Lovers of hot chocolate and mocha should run, not walk, to Mutari Chocolate House & Factory, located in downtown Santa Cruz, CA. This is melted—molten better conveys the unctuousness—dark chocolate in a cup: no cocoa powder or lecithin.
According to the company’s founder, Adam Armstrong, Mutari is “the only bean to bottle or bean to cup hot chocolate company in the United States.” Adam and his team have perfected each step of the process from picking the correct beans, roasting them to the correct temperature, hand winnowing, hand grinding, stone conching, tempering, and then hand shaving. The chocolate is then blended with coconut milk and sugar to produce an ambrosial quaff bearing little resemblance to what is commonly consumed as hot chocolate or mocha.
While serving in the Peace Corps, Adam lived in a small village deep in the Panama jungle where he worked with an indigenous group called the Ngobe, a small group of cacao farmers and artisan chocolate makers. Cacao and hot chocolate have always been part of Ngobe culture, used for hundreds of years for their medicinal properties. The word Mutari comes from Mutarikobo which was the name the Ngobe people gave Adam and means “one that comes from the clouds.”
Wanting to share the Ngobe people’s hot chocolate recipes as well as bring more attention and economic development to these small cacao farming communities around the world, Adam set out to make the richest and most authentic cup of hot chocolate possible and Mutari Chocolate House and Factory was born. For 90% of its history chocolate was a drink, not a solid food; in fact, says Adam, “before there were coffee shops, there were chocolate houses.”
Imported from various sustainable practice farms, the cocoa beans spend several days in a stone grinder until they are a fine dust, which is then mixed with organic sugar and, for certain brews, unsweetened coconut milk and espresso to produce an ambrosial substance that is nothing like the mocha you find elsewhere.