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I launched this website as an information resource for people to learn to make better coffee at home. I knew it would help me get better and better at making good coffee at home, and through sharing what I learned, hopefully help you too.
What I didn’t expect, but what didn’t totally surprise me, is the love and interest in chocolate that came along with it!
From all of the similarities they share in where they are grown, the care that goes into preparing each one, their history, and flavor, coffee and chocolate are married.
I knew I had to get wise on how to make a good cafe mocha, that one drink that truly brings the two flavors together.
Check out the newly revamped page on Cafe Mocha Recipes, how to make a good cafe mocha at home.
This page shows three different ways that you can do it, depending on what you have to work with.
1) With an espresso machine. The authentic Cafe Mocha is made with espresso-brewed coffee. If you have such a machine, you’re in business! If you don’t, then read on because there are still options.
2) Make a cafe mocha from coffee. If you can make coffee at home, then you only need a few extra ingredients to turn it into a mocha.
3) Quick and easy easy ways to make mocha. Six different tasty recipes that are easy for anybody to make. Or, you can keep paying $5/cup at your local Starbucks .
There is something truly unique being made in London, Canada’s Western Fair Farmer’s Market. Owner David Cook not only also owns the Fire Roasted Coffee Company that is a regular stop of mine when in the area, but also a cacao-roasting operation called Habitual Chocolate.
Read my blog posts on Fire Roasted Coffee Company.
David travels the coffee-growing regions of the world so that he can stay close to the source of his coffee, and interact directly with the coffee farmers. On such a trip to Guatemala, David was introduced to cacao and its similarities to coffee. After meeting with cacao farmers and doing independent research on roasting chocolate, a new company was born. London, Ontario now has something it’s never had before, professionally-roasted single-estate or blended chocolate. These aren’t Mars bars, this is real chocolate.
On a recent trip to Canada, I was given a guide tour of the business of roasting chocolate, by David and his chocolate roaster Daniel. Follow along, and you’ll never look at chocolate the same way again. It gave me an immediate sense for the similarities between coffee and chocolate.
Step 1: Roasting
David is a strong believer in staying close to the source, so that much of the cacao that he roasts comes from farmers that he has met personally. I was privy to this experience on a recent origin trip to Kona, Hawaii with David.
Read: His Name was Sharkman
Just like the operation at Fire Roasted Coffee, everything at Habitual Chocolate is out in the open so that you can take in the experience that leads to a perfect finished product, rather than only buying it without an appreciation for the care that goes into making it. And it starts with the cacao beans themslves.
Step 2: Grinding
Next, the roasted beans are ground, and then shell is separated from nib. The shell is a protective casing, but will not be a part of the final product so has to be separated. The nib is the cocoa matter that will go into the final bar. The contraption that separates the two isn’t a commercially-available product, but something that Habitual had to build themselves for the job. Further testament to how unique their product, that they have to engineer their own process.
Step 3: Spinning
Next, the roasted ground cocoa is mixed to recipe with cocoa butter and sugar, and spun for thirty straight hours before it resembles the creamy chocolate that we all know. It is only following this step that I started to see something I recognized as chocolate. If you’ve ever seen craft chocolate, you’ve seen a number associated with it that is lower than 100. This number corresponds to the percentage of the chocolate that is pure cocoa. The remainder is generally cocoa butter and/or sugar. The commercial milk chocolate that we are used to is generally 50% cocoa.
Both butter and sugar are standard components of a finished bar, but David introduced me to chocolate that has no butter in it at all, only sugar for sweetening. The purpose of the cocoa butter is to give the chocolate a creamier mouthfeel – it doesn’t actually have any flavor on its own. On our trip to Hawaii, fellow chocolate roaster Sharkman introduced David to the idea of leaving it out of the finished bar.
Step 4: Forming
The finished creamy chocolate is poured into trays to set into the bar form that we all know. Habitual uses a standard mold design so that all of their bars have the same look.
What did I get? David suggested I could cover a good range with:
- 70% Intenso Five-Bean Blend: Again, the percentage corresponds to the proportion of pure cocoa in the bar. The five beans that were blended together into this bar are the first five beans that Habitual ever roasted.
- 74% Peru with no cocoa butter: Slightly more bitter, so you have to like chocolate to enjoy it. And without cocoa butter, less creamy so that in both respects, much different from the commercial chocolate bar.
