Step through the doors of Kakawa Chocolate House and the smell of chocolate is thick, voluptuous, almost musky. The downtown shop is tiny–just one room with an alcove–but with a charm both potent and engaging. A tiny kiva, Tibetan prayer flags and exhibits by local artists add color and warmth to the cosy rooms. The register is flanked by two cases of handmade chocolate creations, mostly hand-rolled truffles–all made in house. But what has us returning time and again is the elixirs. These liquid creations are complex, intoxicating, more like wine than desert. Staff will cheerfully dispense small samples to try. Find a favorite, but use these tasting opportunities to expand your knowledge. Kakawa offers a changing repetoire of historic brews drawn from traditional Pre-Colombian, Mesoamerican Mayan Aztec, Colonial American, 1600’s European and Colonial Mexican sources–all ancient, authentic recipes from 1000 BC to the mid-1900’s AD.
Theobroma cacao, the botanical source of the chocolate bean, is indigenous to Mexico and Central America, where it has been consumed for millennia. The name Theobroma, ‘food of the gods’ reflects the Aztecs’ view that chocolate was a hallowed substance, although there is no evidence that Linneaus, who named Theobroma, had any knowledge of the Aztecs’ perspective. To Linneaus, chocolate was simply a heavenly treat. For the Mesoamericans, it was a sacred drink: a portal to health and wisdom, an extraordinary restorative, an aphrodisiac.
Kakawa offers two categories of drinking chocolates. Those from Mesoamerican are water based and sweetened lightly with honey and agave syrup. Their rich flavors derive from herbs, flowers, nuts, and spices. The European brews are a bit sweeter and often creamier, making light use of ingredients such as evaporated cane sugar, and almond milk. Recipes may be mildly spiced with cinnamon, vanilla, almonds and orange water, or exotically perfumed with jasmine, lavender, citrus and rose. They have none of the candy-sweetness of Swiss Miss, but play over your tongue with the nuance-cluster of fine wine.
Elixirs are available to go, in round wafers or packaged with the shop’s signature blue pottery: an affordable, sense-satisfying gift. Wafers are also sold, sans cup and saucer, in packages of three, each of which makes a 6 oz. demitasse drink. Kakawa also offers a brilliantly imaginative selection of truffles, with flavors like Ginger Limoncello, Mescal, Chile and Wine, and the unforgettably-named “Aphrodite’s Nipples” as well as flour-free and gluten free brownies and chocolate cake.
Kakawa’s atmosphere and savory products have the intimacy and integrity of hand-honed crafts, and owner Peter Woods is committed to keeping it that way. Yet, with its proximity to Canyon Road, the Plaza, and the South Capitol Roundhouse and a new website in the works, Kakawa is poised for prime time. Go now. Kakawa is unique, welcoming, laid-back, rich in tradition, and sensually alluring–just like Santa Fe itself.
Kakawa Chocolate House • 1050 E. Paseo de Peralta • Santa Fe, NM 87501
Tel: 505-982-0388 • Email: firstname.lastname@example.org • Hours: Mon-Thu 10-6, Fri-Sat 10-8, Sun 12-6.
CONGRATULATIONS! Kakawa got a shoutout in the December, 2010 issue of Delta Sky Magazine. In the spread entitled “Extreme Winter,” the editors and celebrity snowboarder Shaun White choose 32 Things to Do when the temps hit 32˚. Pick #28 —Best Hot Chocolate— lands Kakawa on the short list with respected chocolatiers Jacques Torres, L.A. Burdick and the Angelina Tea Room in Paris. While I wouldn’t describe Kakawa’s dense, nuanced elixirs as “pudding in a cup,” I’ll let it pass if it lures newcomers to try our favorite local purveyor of liquid delight.
Real estate agents Malissa Kullberg and Joshua Maes, AKA Changing Gallery, use their listings, where appropriate, to showcase the art, photography, sculpture and other creations of emerging and independent talents. Artists receive 100% of the proceeds from any sale. For up-to-date market info and full access to the MLS, visit: Santa Fe Real Estate Downtown.