Crafting cocoa

Growing in popularity at coffee shops, artisan markets and specialty stores across the state, specialty hot chocolate is warming up Michiganders with each unique recipe. Cafes and restaurants also are crafting their own cocoa beverages.
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Hot chocolate with whipped cream
Courtesy DC Hayden

By Lauren Fay Carlson

Growing in popularity at coffee shops, artisan markets and specialty stores across the state, specialty hot chocolate is warming up Michiganders with each unique recipe. Cafes and restaurants also are crafting their own cocoa beverages.

Whether melted or steamed, spiced or sweetened, the beverage has taken on a whole new meaning for hot chocolate devotees in the Mitten State.

Many hot chocolate crafters believe in the purity of the chocolate itself, opting for a beverage with cocoa as the primary ingredient, without the addition of milk or water. With a cup of this characteristically thick chocolate, consumers come closer to the origin of xocolatl, a Mayan chocolate drink that included cocoa seeds and chili peppers. 

Hot Chocolate Whipped Topping

Essentially, this beverage provides much of the dark, rich flavor of chocolate without the sweetness generally found in European or American hot chocolate. 

By simply grinding carefully crafted chocolate, Grocer’s Daughter Chocolate, a family-owned chocolate shop in Empire, offers this homemade throwback.

 

“We like people to taste the chocolate first,” says co-owner Jody Dotson. 

For their signature “drinking chocolate,” Dotson and co-owner and husband D.C. Hayden grind their dark or milk chocolate, adding sea salt and just a touch of cane sugar.

“It makes this really delicious sipping chocolate,” Dotson says. 

For the popular Dragon’s Breath, they add chili powder and cinnamon to evoke a touch of spiciness seen in traditional South American chocolate drinks. 

“Those drinks are out of this world,” she says. 

Offering its chocolate beverages cold as well as hot, Grocer’s Daughter evokes the traditional cold Mayan cocoa beverage.

Hot chocolate in a Red Mug
Courtesy DC Hayden

The Local Epicurean in Grand Rapids reflects a blend between traditional hot cocoa and modern hot chocolate, crafting a new beverage all its own.

An artisan market in Grand Rapids, The Local Epicurean focuses on handmade pasta and Michigan products, offering its own spiced version of drinking chocolate. Its signature original recipe, Cho-co-lot, includes red chilies, melted handmade truffles, espresso and steamed milk. 

Modeled after the spicy Mexican chocolate drink but made unique by adding milk and espresso, this popular beverage makes Local Epicurean an ideal hot chocolate destination, says General Manager Steve Boyer.

While each chocolate purveyor may utilize a different method, most agree craft chocolate demands carefully sourced, quality cocoa. 

“It’s really important to have good ingredients,” says Dotson, who frequently visits Ecuadorian farmers for product and education from the heart of the cocoa-growing region. 

Boyer agrees, noting that quality, handmade chocolate has been a focus of The Local Epicurean since the beginning. Using Belgian-sourced chocolate in its homemade truffles, hand-scooped chocolates and hot chocolate beverages, Local Epicurean seeks to create a chocolate experience for its customers.

So sit back and slowly sip a cup of artisan hot chocolate, made throughout Michigan, to get you through the traditionally frigid and snowy winter.

Freelance writer Lauren Fay Carlson resides in Grand Rapids. 

Photography Courtesy D.C. Hayden; thinkstock

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