Cholaca – An Innovation in Chocolate

As with most of my favorite articles, I had absolutely no idea what Cholaca was when I agreed to meet Ira Leibtag at my local coffee shop, Tod’s, in Gunbarrel

Sitting down with Ira is very much akin to talking with a real life human energy drink. Don’t expect Ira to calmly, painstakingly  explain in great detail what he does or why he does it. Engaging a conversation with Ira is more like experiencing a firehose of conversation but, after a few minutes of talking with Ira, you realize that this is the signature of a person who has found their passion and is living a dream.

What I eventually found out in my Cholaca adventure is that Ira produces three different forms of liquid cacao (original, unsweetened, and sweet) plus, two forms of single-origin cocoa wafers – from Peru and Ecuador. You can think of the cacao plant quite similar to wine – terroir is foundational and expressive in both.

Starting with one basic product – Cholaca in the liquid form – I tasted it and immediately found it interesting. And, I don’t mean “interesting” in a way to un-describe something I’m not really fond of but still have to write about. It is delicious and satisfying. It has also been a revolution for breweries and small businesses.

Here’s a few ways to try Cholaca. You can drink it on its own (hot or cold) as a pick me up in the afternoon. We also tried it in smoothies (black cherry, banana, Cholaca) and really enjoyed it with coffee.  One of my favorite recipes is to warm 1-2 oz. of Cholaca with a steam frother (or microwave), add two shots of espresso and 1-2 oz. of hot milk.

However, the recipes are endless. Comida’s Cholaca Mole sopes, were truly incredible.

Because Cholaca comes in three sweetness levels you can regulate your caloric and sugar intake and pick the best one for your palate. I love dark chocolate so, the Unsweetened and Original were perfect for me.

For the kids,  it makes a pretty healthy version of hot chocolate and is as easy heating up a few ounces in the microwave. You’ll probably want to use the Sweetened version or add honey, agave or cane sugar for the little ones.

The Original Cholaca has three total ingredients (water, cacao, coconut sugar — all ingredients are organic and fair trade). The serving size is 2 oz. and contains about 80 calories, 5g of natural fats and 5g of carbs, 2g of which are dietary fiber.

Cacao is referred to as a superfood hoewver, one of the buzz words I heard about Cholaca was that it was high in Theobromine.  Frankly, I wasn’t immediately sold on the idea of Theobromine so I asked a local nutritionist, Kim Wilson, to help me out and here’s what she offered …

People often refer to [theobromine] “… as a ‘magical’ molecule of sorts because it promotes energy but doesn’t stress out the central nervous system. It provides a more gentle, ‘feel good’ energy. Theobromine also has a longer lasting effect on the body [than caffeine], which can provide sustained energy throughout the day instead of just a short burst.”

Cholaca, as a company, has committed itself to sourcing not only sustainable but “Regenerative” cacao as well as creating a kind of cacao co-op that is meaningful to other small businesses. The regenerative business model means it has led to rainforest re-growth because the free-trade partnerships offer more revenue directly to farmers than other rainforest depleting industries like cattle farming.

Ira buys more than what he needs and sells the excess surplus to other smaller businesses such as chocolatiers and breweries. What this means is that other small businesses have access to the same high-quality, organic, fair-trade cacao but at a price they wouldn’t be able to afford if they were doing it on their own.

I met a few of those businesses and found Nova Chocolate in Lafayette and Copper Kettle in Denver (Mexican Chocolate Stout) are passionate about using Cholaca in their own products. The ubiquitous Oskar Blues Death by Coconut calls Cholaca its “secret ingredient” – and there are a range of other breweries using Cholaca because you can add it at any point in the brewing process. 

Well, I guess now is a great time to ask the ultimate question – Would I buy this product over other things I can readily get in the supermarket – and – is it worth the price @ $6 a bottle, $1 per serving? Here, in Boulder, and areas that have more progressive economies I would definitely say yes. But, for most of the country, this is a bit of a luxury item that is really geared toward consumers that are acutely concerned with nutritional value, product purity and who are are also impassioned about supporting sustainable corporations with their financial choices. Choloaca, as a company, offers this trifecta to its consumers.

Images courtesy of Tyra Sutak Media

Disclaimer: My friends, colleagues and I have enjoyed Cholaca in a multitude of ways since they have supplied a few bottles for this article. If you have purchased Cholaca, let us know your unfiltered opinions in the comments section and share your recipes. 

Jennifer ONeil

About Jennifer ONeil

Jennifer covers the Gunbarrel beat for all things food, wine and beer related. Having immersed herself in many different cultures over the years, Jennifer is a passionate traveler with an uncanny ability to look into the heart of a city or town and find authentic places to eat, drink, and hang out -- or simply pass time blissfully. She has recently earned her status as Sommelier through the International Wine Guild but, even so, she knows her personal journey exploring wine has only just begun.

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One Response to Cholaca – An Innovation in Chocolate

  1. Allan May 1, 2017 at 4:28 pm #

    Super interesting! Thanks, Jennifer, I’m going to try this stuff.

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