How to make my sweet and spicy Aztec Mocha

This may or may not be the only recipe I ever post, but it'll definitely be the only one I developed myself, however simple it may be.

Mug of coffee with pepper flakes around the rim.
I'm no food blogger, so judge the image quality here accordingly. But see the little flecks around the rim? That's 40,000 Scoville units of delicious.

Austin weather doesn't really know how to do Fall. We're an all-or-nothing kind of place. There are plenty of Thanksgivings where you can still work up a sweat sitting around outdoors. But this morning, November 1, it was a crisp 32 degrees. I loved it! Reminds me of my NYC days. The lime tree now residing in my garage, however, is less thrilled.

I have Fridays off from my day job, but I still drive my wife in to work, which puts me back home at about 7:15 a.m. with a day of writing ahead of me. It's days like this one, when I can watch the sun come up, curled up on my couch with a mug of my favorite coffee treat, that make me feel far too lucky in my life.

For a while when I was freelancing, I worked as a barista in a shipping container-turned-food trailer. When it closed, I really missed getting behind an espresso machine and pulling shots every day, so my amazing wife got me a Rancilio Silvia machine from Seattle Coffee Gear for Christmas. It may have been a strategic gift on her part, given that she's had a latte every day now for the last seven years. Nevertheless, it's allowed me to continue to barista it up whenever I wanted.

Now, I like the occasional mocha, but not if they're super sugary. I'd tried some at a couple of coffee shops where the addition of ground chili peppers created a really nice balance between sweet and heat, so I decided to try it at home.

I found a wide variety of recipes online; versions called "Mexican" mocha primarily added cinnamon, whereas ones called "Aztec" or "Mayan" used cayenne or ancho powder. I played around with different measurements of each, discovering I like all three components, until I ended up with a mix that suits my tastes. Hopefully you'll like it as well.

I store this mix in a 10 oz. jar:

1/2 cup + 1 tbsp sugar (you can scale back if that's too sweet)

7 tbsp cocoa powder (I use Hershey's Special Dark)

1/4 tsp cayenne

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ancho chile powder

I combine as follows:

1.25 tbsp mocha mix, 2 shots espresso, and steamed milk to fill a 7.5 oz cappuccino cup

All of these amounts can be tinkered with until you find your own ideal cup. Works with plain coffee, espresso, or heated milk for a spicy hot chocolate. Enjoy!