This summer I gave a chocolate tasting seminar to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Roasters Group (MARRG), a group of engaged coffee roasting professionals interested in perfecting their craft. The retreat lasted several days and seminars covered different aspects of roasting coffee and serving specialty beverages, including cupping coffee and measuring water quality as water plays an important part in every cup of coffee.

I sought to illustrate the differences between chocolates and to let the roasters taste for themselves how different chocolates result in very different mochas. In front of each participant I placed a plate that had six pieces of dark chocolate. All had approximately the same cocoa content, between 60 percent and 70 percent.

Starting with the first piece, I asked everyone to smell the aroma. The tasters commented on detecting aromas of red fruits, such as cherry. The next test was the snap test. Did the piece break cleanly? A clean snap means that the chocolate has a high cocoa butter content and has been properly tempered. The chocolate broke in half with a sharp crack, so we moved on to taste. What were the taste characteristics when placed on the tongue? Flavors of vanilla, leather and smoke were added to those of red fruit. Did it melt in the mouth? Was the finish smooth or grainy? We analyzed each of the six pieces in turn.

The first four were single-origin...


Denver temperatures remain in the 80s after a month of record-setting heat. It’s hard to believe that the winter holiday season is almost upon us.

But at Muppet labs we have been hard at work creating seasonal drink mixes for this fall and winter, and two projects are now complete. Both are following the trend this year toward comfort-food drinks. This will be a strong season for flavors associated with a traditional home kitchen.

For one customer, we developed a Pumpkin Spice syrup. Our second formulation involved creating a ginger spice latte. We are extremely happy with the results in both cases.

From a flavor standpoint, customers also have begun inquiring about our spicy chocolate syrup which has a chocolate base and is flavored with peppers, ginger and cinnamon.

As people grapple with political, economic, and financial uncertainty, the consumer shift to the comfortable becomes even more pronounced. So this year, get ready to enjoy the taste of pumpkin pie, gingerbread and chocolate and cinnamon in your special beverage.


Last post, I recounted a story of a chain that switched from making its own chocolate syrups to Mont Blanc products.

Let me say now that I would never discourage someone from trying to create their own products to use in their stores. A unique mocha is a wonderful drink and, as the most popular flavored beverage served in a café, becomes something of a signature beverage.

For those do-it-yourself mocha makers, I would say that it’s good to consider the following:

1. Consistency is the hallmark of any successful café, so having a consistent chocolate drink is important. Understand going into it that this is very hard to do when mixing different ingredients every day. And consistency becomes exponentially more difficult when different employees are making the chocolate syrup. Trying to get every employee to measure different ingredients accurately and make sure that they blend properly is challenging at best.

2. You will need to make the syrup fresh every day. The mixture of cocoa powder, sugar, and water doesn’t contain any preservatives and has a high water activity. Therefore, it is very susceptible to mold growth. Refrigeration can help slightly, but it isn’t feasible to keep the chocolate syrup container refrigerated and bring it out for every chocolate drink you make.

3. Portion control can be a challenge. This gets back to a consistent drink and one that isn’t left to the...