Single-origin hot chocolate

Categories: Product of the week

A tasty and ethical drink from the Colombian Coffee Company

“Generic hot chocolate reminds me of a bar of cheap chocolate, in liquid form. It’s very, very sweet,” says Eduardo Florez, director of Colombian Coffee Company—and while this may well have its place, it begs the question why, in an age of increased appreciation for batch-roasted coffee and micro-brewed beer, we seem to be less discerning when it comes to hot chocolate. Not only is the single-origin version at the Colombian Coffee Company better for our tastebuds, it’s better for the environment, and fairer for the farmers that produce it too.

“Just as there are different varieties of grape, there are different varieties of cacao,” Eduardo continues. “There are two types of cacao in our hot chocolate: criollo and trinitario, which come from different trees and have different flavour profiles. However, most people don’t know about it because they are typically blended, which I think is a real shame,” he laments. “You lose the bitterness and flavour notes—when they are not blended, you can enjoy the characteristics of the particular type of cacao. It’s more complex, and makes for a much more interesting drink.”

Eduardo’s philosophy is simple: pay the farmers fair wages, for a better product—and it’s as true of his hot chocolate—the latest addition to the stall—as it is his coffees. “We get the hot chocolate from a family in Colombia, who run an interesting initiative. They teach the farmers the skills and give them the knowledge to focus on producing something that is quality.”

Making hot chocolate at Colombian Coffee Co

The hot chocolate mix comprises a combination of cacao and ground ‘panela’ (unrefined cane sugar), which is extracted from the cane using the most rudimentary of methods: “The farmer takes the sugar cane and passes it through a mill to extract the ‘juice’—sometimes the mill isn’t even motorised, it is just a donkey and a piece of wood which makes the mill rotate.”

Once extracted, the liquid is boiled—“they use the fibrous cane for the fire, rather than oil, coal or gas, so it is much more efficient. It really is fantastic”—until it becomes dark and thick, before being poured into moulds and left to set. “It is very different to the sugar you get over here, which is often bleached white and refined, meaning it loses all of its nutrients.”

Once cooled, the sugar solidifies. “This is then smashed into pieces or ground into granules—our panela is the latter. The granules are then combined with the cacao to make our hot chocolate mix. That’s it.”

All that needs doing once it reaches the stall is to be added to milk—again, Eduardo ensures waste is kept to a minimum. “Every time you make a cappuccino or a latte, you heat up some milk. More often than, not there is milk left in the jug, which cannot be re-heated so it is thrown away. On the stall, we take our leftover milk and put it into a metallic container, which we keep on a low heat—this is what we use for our hot chocolate.”

Each cup is made to order, as thickly as you’d like it, mixed in a metal jug using a traditional wooden blender or ‘molinilla’ to ensure silky smoothness. “It is a manual process so it takes a little while, but the result is just great,” Eduardo enthuses. “It’s a totally different experience.”