Manette Newbold

For once animal lovers can say chocolate is good for dogs. And cats, rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs and small rodents.

Although the popular sweet treat still shouldn’t be found in a doggie dish or fed to a begging pet from the dinner table, those who buy a new chocolate drink at Kakawa Chocolate House will benefit animals at the Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society. The drink is called Tzul — the Mayan word for dog — and for every cup sold, Kakawa will donate 50 cents to the shelter.

The idea for the drink came about a few months ago when Kakawa’s owner, Tony Bennett, and his social media director, Ashley Libby, decided they wanted to figure out a way to benefit the shelter. Bennett, a dog lover, has two puppies of his own. So, they contacted Ben Swan, the shelter’s public information officer, to figure out a way they could collaborate in serving animals.

Then, the creativity began as Kawakwa chocolatiers brainstormed drink concoctions. Akiva Katz, who’s been working at Kakawa for nine months, said whenever employees come up with new seasonal flavors and chocolates, there is always a round-table discussion among employees. For the animal shelter drink, the employees wanted something lighter than some of Kakawa’s other elixirs, which are dark, heavy and spicy. And although mint, caramel and hazelnut were brought up as possibilities, those got scrapped, and Katz’s idea for a passion fruit drink ended up being the favorite.

Tzul is made with passion fruit purée, tarragon, allspice and 72 percent chocolate. Katz said the recipe also includes vanilla, not so much for flavor, but to smooth out the acidity in the chocolate. As a sweetener, organic coconut sugar is added.

Originally from Maine, Katz worked in several restaurants in New York before moving from New Jersey to Santa Fe last August. At Kakawa, Katz said he makes most of the drinks in a small kitchen located in the back of the retail store. Tzul is his first original recipe. The drink, which was inspired by seasonal foods and spices eaten in the Yucatán Peninsula, is made basically the same way as all Kakawa’s elixirs are. Tzul has a water base, which is heated first. Then, a specific ratio of chocolate is added and dissolved. After that, all ingredients are measured and combined in the mixture, and when the drink is finished, it’s stored in jars. The most difficult aspect of making Tzul, Katz said, is grinding the tarragon.

Elixirs are made in batches of about a gallon and a half and each use more than two pounds of chocolate. The drinks can last up to a week. On its own, chocolate has a long shelf life, Katz said — it’s only when other ingredients are added that it becomes more perishable.

Since its debut in October, Tzul has proved to be a popular elixir, Katz said, but there have been a few adjustments to the recipe. Originally, the tarragon was too strong, Katz said, so the amount of spice in the recipe has been reduced. By the end of the month, Kakawa also is expected to have a granulated form of Tzul for customers to buy and make at home.

In November, Kakawa was able to donate $100 to the animal shelter from Tzul proceeds. Swan, from the shelter, said he and others who work with the animals are appreciative of Kakawa’s efforts to help homeless pets.

“It’s great that people who love animals and want to help homeless animals come up with really creative ways to earn funds for them,” Swan said. “Because that’s what we need.”

Kakawa manager, Skylar Patridge, said she supported the idea of helping the shelter from the get-go. Raised on a farm in Illinois, Partidge grew up with several pets and said she’s a big animal-lover.

“I know Santa Fe is such a big animal town that this would be such a draw for people to be interested in that drink and help support the animals,” she said.

Kakawa opened in 2005 and specializes in recreating Mesoamerican and colonial chocolate recipes. The staff is encouraged to come up with new confections which Partridge says is her favorite aspect of the job.

“Tony’s been great about giving us a lot of freedom to play with flavors and play with ideas and run with it,” said Partridge, who came up with recipes for tiramisu, orange-ginger and mojito truffles. “Tzul was a product of Tony being like, ‘We need something new’ and that’s the same with all the case chocolate and caramels. They have been a product of playing around and brainstorming with flavors and cool new things that are maybe unusual. We had a pumpkin spice caramel. We’re going to be doing a new winter-themed caramel soon.”

What really sets Kawaka apart are the elixirs, Katz said. Earlier this month, MSN named Kakawa as one of 10 “most luxurious places” to drink hot chocolate in the world. It ranked among Serendipity 3 in New York City, and other restaurants and cafes in Paris, Spain, Buenos Aires and Vienna. It was recognized for using historic and original recipes that include unique herbs, spices and flower extracts.

“There are a number of shops in Santa Fe and I think we all do some really tasty stuff, but we’re the only ones who do drinking chocolates and it’s a really fun experience,” Katz said. “I like the historical European ones. It’s kind of a little time travel experience and the Mesoamerican flavors are just unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before. It’s really kind of a cool representation of traditional South American chocolates.”

Customers who would like to try one of the classic Kakawa elixirs and still make a donation to the shelter can do so without ordering Tzul. Bennett said customers can stop by, drink some chocolate and donate whatever amount they would like.

On Christmas Eve, Kakawa also will team up with the shelter at the Farolito Walk on Canyon Road. Samples of Tzul will be available and the shelter will sell animal toys and treats. The Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society serves more than 10,000 lost, stray, abandoned or injured animals each year, according to its website. Nearly all funding comes from private donors.

Kakawa Chocolate House is located at 1050 E. Paseo de Peralta. For more information, visit www.kakawachocolates.com or call 505-982-0388.

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