Hot chocolate from around the world

Photo by Andrea Marvan

As part of Vancouver’s 9th annual Hot Chocolate Festival Kasama Chocolate will be hosting a workshop for chocolate lovers, including cacao with various cultural twists, at the Italian Cultural Centre on Feb. 6, 2019.

AHot Chocolates from the World, participants will explore the history and background of chocolates, with a chance to make their own hot chocolate drinks in four different styles from four countries: Colombia, Mexico, Italy and the Philippines.

“We’ll provide the ingredients, as well as some of our own chocolate, and participants will be able to mix them into their drinks,” says Oliver Koth-Kappus, one of Kasama Chocolate’s founders.

Beans with a history

According to Kappus, cacao beans have a long history with roots in human history. The plant is native to South and Central America and is consumed as a drink. When the Spanish brought this drink back to Europe in the 1500s, it soon became a craze, and each region or country had their own take on it.

“Italian hot chocolate today is often known to be very thick and rich, but back in the 1600s it was made from ground up cacao beans since solid chocolate hadn’t yet been invented,” he says.

Kappus says the Philippines was one of the first regions outside of the Americas to start growing cacao.

“During Christmas, a chocolate drink is made using tablea [balls or tablets of coarsely ground 100 per cent chocolate] which is mixed with milk and sugar,” he says.

In Mexico, spiced drinking chocolates have been consumed since the time of the Aztecs. Kappus says that on street corners and cafes all throughout the country, there are many variations using spices such as cinnamon, chili peppers and sapote seeds.

“In Colombia, one variety, which Stefan [Klopp, another founder of Kasama Chocolate] encountered while visiting the country, uses cheese directly in the hot chocolate,” says Kappus.

In fits and starts

Kasama Chocolate came into fruition in fall 2015. A team of four friends – Stefan Klopp, Dom Voser, Oliver Koth-Kappus and Vincent Garcia – got together when Garcia showed some pictures of yellow fruits growing on a small plot of land he had inherited in a remote part of the northern Philippines.

“At first, we thought they were mangoes, but we soon realized they were actually cacao pods. We asked if Vince could bring back some cacao beans and shortly after, his dad brought back a small bag so we decided to try making chocolate from scratch,” saidKappus.

The Kasama Chocolate team first learned about the process of making chocolate from online resources and by visiting and communicating with other bean-to-bar chocolate makers around the world.

“We spent many hours winnowing the shells from the beans using a hairdryer in the early days,” Kappus reveals. “But it’s also a lot of fun being able to taste and share the end result.”

The team didn’t succeed in their first attempt, as they learned that making chocolate from the cacao beans was a lengthy process and required specialized equipment.

“For the first year, we got together almost every weekend, learning the process and working on recipes that we tested out on our friends,” says Kappus. “Since the start of 2017, we’ve been selling our chocolate at farmers and craft markets.”

Kappus attributes his fascination for chocolates to the many flavours that he can only find in high quality beans from different regions. The tastes vary from earthy and nutty to citrus and berry. The chocolate lover says that the chocolate’s taste is determined by the cacao’s genetics and the fermentation process.

“Once we get the beans, we can play with a lot of variables such as roasting and conching [a process involving heating and mixing] to again bring out different flavour notes,” he says. “You never stop learning and experimenting.”

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