I got to enjoy some with David while I was there. He was right about the range, as each bar was an entirely unique experience, and together, gave me a better appreciation for what chocolate is supposed to take like. I’ve inhaled many Twix bars in my life, but this was something different. This was a fine thing to enjoy. The next time you try real chocolate like this, I’ll pass on one suggestion David made that stayed with me. Don’t chew it immediately. Keep the chocolate in your mouth and let it heat to your mouth’s temperature first. The unique flavor of any chocolate comes out at that temperature. You’re enjoying it before you even take your first bite into it.
As David is learning, when you introduce people to something new, there is some education involved. The open concept helps. In addition, Habitual makes an entirely “fun” offering of chocolate with toppings that are great complements to chocolate and familiar to us, like candy, granola, and fruit. David’s hope is that if a craft bar is too much at once for a person who has never enjoyed real chocolate, that there is an opportunity to ease them into it. Reminds me of putting cream and sugar in coffee before learning to appreciate it pure.
I can attest to the uniqueness of what Habitual is doing. ChocolateFest 2012 was recently held in Portland, OR – a city that prides itself on craft food and drink – and there was only one exhibitor there offering what Habitual is offering. While everybody was focused on the fun of chocolate and tailoring it for special events, only one chocolatier focused on the craft of sourcing cacao from different parts of the world and introducing their unique chocolate flavors.
Read: ChocolateFest 2012
Visit Habitual Chocolate online.
I was on a coffee origin trip with my former roaster, London Canada’s Fire Roasted Coffee Company. Owner David Cook and manager Patrick Dunham were in Portland for the year’s largest coffee industry trade show, and the three of us flew to Kona, Hawaii from there.
Read: Touchdown in Kona Hawaii
David is also the owner of Habitual Roasters, a chocolate roaster in London, bringing the same awareness of quality and experience to chocolate as he does to coffee. David wanted to find a source for cacao beans while in the area. He explained to me that it’s rare to find regions suited to grow both coffee and cacao, and that Hawaii was one of them.
The biggest secret in chocolate is not how they get caramel in Caramilk bars, it’s that there is great complexity and grade of quality in chocolate, just as there is in coffee or wine. Different regions of the world produce cacao of varying taste, and David processes and roasts cacao to bring people bars of chocolate sourced from different parts of the world. To date, David does not have a Hawaiian chocolate bar, nor do any other chocolate craftspeople in the area. He wanted to bring something new to London.
David had learned of a small farmer on Hawaii’s Big Island that was growing cacao. His name was Sharkman. On our second night there, David made contact with him and set up a meeting to tour his farm and learn more about his farming practices.
“I don’t know, but he insisted that I call him that.” Dave answered. How could this not be interesting?
From our rental in Kona, we would be driving virtually the entire Big Island to get to Sharkman’s farm and back.
The Big Island boasts of an unusual number of individual climates over one land mass. As you can see, we drove through distinct three weather patterns in less than three hours. The weather and landscape changed as quickly as it changes in these images.
As we approached, I became the co-pilot. With Patrick in the back seat with our map, and David driving the car, I manned the phone and took directions from the Sharkman himself.
“Hi there!” Sharkman bellowed over the phone.
“Is this the Sharkman?” I asked.
“Yes it is!” Sharkman answered with enthusiasm.
“Is that what I should call you?” Yes, I thought it was pretty cool just to say we were going to meet somebody named Sharkman.
Sharkman proceeded to give me directions that even a local would have had to write down. I scribbled them down furiously, occasionally shouting out random city, river, or street names, looking for confirmation from Patrick in the back seat that he could see any of these places on the map.
This was old hat for David. David has been on coffee origin trips to Latin America, and assured us that you rarely find a farm without getting lost along the way. We didn’t get lost too badly. Deep into farming territory, we realized we were on the wrong road and had to turn around. Sharkman had said he would leave a white lawnchair on the street in front of his property so we wouldn’t miss it.
We passed this cute future café along the way. Sharkman is renovating it to feature the coffee and chocolate that he grows on his own farm. Customers at that café will be treated to product as fresh as it comes. Farm fresh. The future café was on the way to his farm, so Sharkman asked us to stop there and throw some energy at it.
