Reprint from In Good Taste Denver 10/27/22
Photos by: Petals
The In Good Taste Denver team has been following Moksha Chocolate company almost since their inception – certainly since they’ve been posting luscious photos on social media, and since we had our first bites of their products. Since then, we’ve enjoyed keeping up with what’s new with Moksha Chocolate because there’s always something new with this inventive, family-owned Colorado company. And what’s new is always creative, delicious, and carefully crafted. We recently caught up with Jennifer Caines, co-owner of Moksha Chocolate, to get the latest news in this Q & A.
What’s new with Moksha Chocolate? Chocolate Tastings:
In Good Taste Denver: I’ve attended one of your chocolate tastings and it was so fun and informative. But for those in our audience who haven’t, tell us – what are Moksha Chocolate tastings?
Jen Caines, Moksha Chocolate: Our tastings are very similar to tasting wine. Average consumers don’t realize that chocolate can have more than a “chocolatey” flavor. They don’t expect to taste fruit, spices, or floral notes in a dark chocolate bar. Our chocolate tasting program educates guests as to why they taste some something other than “chocolate” and guides them through how to taste craft chocolate, getting the most out of the experience.
Similar to grapes varietals, single origin cacao also has intrinsic flavors that are sourced from different origins of the world. And, also like grape varietals, cacao varieties have different tasting notes because of genetics and terroir. But the chocolate maker also has a big role in between the roasting, grinding, and tempering techniques. Moksha’s chocolate maker, Michael Caines, teases out the specific aromas in the cacao. For example, our Peruvian Criollo cacao tends to have big red fruit notes, while Tanzania has tropical fruit notes and cinnamon.
Our signature Game of Four chocolate tasting experience showcases four varieties of single-origin cacao from different parts of the world. Our format is very unique because we make the tasting into a type of “game” and give the guests the tasting notes to match the descriptions: floral, fruity, herbal, nutty, earthy, etc. The “players” try to find the best words to match the flavor of what they are tasting. It takes sharp focus to conduct this exercise. Unlike wine tasting, we give guest the descriptors to describe the chocolate, so it’s not intimidating.
IGTD: Who can participate in one of your chocolate tastings?
JC: Moksha Chocolate’s tasting programs are perfect for corporate events, creative firms, intimate gatherings like book groups and dinner parties. The tasting is a wonderful team-building exercise. Guests can work in partners or do it alone. I recently did a tasting for major real estate office and a women’s book group. Sometimes the group nails it, while other times no one in the group gets the answers right.
IGTD: How does a tasting work?
JC: We have a number of packages; our kits can be ordered online and guests can hold their own chocolate tasting or we hold the tasting at the location of their choosing and I guide the guests through the experience. The tasting can be as educational as desired. Although chocolate is best on its own, the tasting kit and can be paired with beverages such as whiskey, coffee, or wine. We have a whiskey and chocolate pairing planned in December with Boulder Sprits.
IGTD: How do you choose which chocolates to take for the tasting?
JC: We purchase ethically-sourced single-origin cacao from all over the world’s chocolate growing regions. Michael evaluates the cacao beans and decides how best to formulate the finished product. He makes a variety of percentages from 65% to 80% and our chocolate changes monthly. Michael looks for a range of percentages of unique flavors. He wants each of the cacao varieties to be distinct from one another.
IGTD: What has the response been?
MC: The overwhelming response has been positive. Guests love learning about how craft chocolate is made and where it comes from. After the tasting, they also learn to develop their own preferences. Some people love 80% dark fruity chocolate, while others prefer 65% chocolate with nutty notes. We hope that after the tasting, our customers understand the value of craft chocolate, and support other small-batch craft chocolate makers like Moksha Chocolate. The craft chocolate revolution is swelling more than ever with enthusiasm for transparency and quality.
IGTD: How can people reach out to you to schedule one?
JC: They can email me at email@example.com, or if they want to hold their own tasting, the kits are available for purchase on our website. The kits cost $60 are suitable for 9 people. The in-person tasting costs $30 per person and includes a 90gm Moksha Chocolate Bar. (Minimum 8 people)
What’s new with Moksha Chocolate? Limited-Edition Bars
IGTD: What are the latest offerings with your Moksha Chocolate Limited-Edition Bars?
