When I asked Peter Wolf, co-founder and owner of Kakawa Chocolate House, what got him into the business of making and selling chocolate, he smiled and replied without hesitation: "The buzz.''
I can see why. On a blustery, rainy morning in Santa Fe, New Mexico, when a power failure knocked out the lights, it was Kakawa's chocolate creations that proved illuminating. Nestled in an intimate former private home in the high-desert state's capital city, our small group peered through dim natural light at delicious-looking, house-made chocolate bars and chocolate truffles in their display cases.
The buzz Wolf alluded to made its presence felt when I sampled what he aptly described as an elixer. The naturally occuring caffeine and modest amount of sugar provided a pleasant lift, perfect for an inclement day. I was sipping a rich, dark, thick, largely unsweetened brew derived from a drinking chocolate favored by Thomas Jefferson. Served from a blue and white cup and saucer, it was unbelievably good, velvet-smooth. Kakawa whips up other chocolate drinks inspired by historical sources (as well serving its own, strictly modern creations). Some of these elixers are as close as we can get these days to the drinking chocolate enjoyed by Aztec nobility in pre-Columbian Mexico or, later, in the shops and cafes of Old Europe.
Wolf, a contractor when he's not selling chocolate, is a cocoa proslytizer. He knows, and cares about, the natural and cultural history of chocolate. A section on Kakawa's Web site is entitled "Cosmology.'' Kakawa's chief chocolatier, Ariana Rossi, has the chocolate molecule tatooed on her forearm.
If all this sounds a little bit precious, don't be put off. The quality of Kakawa's products justifies any explanation or marketing claim made for it. If you find yourself in the lovely desert town of Santa Fe anytime soon, go.
Kakawa Chocolate House is located at 1050 E. Paseo de Peralta (near the popular shopping street Canyon Road), Santa Fe, NM 87501 USA, tel. 505.982.0388, www.kakawachocolates.com.