We eventually found the white lawnchair, and Sharkman’s farm.
His name is Thomas “Sharkman” Sharkie. I asked him to pose for this picture, I really liked his “Happiness is a cup of coffee” shirt. On his small farm, he grows coffee, cacao, and small amounts of other produce, some of it unique to Hawaii’s growing conditions. He roasts and processes both coffee and cacao on-site, selling it locally as Hilo Shark’s Coffee and Hilo Shark’s Chocolate.
Sharkman took us on a tour of his farm. It was important for David to understand what exactly he would be buying, and farming and processing practices were essential to David’s decision. With his knowledge of how cacao is supposed to be grown and handled, there were specific things that David needed to see, hear, and understand from Sharkman.
From cacao pod to the drying process to the roasting to forming the bar itself. I will never look at chocolate the same way again. It was an incredible experience. Sharkman had us each try fresh soft chocolate made from the cacao trees we were just looking at. You don’t find chocolate like this at 7-Eleven.
From coffee cherry, to the green bean inside it, to the roasting, to grinding and brewing a cup. We also sampled some delicious coffee, in case David had an eye towards one day sourcing this from Sharkman as well.
Have you ever seen on the Simpsons when Homer is easily distracted by the dog with the fluffy tail? Well, I’m like that for dogs in general, regardless of their tail. Sharkman’s dog Lola accompanied us on our tour, and I was side-tracked playing with her.
Just as interesting as any other part of the experience, was how the meeting ended. Many business owners feel that brow-beating their suppliers is part of regular business. David and Sharkman ended on a different note altogether. Once the tour was over and all questions were answered, David shared his company’s vision with Sharkman, who was as interested to hear about David’s business as he was committed to providing him with a consistent quality product. When it was over, the two men hugged and agreed to a long-term partnership. No agreements were signed, and there wasn’t a single dispute about price. Sharkman will bring the cacao into the world. David will raise awareness in his market of just how special and unique it is. One is buying from the other, but the two formed a business partnership that day.
I love Portland, Oregon and I wish I spent more time here. Any major city can host a festival dedicated solely to craft chocolate, and chocolate education. But in Oregon, there are so many craft chocolatiers and cacao roasters operating locally, they can fill a convention center. Dave Cook, owner of the Fire Roasted Coffee Company, and my original coffee roaster of choice when I lived in Canada, was the first to bring to my attention the many similarities between coffee and chocolate.
ChocolateFest is an annual event hosted by the World Forestry Center, and this is its seventh year. The mission of the WFC is simple: educate and inform people about the world’s forests and trees, and environmental sustainability. On their campus in Portland’s Washington Park for the first ChocolateFest, they attracted over 1,000 people. Last year, over 8,000 people.
Even before entering ChocolateFest, guests are provided with education on the cacao tree, fruit, and seed, and its transformation into the chocolate we know and love.Recognized at the Food Network Awards, Portland loves cuisine of any kind, and appreciation of chocolate is no exception. The people came out to sample from local chocolatiers, learn more about chocolate, and buy pounds of it.
Exhibitors used many ways to stand out in the crowd. An exhibitor wouldn’t get by selling chocolate bars alone. It takes a different angle, either a variety of origins, unique packaging, or in this case, something visual. One exhibitor was not providing samples, a huge mistake at this show!
A Lesson in Chocolate…
- Types of Beans: Where the beans are grown, as well as how they are formented and roasted, directly affect their quality. Each high-quality variety of cacao beans has its own individual aroma, personality, complexity, subtlety, and character.
- Blending: Some chocolatiers use beans from only one region creating a desirable, distinctive flavor. Others, however, skillfully blend beans which can result in a unique product for their company and an extraordinary taste. Most chocolate today is made from blended cacao beans.
- Cocoa Content: The amount of cocoa in a piece of chocolate candy is one determination of its “quality”. The range is 10-75% with gourmet chocolate hovering around 60% and higher. Dark chocolate has a higher cocoa content and generally tastes more bitter. The remaining percent is sugar. The higher the cocoa rate, the less sweet it is. A typical American milk chocolate candy bar is about 11% cocoa.
The first person to help me see chocolate in a new light was Dave Cook, owner of the Fire Roasted Coffee Company, and my original coffee roaster of choice when I lived in Canada.