JC: Every few of months, Michael dreams up a new bar and makes a unique, small-batch. He takes a lot of pride in his artistry and creativity. The bar is usually made with seasonal ingredients and coincides with local holidays. For example, in August we made a vegan white Palisade Peach Pie Bar and this fall we showcased our signature Pueblo Chile Bar. These limited-edition bars are only available on our website and in our factory for a limited time until we sell out.
IGTD: What is your winter limited-edition bar?
MC: In November, we are releasing our 80% two-ingredient whiskey barrel bar. This bar may be our best yet! To make it, Michael ages roasted cacao nibs for nine months in charred oak barrels previously used for aging whiskey. The whiskey flavor seeps subtly into our Criollo cacao beans. It’s notable for only having two ingredients: the cacao nibs we’ve been waiting for, and a little organic sugar. That’s it! This bar is a dark chocolate aficionado’s dream.
We’re also bringing back the limited- edition vegan white peppermint bark bar for the holiday season. Moksha Chocolate’s Peppermint Bark Bar may be the trickiest bar we’ve ever produced. Michael tinkered and toyed until he perfected the day-long process for crafting the vegan white chocolate peppermint bark. It starts with the tempering of the white chocolate, blending it to perfection with notes of natural peppermint. Then it must be chilled to the perfect glaze, the perfect sheen, that moment where it’s ready for the thinner top layer of dark. The timing has to be spot on so that the dark neither melts the white too much nor fails to adhere to the base. And this dark chocolate layer, of course, has to be the ideal temperature as well. Finally, he sprinkles a sparkle of peppermint crush, which needs to nestle into the still-melty dark top layer and not flake off or sink. If anyone is looking for the perfect unique gift, this is it!
IGTD: Are you participating in any holiday markets? I’m sure a lot of people would love to pick up some of your chocolate for holiday gifts.
JC: Yes, I absolutely love doing markets and connecting with community. The best way to see where I will be in the next few months is to follow @mokshachcolate on Instagram and check our website event page. I am really excited to participate in VegeFest Holiday Market (I have a huge vegan clientele and will have plenty of vegan milk chocolate for the holiday markets) and I’ also participating in some lesser -known markets like Nurture Holiday Market and Big HoliGay Bazaar. I’ll have all of my limited-edition bars ready! Regardless of if people want to purchase our chocolate, I love to sample our exquisite chocolate tell people about our brand story (yes, we own a cacao farm in Peru) so don’t hesitate to stop by and taste Colorado’s premier bean-to-bar chocolate.
What’s new with Moksha Chocolate? Ceremonial Drinking Chocolate
IGTD: Those all sound so good! As if all of the above wasn’t enough, are there any other new products you’ve come up with lately?
JC: Yes! Cacao ceremonies are everywhere these days and cacao has become the darling of superfood, so we decided to make a “ceremonial drinking cacao.” Although there is no official definition for “ceremonial grade cacao”; we believe that a cacao product can be labeled “ceremonial” if it is organic, ethically-sourced, and made from minimally processed from high-quality Criollo or Trinitario beans. We make our 100% cacao paste from Zorzal Cacao. The rich depths of the Zorzal Estate profile are perfect for drinking cacao; the palate starts with citrus fruits and ends with toasted almonds.
Drinking cacao (also known as ceremonial cacao) is not hot chocolate – think of it more like coffee. It has the rich dark nuanced flavors and terroir of bean-to-bar craft chocolate. 100% cacao is a fabulous coffee alternative: it contains an abundance of theobromine, a long-lasting stimulant and less jittery than caffeine. Plus, cacao releases the joy-inducing chemical anandamide which helps connect and inspire people holding ceremony. Cacao is also rich in antioxidants, magnesium and iron.
There are many ways to enjoy drinking cacao; combine the cacao paste with water, milk, or milk alternative, and your favorite sweetener as a nice afternoon pick-me-up, or check out the cacao ceremonies all over Colorado.