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Maya Moon gives Normal Heights a chocolate bar

Minimally processed and naturally sweetened food and drinks shine at new coffee shop alternative

A mug of "drinking cacao" with maple sugar marshmallows
A mug of "drinking cacao" with maple sugar marshmallows

“It’s a cacao bar,” I tried to explain to the kids, as we approached Maya Moon Collective. They shot me a funny look, pretty sure I was either promising them cocoa or a candy bar, and not convinced I was pronouncing either correctly. Fortunately, a neon sign in the front window cleared things up for them. It simply read: “chocolate.”

Place

Maya Moon Collective

3349 Adams Ave, San Diego

New to Normal Heights, Maya Moon serves chocolate in the way a coffee bar serves coffee, offering drinks and pastries over a counter, in a gathering space with tabletop and occasional lounge seating. The sort of place one might post up with a laptop to work or study. It actually shares a roomy back patio with LeStat’s Coffee House, next door, and for a while there, this space was actually an extension of the coffee shop, where people did just that.

But since taking it over this summer, Maya Moon has turned it into something decidedly less shambolic. The atmosphere is light and airy, complemented by splashes of color, courtesy of rotating artwork and leafy green plants.

Like a coffee shop, except built on the concept of minimally processed South American chocolate

Maya Moon founder Kathryn Rogers tells me she uses the term cacao to signal that her business uses a less processed form of the stuff. All chocolate comes from the cacao tree, but most of what we get from stores and confectioners has been extracted into powder, or adulterated with processed sugars and creams. At Maya Moon, a menu that includes drinking chocolates, cakes and pastries, and chocolate turffles, all derives from South American whole bean cacao, dark and naturally bitter.

And that’s where you’ll find an even bigger distinction among Maya Moon chocolate products: it uses alternative sweeteners, other than refined cane sugar we’re accustomed to. So when I order drinking cacao (a.k.a. hot chocolate, $6) for the kids, not only do they get a choice in milks (cow’s milk, almond, coconut, or oat), they also get a choice in sweeteners (honey, agave syrup, or maple sugar). Even the marshmallows floating in their mugs were sweetened with maple sugar, and they loved finding a hint of maple in their ‘mallows.

Chocolate truffles made with (left to right) cherry and vanilla, turmeric, and raspberry

Certainly, any place offering so chocolate-heavy a menu is going to be kid-friendly to some extent. What surprised me is how adult-oriented it turns out to be. Along with the interior design, the shop offers a menu geared toward grown-up consumption. The truffles themselves feature chocolate that is very dark, so despite flavors including raspberry and cherry vanilla, they appeal more to adult palates. Not that the kids didn’t enjoy them. They only balked at a truffle infused with turmeric.

Even some of the drinking cacaos are likewise blended with nutritional boosts, the sort you might expect from a cold pressed smoothie operation. For example, the Moon Balance drink partners Ecuadorian chocolate with dandelion root and “milk thistle for hormone balance.” I ordered an iced “adaptogen” drinking cacao ($6), spiced with chili powder, cayenne pepper, and cinnamon, and boosted with the superfood mushrooms, reishi and chaga. The fungi didn’t interfere with the maple sugar fun.

A gluten-free cupcake with chocolate chips and caramelized honey, Italian buttercream

The kitchen offers salads and toasts, which feature locally grown produce and microgreens, and assorted teas geared toward meditative and health benefits. Most menu offerings include vegan options, and, aside from the toast, everything is gluten-free.

Even the pastries, which is surprising. Our favorite Maya Moon product was the chocolate chip cupcake ($6), iced with caramelized honey buttercream and edible glitter. It looked and ate fantastic for something gluten free and naturally sweetened. Which fairly well encapsulates the whole of the Maya Moon experience.

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A mug of "drinking cacao" with maple sugar marshmallows
A mug of "drinking cacao" with maple sugar marshmallows

“It’s a cacao bar,” I tried to explain to the kids, as we approached Maya Moon Collective. They shot me a funny look, pretty sure I was either promising them cocoa or a candy bar, and not convinced I was pronouncing either correctly. Fortunately, a neon sign in the front window cleared things up for them. It simply read: “chocolate.”

Place

Maya Moon Collective

3349 Adams Ave, San Diego

New to Normal Heights, Maya Moon serves chocolate in the way a coffee bar serves coffee, offering drinks and pastries over a counter, in a gathering space with tabletop and occasional lounge seating. The sort of place one might post up with a laptop to work or study. It actually shares a roomy back patio with LeStat’s Coffee House, next door, and for a while there, this space was actually an extension of the coffee shop, where people did just that.

But since taking it over this summer, Maya Moon has turned it into something decidedly less shambolic. The atmosphere is light and airy, complemented by splashes of color, courtesy of rotating artwork and leafy green plants.

Like a coffee shop, except built on the concept of minimally processed South American chocolate

Maya Moon founder Kathryn Rogers tells me she uses the term cacao to signal that her business uses a less processed form of the stuff. All chocolate comes from the cacao tree, but most of what we get from stores and confectioners has been extracted into powder, or adulterated with processed sugars and creams. At Maya Moon, a menu that includes drinking chocolates, cakes and pastries, and chocolate turffles, all derives from South American whole bean cacao, dark and naturally bitter.

And that’s where you’ll find an even bigger distinction among Maya Moon chocolate products: it uses alternative sweeteners, other than refined cane sugar we’re accustomed to. So when I order drinking cacao (a.k.a. hot chocolate, $6) for the kids, not only do they get a choice in milks (cow’s milk, almond, coconut, or oat), they also get a choice in sweeteners (honey, agave syrup, or maple sugar). Even the marshmallows floating in their mugs were sweetened with maple sugar, and they loved finding a hint of maple in their ‘mallows.

Chocolate truffles made with (left to right) cherry and vanilla, turmeric, and raspberry

Certainly, any place offering so chocolate-heavy a menu is going to be kid-friendly to some extent. What surprised me is how adult-oriented it turns out to be. Along with the interior design, the shop offers a menu geared toward grown-up consumption. The truffles themselves feature chocolate that is very dark, so despite flavors including raspberry and cherry vanilla, they appeal more to adult palates. Not that the kids didn’t enjoy them. They only balked at a truffle infused with turmeric.

Even some of the drinking cacaos are likewise blended with nutritional boosts, the sort you might expect from a cold pressed smoothie operation. For example, the Moon Balance drink partners Ecuadorian chocolate with dandelion root and “milk thistle for hormone balance.” I ordered an iced “adaptogen” drinking cacao ($6), spiced with chili powder, cayenne pepper, and cinnamon, and boosted with the superfood mushrooms, reishi and chaga. The fungi didn’t interfere with the maple sugar fun.

A gluten-free cupcake with chocolate chips and caramelized honey, Italian buttercream

The kitchen offers salads and toasts, which feature locally grown produce and microgreens, and assorted teas geared toward meditative and health benefits. Most menu offerings include vegan options, and, aside from the toast, everything is gluten-free.

Even the pastries, which is surprising. Our favorite Maya Moon product was the chocolate chip cupcake ($6), iced with caramelized honey buttercream and edible glitter. It looked and ate fantastic for something gluten free and naturally sweetened. Which fairly well encapsulates the whole of the Maya Moon experience.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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