Dave had expanded from roasting coffee into also roasting cocoa into chocolate through a new venture, Habitual Chocolate Roasters. It was a very cool experience for me to learn more about the similarities between coffee and chocolate, the same ideal climate and conditions for growing the coffee cherry as the cocoa bean, and so naturally, the same people bringing this to the world. With those similarities, also the opportunity for a roaster to differentiate between the commodity chocolate product that we all know and take for granted, and something more akin to gourmet chocolate.
It was Dave who brought to my attention that the Pacific Northwest’s largest chocolate show was in my city of Portland, OR this weekend: ChocolateFest.
The event is hosted by the World Forestry Center, and this will be its seventh year. The mission of the WFC is simple: educate and inform people about the world’s forests and trees, and environmental sustainability. On their campus in Portland’s Washington Park for the first ChocolateFest, they attracted over 1,000 people. Last year, over 8,000 people. This year, they bring it to their largest venue yet, the Oregon Convention Center.
I’m happy to be there and continue my education in the world of chocolate. I’ll be looking for similarities with coffee to help me understand the chocolate process better. And I’ll also eat a stupid amount of chocolate. If I see the woman from the above picture walking around with that bar, I will probably take it from her.
Read: Cafe Mocha Recipes
Stay tuned! If you live in the area, check out the show. Here is some further information:
Location: Oregon Convention Center, Exhibit Hall A
777 NE MLK, Jr. Blvd., Portland, OR 97232
Dates: January 20 – 22, 2012
Recently, I had answered an e-mail asking if I could help recreate the unique Cafe Creme espresso drink that is popular in France.
If you’ve never checked out the site’s Perfect Cafe Mocha Recipes, take two minutes now. It started with one simple recipe and thanks to people who visit the site that have gone through the same experimentation at home, has grown into something fun.
Recently, a very good friend dropped off six Cafe Mocha and other flavor recipes. Each one is so simple, it’s summed up in 2-3 sentences. I added them to the recipes page in a new section I just had to call Quick and Easy Cafe Mocha recipes. Click the link to check them out. I’d love to hear your thoughts and your own experiments.
Although I stress it on the recipes page, I’ll say it again here. Experimenting with flavored coffee drinks is a lot of fun, but starts with the same rules of how to make good coffee. You’re adding a chocolate flavor, but it should be to an otherwise well prepared coffee.
My wife loves the Espresso Truffle from Starbucks. It’s a combination of the trademark Starbucks rich hot chocolate and a shot of espresso coffee, topped off with whipped cream and sprinkled with mocha powder.
I knew we had enough information needed to recreate this drink after having a few $5 samples from the local Starbucks. Want to make it at home? All you need is:
- An espresso machine with milk frother.
- Mocha powder or hot chocolate mix. Starbucks offers a mocha powder, otherwise any mocha powder or a premium hot chocolate mix.
- Espresso coffee beans. Of course, Starbucks offers an Espresso Roast coffee that you can grind fine for your espresso machine or grind regular and drip-brew for a bold coffee. Otherwise, any quality dark-roasted beans. You will be making one shot of espresso per Espresso Truffle.
- Skim milk.
- Whipped cream.
Start boiling some water. Grind your espresso beans to a fine grind. Begin to brew the ground coffee in your espresso machine, including enough water in the cycle to blow steam from the milk frother. Put 2/3 cup of mocha powder in a oversized mug. When your water is boiling, pour 2/3 cup in the mug with the mocha powder. Stir until the powder is completely dissolved into a mocha syrup in the mug. If you’re making two Espresso Truffles, prepare the same in a second mug.
Per your espresso machine instructions, begin to heat 1-2 cups of milk using the frother. You will be heating the milk rather than frothing it so if your espresso machine frother comes with a rubber spout that frothes the milk, remove that rubber spout. Once the milk is very hot, let the espresso brewing cycle complete.
Pour one shot of espresso into each mug with mocha syrup. Top up the mug with the heated milk, leaving enough room for whipped cream. Stir together. Top off with whipped cream and lightly sprinkle with mocha powder.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the Espresso Truffle that costs $5 at Starbucks. I’m not suggesting it isn’t worth $5, I love this drink too. But, now you and I can make it at home for much less – and best of all in the case of Starbucks Mocha Powder and Starbucks Espresso Roast, use the same ingredients that they’re using.