A Boulder company has teamed up with South American farms to make Cholaca: a chocolatey, caffeine-free drink that gives you that coffee zing.
It’s no surprise that the local cacao craze started at private cacao ceremonies in Boulder. “They were beautiful little events,” Boulderite Ira Leibtag says. “They were usually in someone’s home…and people got together to state their love of nature and the planet.” Leibtag was introduced to a “cacao shaman,” who was running the events in Boulder, when he discovered the magical bean. He realized that cacao is something for the masses. And thus, Cholaca  was born: A pure, liquid cacao mixed lightly with water (for the unsweetened version) or water and coconut sugar for the original and sweetened varieties.
An antioxidant-rich super food, some say cacao gives you just the right amount of coffee “zing,” without loading you up on caffeine. It also spikes your serotonin levels—science speak for happy vibes—and it’s tasty, at that. It’s the perfect balance of bitter, dark chocolate, fit for a morning beverage or an afternoon pick-me-up, while always satiating your sweet tooth. The “zing” comes in the form of Theobromine, an alkaloid that produces similar effects to caffeine, and is also found in chocolate.
If you’re a black-coffee, dark-chocolate kind of person, Leibtag recommends the unsweet flavor plain. If you like your morning mochas, add milk or try the sweet version, which adds just two grams of coconut sugar. We did some math, and a Cholaca mocha (you can find the recipe for that here ) has seven grams of sugar if you hold the whipped cream. This is less than half the sugar in a grande Starbucks’ Skinny Mocha . Also, Cholaca has no additives, which can’t be said about Starbucks' “skinny mocha sauce.”
All of Cholaca’s all-natural cacao comes from South America, and mainly the Choco Rainforest in Ecuador. The plan is for the company to work with the farms there to create a mutually beneficial, fair-trade relationship. “If I can create an economic livelihood for people, then I’ve accomplished something,” Leibtag says.
Leibtag is working with farmers’ associations like Eco-Cacao in Ecuador, a nonprofit which distributes a coalition of farms’ profits equally amongst all the families living and working on the land. Cholaca and Eco-Cacao ensure that the individuals producing the cacao are compensated fairly. All this from a Boulder cacao ceremony? Sounds about right.
Try it for yourself: Cholaca is sold at grocery stores across Colorado including the Capitol Hill Whole Foods .
Editor's Note 6/8/2016: After a devastating earthquake struck the coast of Ecuador on April 16 , Cholaca has launched a fundraiser to benefit the Resilience Foundation, a nonprofit working to rebuild rural communities, including the homes of individuals' working on farms where Cholaca sources their cacao. Click here to donate  and help fund the materials needed for basic sanitation, potable water, rebuilding homes, and instilling a new strength after tragedy.