Thirteen years ago, when Five Senses Coffee was glimmer in owner Dean Gallagher’s eye, the concept of ‘Fresh coffee’ and what it was going to taste like was completely new territory. The first few years of tasting, learning and, in turn, educating, not only meant that we participated in the early movements of specialty coffee within Australia, but also acted as a pivotal moment in the formation of Five Senses’ M.O. — the exploration, collaboration and sharing of damn delicious drinks! And so it’s no surprise that we have a soft spot for our latest project — our collaboration with specialty chocolate roaster, Bahen & Co, to develop an exciting new drinking chocolate.

You may have already read Shaughan’s post about the start of our relationship with these guys, but we’re so excited about this new offering that we wanted to chat about it a little more. This project really is a cool new exploration — as far as we can tell, there isn’t another drinking chocolate out there that is presenting the same qualities or philosophy that we’re finding here. Traditionally, drinking chocolate has been something that’s ‘filled a slot’ in a café offering and, until recently, there hasn’t been a huge amount of desire to explore further. However, with the recent surge of interest in all things chocolate, and inspired by others starting to bring this beverage into the spotlight, we’ve hit upon something we think is pretty special.

There’s no doubt that the base of drinks made with the Bahen & Co offering is unique. Josh and the rest of the crew at Bahen are searching for a specific range of qualities and profiles when they go on the hunt to origin. A defining step in the process is the fermentation of the cacao beans. The individual raw beans are surrounded by a super sweet pulp and enclosed in a large pod which is home to about 20 – 40 beans. Once the pod’s been split open, the beans are scooped out and allowed to sit in a series of crates. In each of these crates, the pulp around the bean begins to break down and ferment, creating alcohol. After a measured period of fermentation, the beans are turned from one crate to the next, allowing air in to oxidize the alcohol which turns it into acetic acid. This process is key in capturing the natural fruit characters and brightness of both the varietal of the cacao plant and its terroir — something you just don’t get with mass sourced cocoa beans.

Once through the crate fermentation, the beans are laid out on raised beds to sun dry. The first three days of this drying are another key step, as a Malolactic fermentation occurs (in a process that is similar to that which happens with wine), creating valuable flavour pre-cursors which can be realized during the roasting process. Day four onwards of drying sees the beans stabilized and brought down to a 7% moisture level ready for export.

The first of Bahen & Co’s chocolates to be featured in drinking form comes from the Bahia region of Brazil. Grown on a plantation using organic farming practices under the jungles of the Mata Atlantica, this cacao is a heritage varietal from Forestero genetics, which dates back to the 18th century. Just like coffee, the varietal and processing of the cacao greatly affects the final flavour of the drink. Josh has put long hours into sourcing farms which have retained heirloom varieties bred for flavour rather than yield, and are willing to take the care in post-harvest processing to ensure consistently vibrant flavours.

Many of you may have experienced a great quality bar of chocolate and picked out hints of dried fruit and a natural acidity. This well balanced tanginess, acting as a carrier for a complex array of flavours, is easy to identify in the Bahen & Co chocolates. Just like when we were introducing quality freshly roasted coffee back in 2000 to palates used to flat, stale, dark roasts, expectations will take time to recalibrate.

No doubt this chocolate won’t be for everyone — if you’re buying a drink expecting a sugar hit with a classic milk choc base and instead get a cup of rich dried fruit and complex cacao, it’s understandable you’ll be caught unawares. But next time you’re up for exploring a brave new world, check to see if your café is offering any of the Bahen & Co drinking chocolate — there’s a tasty pack of flavours inside!

Below you’ll find a good recipe for preparing our new Bahen & Co chocolate — but enjoy experimenting to find your own perfect method too:

What you need for one freakin’ delicious, specialty hot choc:

  • 23g Bahen & Co drinking choc
  • 100g fresh cold milk.
  • 400ml or 600ml milk jug.
  • Dash of hot water.
  • Espresso machine for steaming.

Putting it together:

  • First step is to add a dash of hot water to your desired milk jug (either 400ml or 600ml will work) to make sure this delicious grated choc doesn’t melt against the walls.
  • Scoop the 23g of choc into the jug (approx. 2 ½ heaped tablespoons of choc) and give a small swirl to mix choc and water.
  • Pour in your 100g of cold milk. In the 400ml jug this will come to approx. 1cm below the bottom of the spout, in the 600ml jug it’ll come to 1.5cm below the bottom of the spout.
  • Texture your jug of choc milk on the espresso machine to the same consistency as a latte.
  • Pour into your favorite cup and enjoy!

For an interesting alternative, try the ‘long black’ version of this drink with the same 23g of chocolate simply mixed with hot water. While it won’t have the body and mouthfeel from the milk, a bunch of the origin character will really pop out at you.

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