Cocoa Manna a yummy stop along Sperryville Pike
‘Mosebrook scoops handfuls of the world’s finest cocoa beans from heavy burlap sacks stamped Belize, Bolivia and Peru’
Karen Mosebrook has certainly found her niche in life, and we can all be thankful for that. How many “bean to bar” chocolatiers are there, after all, in these Blue Ridge foothills?
A three minute drive south of the Rappahannock County line along the Sperryville Pike, it’s difficult to miss Mosebrook’s unique chocolate making enterprise, Cocoa Manna. Housed in an old-fashioned filling station, its antique fuel pumps are now whimsically transformed into pink and blue people greeters, like something out of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.
While Mosebrook has been producing popular Cocoa Manna Fine Brewing Cocoa at her Boston location since 2012 — “I do the brewing chocolate from roasted ground cocoa beans,” she rightfully boasts — it’s only been a year-and-a-half since she’s created delicious chocolate bars from scratch, er, beans.
“I get in cocoa beans from different origins and I make it all the way — roast it, grind it, winnow it,” says the chocolatier, explaining various steps of the intriguing (scientific, actually) chocolate making process.
“It goes into a stone grinder like this one for two days, then after two days I’ll bring it out, and then it has to go over here into this tempering machine,” Mosebrook says, leading a visitor across the aromatic, light-filled space.
“This raises and lowers the temperature, and aligns the molecules of cocoa butter, so you ultimately get the snap and shine. See, it’s shiny,” she points out, snapping in two a small slab of the chocolate. “That’s tempered chocolate.”
To begin creating her mouthwatering chocolate bars — consisting solely of organic cocoa beans, organic cocoa butter, and organic cane sugar, with optional delights like nuts and elderberry — Mosebrook scoops handfuls of the world’s finest cocoa beans from large burlap sacks stamped Belize, Bolivia and Peru.
The heavy sacks, in effect the foundation of Mosebrook’s enterprise, cover an entire section of the chocolate maker’s floor space. “They all taste different,” she says, showing off the various beans, “because they all are different.”
In addition to the wholesome “bean to bar” organic chocolate bars, enticingly wrapped in clear plastic with Cocoa Manna stickers, Mosebrook also makes more traditional milk chocolate bars.
One of Mosebrook’s regular patrons, enjoying a small cup of steaming cocoa brew, interrupts the discussion to rave about the rich tasting yet surprisingly smooth drink.
“Why would anyone drink coffee or tea after sipping this?” she asks. “I’m doing this to give up coffee.”
Mosebrook invites everybody to stop into Cocoa Manna for a personal tour of the seldom scene “bean to bar” process. Currently the chocolate maker is stocking up for the coming holidays, and she will gladly take any special gift orders in advance.
Chocolatier Karen Mosebrook's famous “bean-to-bar” chocolate is made fresh from the finest cocoa beans imported from Central and South America.
Freshly ground cocoa is poured into a swirling nib grinder, where its magically tasty transformation takes place. It starts with cocoa beans (top).