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Mochas and More: Welcome the New Year (And Keep Chocoholics Happy!)

by Ilaria Merizalde Chiaruzzi @ Monin Gourmet Flavorings

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In this era of calorie-consciousness and menu labeling, sometimes your customers desire a warm, creamy indulgence. Besides, for every trend there is a counter-trend. Just like smoothies have a healthy aura and shakes are a nostalgic comfort item, for every sugar free, non fat latte there is a creamy, sinful dark chocolate mocha. Although sugar free mocha options do exist, chocolate keeps its strong association with indulgence - an escape from the everyday.

Al-Makha, Mocca, Mocha, Moka???...
The term Mocha originally referred to Mocha coffee (as in the beans, not the beverage) - from the port of Al-Makha, also known as Mocca or Mocha, in Yemen. Between the 15th and 17th centuries, Yemen was the only country producing and exporting coffee. Because of the chocolate notes in Mocha coffee, gradually the term became (at least in the US) synonymous with chocolate flavored coffee. Conversely, in the birthplace of espresso, Italy, requesting a Mocha in a coffee bar may cause some frowns since the word sounds exactly like "moka" - a coffee pot which is ubiquitous in Italian households.

Mochas Today
There are several popular ways to obtain the chocolate flavored espresso beverage - either by combining espresso, chocolate syrup and milk or espresso, chocolate sauce and milk, or by adding espresso to a prepared hot cocoa made with milk. Combining espresso, chocolate sauce and milk is the preferred option as it provides extra richness.

Lately, some high end coffeehouses have started using melted imported chocolate bars to flavor mochas, although that option can be impractical for busy coffeehouses. On the other end of the spectrum are mass-produced chocolate sauces. For most independent coffeehouses, premium quality is a must, as is convenience; therefore preference is given to sauce products that are easy to use yet premium tasting.

In a dark chocolate sauce, look for plenty of cocoa favor with distinctive roasted notes to complement quality espresso. Some premier sauce producers offer sugar free dark chocolate sauce to cater to those concerned with sugar intake. For caramel, rich and smooth flavor is a must. For white chocolate, seek a creamy flavor with lots of cocoa butter taste. Also, check the ingredient list - nowadays it is wise to choose a product without HFCS (high fructose corn syrup).

Keeping a Fresh Beverage Menu
' Seasonal menus are important to keep your regulars coming, your beverage menu fresh, and your café a mocha destination. Also, chocolate and caramel sauces are versatile for additional applications like cocoas and ciders, respectively. It's important to keep in mind that not everybody wants a coffee beverage (at least not all of the time), so additional drinks using the same flavoring ingredients are not just easy to plan for, but a must for the successful coffeehouse.

Your Mocha Menu - Plan It Out, But...
January is the perfect time to plan your mocha & cocoa menu. As an independent coffeehouse, you are allowed more flexibility and can easily plan now for the coming months but also leave room for some improvisation as suppliers come up with interesting and unique syrup flavors.

When chilly winter days entice your customers to stay inside, feature rich, piping hot winter warmers topped with whipped cream. Spring brings renewal and longer days, which inspire lighter, brighter flavors like white chocolate and raspberry. The dog days of summer call for premium frozen flavored mocha treats with dark, white or sugar free dark sauces and fruit flavors - strawberry, blackberry and more. Also, since school is out, vary your menu a bit to serve your local school-age and teen population. Fall is perfect for caramel apple or caramel chocolate combinations. Also, leave room for locally-themed beverages and flavors. If your area is known for great honey, don't be afraid to include it in one of your beverages - seasonally or year-round.

Looking ahead: Mintel Menu Insights recently listed their flavor predictions for 2011. These include coconut water, healthy by association (no HFCS for instance), authentic ethnic (ethnically inspired flavors based on a certain country's food and beverage specialties, like Mayan-inspired chocolate), ginger and nostalgia. Scent predictions call for spicy or citrus scents, and mints.

Keep it Interactive
Another fact to consider is that people love to express their opinion - as represented by blogs and news page comments across the Internet. So ask your customers to vote for their favorite mocha - the prize can be as simple as a gift card, up to whatever else you deem appropriate to your coffeehouse's mission and identity. Start the dialogue with your customers and keep those premium drinks flowing!

Toppings and More
Don't forget to garnish: beside plain whipped cream, flavored whipped cream is an easy, delicious and personalized topping for mocha beverages. Keep 2-4 flavored whipped cream containers at all times and vary with the seasons and featured drinks.

Not just an ingredient, sauces are also great for garnishing either whipped cream or directly atop the beverage. Premium sauce providers offer squeeze bottles; if you have a refrigerator you may opt to refrigerate the squeeze bottles as this allows for slower dripping and a longer lasting design. If you offer frozen mochas in clear cups or glasses, swirl the inside of the glass with chocolate sauce before serving for an enticing effect. Refrigeration also makes swirling the inside of clear glasses easier. Keep one bottle at room temperature for drink making, and another in the refrigerator for decorating.

Mochas are an important part of a specialty coffee program. The combination of chocolate, espresso, milk and exciting flavorings is a welcome indulgence that very few can resist.