Weight: 2 tsp. (11 g.) (estimate)
Calories: 60 calories (estimate)
Purchased from: N/A - sample, Cocoa Rustica
In the world of sitting down with a hot beverage, there is coffee, which picks you up, and tea, which may relax you. And then there is drinking chocolate made from ground cacao beans. Rich in theobromine -- a molecular sibling of caffeine -- freshly ground cocoa is likely to give you a softer, more expansive lift than coffee, one conducive to conversation.
Mark Sommer (Arcata, CA) has developed his Cocoa Rustica offering in part to promote a thoughtful ritual around higher quality cocoa sipping -- suitable for a social occasion or enjoying a quiet moment by yourself. In Latin America you might see small cups of strong coffee (or cafecitos) being served to a guest. I would contrast this to a large cup of coffee to-go, on the run. Mark is replicating the former, not the latter experience.
I recently attended an informal, but cozy cocoa soiree at a neighbor's house (thank you to Michael for hosting), where Mark was telling guests about the history/story of cacao, showing a "block" of cacao (see photo above), and serving Cocoa Rustica (ground to a thick powder) -- with special cups, spoons, and spices, made by artisans for this purpose. Soiree attendees contributed fresh strawberries, vanilla ice cream, and other items; and similar to the "stone soup" story, a very nice evening was created. Mark offers a basket with these items and also includes a small whisk for blending the cocoa powder with the desired amount of boiling water, sweeteners or other additions. Cocoa Rustica, from either Madagascar or Venezuela, was also available a la carte.
Today I tried the Madagascar cocoa (using my own cup from home). Store the cocoa in a cool, dark place and try to use it when it's fresh, to enjoy all the complex flavor notes. I recommend starting with a very small cup, tasting it unsweetened first, and then stirring in sweeteners and/or spices.
Today was Day #3 of Drinking Chocolate/Chocolate Beverage Theme Week.