Back in my college days, I began every morning with a hot chocolate ritual. Eyes still half shut, I’d stumble down the hallway to the water fountain in my red-and-white striped pajama bottoms and faded grey T-shirt, fill my electric teakettle, then find my way back to my dorm room. There, I’d turn on the kettle and measure two heaping tablespoons of Swiss Miss Milk Chocolate (the kind without the faux marshmallows) from my economy-size tub into my favorite van Gogh mug, and watch for the first puffs of water vapor. Using a teaspoon that I’d “forgotten” to return to the dining hall, I’d stir the watery brew until the powder dissolved. Then I’d just sit for a moment, breathing in the early morning quiet along with the rising steam that called to mind the sweet, manufactured scent of plastic dolls. It didn’t matter that I’d occasionally be yanked from my early morning contemplation as I choked on a clump of dissolved powder. At the time, I thought it heavenly.
It’s been many years since then, and while I still have a soft spot for Swiss Miss, I’m happy to report that the cloyingly sweet, barely-tastes-like-chocolate experience no longer satisfies my cravings. Today, rather than quickly stirring powder into water, I slowly melt a disc of Taza Mexican-style chocolate in milk on the stovetop. After the rich, thick mixture perfumes the kitchen and turns a deep mahogany hue, I pour it into the very same van Gogh mug and sip slowly, allowing the sweet, spicy, nutty, bewitching elixir to Mexican-hat-dance its way down the hatch.
Taza Chocolate is a Boston-based company that sources raw, organic cacao beans from a cooperative in the Dominican Republic. Its line of simply packaged, all-natural products include not just the Mexicano discs that have become my fix, but chocolate bars, chocolate-covered nuts, even cacao nibs. Taza stone-grinds its beans, a technique founder Alex Whitmore learned under the tutelage of a miller in Oaxaca, Mexico. As such, the chocolate retains an authentically gritty texture that I don’t particularly care for when nibbled straight, but melted into smooth oblivion? That’s another story.
Taza Chocolate isn’t the kind of beverage that I rely on every day—it’s a bit rich not just for my early morning palate, but my pocketbook as well. Yet it’s become my go-to for a late afternoon pick-me-up or a cozy post-prandial sip. I’ve never been to Mexico, so I can’t vouch for Taza’s genuineness, but even if it’s vastly different, it’s more than good enough for me.
Taza Chocolate Mexicano Discs ($4.50 per 2.7-ounce disc) are available in Salted Almond (my favorite), Coffee, Cinnamon, Vanilla, Guajillo Chili, Salt and Pepper, and Cacao Puro, at specialty grocery stores, including most Whole Foods Market locations, and by mail-order through its website.