Santa Fe features New World history that dates to 1607, when Spanish conquistadors first set foot in northern New Mexico. That’s impressive for sure, but Peter Wolf decided to dig deeper, drawing on Meso American traditions at Kakawa, his unique chocolate cafe near the city center.
The tiny cafe is apparently an expanded version on the concept that Wolf started six years ago. The charming adobe bungalow features wood floors, art lined walls, low-slung seating and temptations at almost every turn.
Kakawa sells several varieties of premium chocolate bars, but their most intriguing options are made in-house, including truffles and flavored sipping chocolates made using an 80% dark chocolate blend that includes Valrhona, Cluizel and El Rey.
A number of chocolatiers make spicy truffles, but so few pack the punch of Kakawa. Their Chile Truffle ($3) combined a blend of four different chilies – Pasilla de Oaxaca, pulla, chipotle and New Mexico – balancing sweetness with smoky and flat out spicy qualities. Oat milk and vanilla extract rounded out the flavors and added some creaminess.
If spice isn’t your speed, Kakawa also sells seasonal caramels, mendiants, brownies and ice cream made with ingredients like candied rose metals, Marcona almonds and figs.
Kakawa’s Meso American sipping chocolates are all sugar and dairy free, since that’s how Mayans and Aztecs made them in the days before Christopher Columbus set ashore. My favorite was Atole ($3.50), a cup the size of an espresso demi filled with unsweetened dark chocolate, ground blue corn and agave sweetener. The gritty, bittersweet drink was rich but satisfying. Wolf uses four pounds of chocolate per 1.5 gallons, so the chocolate definitely shines through.
Kakawa provides samples of any and all their sipping chocolates and elixirs. Two other varieties that I sampled were the Chile drink with chocolate, fresh ground ancho chilies and agave. An intriguing but powerfully bitter concoction was the Zapoteca: 100% chocolate with cacao nibs and a modicum of agave.
Kakawa offers a unique experience that inspired images of cultures past. The drinks also serve as stimulants, so after downing such concentrated chocolate, I was tempted to go on a vision quest in the mountains above Santa Fe.