”. A popular spot, full to capacity. We ask the owner if she can tell us more about the famous key. Her face lights up, and Sophie the chocolate lady fumbles in a drawer, then hands us the key in exchange for £1.
“Don’t expect anything too exciting, it’s a very small cave. But it is full of spirituality. Turn on the lights and shut the gate behind you so you won’t be disturbed. Take your time, and bring the key back once you’re finished.” So we set off for the cave.
We turn the key in the lock. We go down a few steps and sit on the bench of fate, in the centre of the cave. To the right, an altar with flowers, some historical information, and the sound of dripping water for company. This is where Saint Fillan lived and wrote his prayers using the light emanating from his arm. The cave became his chapel, his holy place. It has also served as a shelter for hermits, a landmark for smugglers, and a warehouse for fishermen. As we leave the damp cave, we make sure to turn off the lights and lock the gate.
Back at the chocolate shop, Sophie has left but her employee Alexandrina takes the key on her behalf. Alexandrina is working here for the season, until the end of August, when she will continue studying geography at Saint Andrews. Originally from Harare in Zimbabwe, she is in Scotland temporarily. One year down, three more to go. Through an acquaintance in her home country, she met Sophie and was hired for the boutique, chocolate shop, tea room and café at 9 High Street.
The cocoas come from all over the world but all the other ingredients in the recipes are of local origin and everything is made on site at the chocolate shop. The products sold are original creations that Sophie has developed during her travels. The star of the shop is the “caliente” truffle (chocolates with a hint of spice) and the latest arrival is a “vegetarian” truffle (made with soy milk, pecans and orange peel).
The Cocoa Tree Shop, 9 High Street, Pittenweem
[On the road, at the 56°12’49.1″N and 2°43’45.0″W]