There are any number of famous chocolate shops around the country. Many appear as destinations on organized chocolate tours and even itineraries of so-called “chocolate trails” that candy aficionados use for planning chocolate-themed car trips.
There’s the Seattle Chocolate Tour, the Connecticut Chocolate Trail, the 320-mile-long Rock River Chocolate Trail that drizzles its way through 11 counties in Wisconsin and Illinois, and Hershey’s Chocolate World in Hershey, Pennsylvania. There you can hop aboard moving chocolate kisses cars to tour the world-famous factory, and savor free samples at the end of the ride. Chocolate, after all, is not only delish, but also scientifically proven to make us happy.
But all chocolate trails really begin at the end of the Santa Fe Trail in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In fact, Native New Mexico tribes were indulging in chocolate drinks for ages according to Santa Fe Travel Insider. “Before the French enticed the world with their truffle and before the Swiss made chocolate milky sweet, Native New Mexico tribes were already enjoying the cacao bean! A 1,000-year-old pottery shard, unearthed from Chaco Canyon, was found to contain traces of theobromine (the bitter alkaloid that occurs in cacao beans).”
The Insider goes on to explain that Governor Don Juan de Oñate noted an inventory to the Crown of Spain of 80 small boxes of chocolate in 1600. “And in 1661, then-Governor, Bernardo López de Mendizábal, spoke of time spent sipping chocolate with his wife Doña Teresa at the Governor’s Palace.”
So, it’s not surprising to learn that Santa Fe boasts its own chocolate trail, highlighting five must-visit chocolateries. The most unique among them being Kakawa Chocolate House, a cozy adobe café located on Paseo de Peralta, named for the Olmec word meaning cacao. The chocolate mixologists here are passionate about handcrafting historically authentic chocolate elixirs which they serve up hot in tiny blue and white hand-painted cups for leisurely sipping at table like a fine liqueur.
Their traditional drinking chocolate selections include Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican Mayan Aztec drinking chocolate, 1600's European drinking chocolate, and Colonial American and Colonial Mexican drinking chocolates, representing recipes popular from 1000 BC to the mid-1900s AD.
Chocolate elixir menu items include such exotic mixtures as Atole, made with chocolate, honey, blue corn and Chimayo red chile; French lavender elixir enjoyed at the court of Versailles from the 1670s through the late 1700s; Tonantzin elixir, a sweetly potent herbal aphrodisiac inspired by the Virgin of Guadalupe; and other blends flavored with ingredients like roses, nuts, ancho chile, and hibiscus.
Kakawa also makes their own signature candies -- truffles, caramels, French mendiants, and small roasted Arbol chiles enrobed in caramel and again in house blend dark chocolate. These make perfect delectable tidbits alongside a hot chocolate elixir.
Selections of Kakawa’s most popular elixirs for mixing at home, along with their candies and hand-painted Mexican drinking cups, are available at the café and online.
Besides the flagship shop in downtown Santa Fe, there are two other Kakawa locations in the area, plus an outpost in old Salem, Massachusetts.
Photos (from top): Kakawa Chocolate House; Andrea Herrera.
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