Cacao tea: The lean kind health machine
rediscovering a zero-waste superfood
Cacao tea has been around since ancient times under different aliases. Chocolate tea, cacao husk tea cocoa tea, choffee are some of the names this aromatic alchemy goes by. In the last 5 years, it has been trending all over the world, with artisanal coffee roasters introducing chocolate tea to Ireland. If it wasn’t for the discovery of hot chocolate, probably all the concoctions including cacao nibs and husks in their makeup would be named cacao brew. Hot chocolate, its rich and famous relative, is smooth and luxurious. But the luxurious taste is ladened with calories and comes with a feeling of fullness. On the other hand, the tea is cleaner, leaner and more nutritious, offering the full range of nutrients that the mother Cacao Tree has to offer.
how to make cacao tea
The simplest method of preparing this sacred brew involves adding pressed cacao nibs and/or husks into hot boiling water and letting them steep for about 10 min. You will find a few variations of cacao tea that come from different traditions. Cacao nibs are a key ingredient in a few versions of this aromatic brew. Some use only the cacao husk. Some use grated cocoa sticks. The cocoa stick is a pure roasted cacao which is melted down into cacao mass, and then been left out to dry.
caribbean cocoa stick (source: oasismarigot.com)
From a nutrition point of view, it is good to combine both, as both the husk and the bean have a ton of benefits to offer. We, at Nibbed, combine them both - husks and nibs - in our brews. Mainly because we want to remain faithful to our principles of zero waste. Flavour-wise, the deep chocolate flavours of the cacao nibs are the perfect match for the aromatic overtones of the husks. This is a complete sensory journey of our organoleptic capacity.
in the beginning, there was the cacao tea
Some versions of cacao tea come from cacao's ancient past. The Aztecs used to drink brewed cacao mass, the Mayans drunk a cold mix of cacao mass with herbs and spices. The first adaptations of brewed cacao in Europe involved some type of brewing, without the added milk. Actually, a simple brew of cacao and hot water as a type of cacao drink preceding hot chocolate for a good few centuries. Hot chocolate as we know it today did not happen until 1828. In the history of cacao 1828 is a special year. It is when the chocolate press was invented in Holland. That machine allowed us to separate the cacao butter from cocoa powder. Then the chocolate bar was born. So what we call cacao tea, is the most natural way of brewing the whole cacao bean. It does help to use organic single-origin cacao so that you don't end up brewing pesticides. Using organic single bean cacao is the most effective way to preserve the distinct notes of each variety.
This type of tea is widely available in the Caribbean. A mixture of roasted, pressed cacao nibs or cacao mass, milk and spices like cinnamon and vanilla, it is served hot and it is very aromatic. One should not confuse Cocoa Tea with the Reggae singer Cocoa Tea who wrote a song about Barack Obama in 2008. He also wrote endless other Reggae Songs that, just like chocolate tea, are bound to help with your serotonin levels.
Speaking of serotonin, cacao and subsequently cacao nibs, contain tryptophan, the protein that facilitates the production of serotonin. But Tryptophan is much more than that. Part of tryptophan is used by our liver to produce vitamin B3 (Niacin), which regulates cholesterol, is used for energy production and helps maintain a healthy nervous system.
Choffee, is brewed like french coffee and tastes a bit like chocolate. The cocoa beans are roasted then ground into a powder, which is brewed in a french press, very much like french coffee. But it tastes nothing like it. When served unadulterated by added sweeteners, it is the closest thing to the cacao drinks enjoyed by Mayan farmers during their hard-earned breaks. Choffee is not really sold on the market, bar some exceptions, but it is a brew which, for the most part, is homemade. In some instances it contains a certain amount of coffee, or even powder chocolate, depending and how healthy the home mixologist is.
Similar to Choffee, Chocolate tea is in fact ground roasted, pressed cacao beans that have been left to brew in hot boiling water. You can also use a percolator, or caffetiere to brew your own cocoa tea. The main difference between this tea and choffee, is the fact that chocolate tea is mainly produced commercially. Artisan cacao roasteries started offering ground cacao mass specifically crafted for brewing.
cacao husk tea
Cacao husks are rich in Theobromine and cocoa flavanols. Recent research has shown that cocoa flavonols boost brain oxygenation and cognition in healthy adults. A 2019 research on the compounds of the cocoa shell and cocoa husk showed that the phenols and flavonoids can inhibit the growth of bacteria and have antimicrobial properties. Cacao husks, as well as cacao nibs, have high levels of Theobromine which has ben been widely researched for its mood-enhancing activity. Recent research from the University of San Sebastian has shown that theobromine may act as an antitumoral, anti-inflammatory or cardiovascular protector. Theobromine will give you a gentle boost of energy The husks have a flavour that is more earthy than the chocolate tea made only from crushed beans.
The principle of Zero Waste is extremely important in the world of Cacao. By including cocoa husk in our tea we make sure to apply the zero waste principle in our products. The cacao husk are compostable after they have fulfilled their main purpose. You can use as mulches in the garden or let them dry and use them in cooking as spices in marinades.
an all-season affair
If you travel to the island of Santa Lucia, you will notice that almost everyone is starting their day with a hot cup of cocoa brew. This hot beverage has its place on the porch of a Caribbean villa or near the Irish fireplace. It is the kind of feelgood brew that grounds you and asks you to come to halt. As you breathe in you will sense the perfumed steam rising from your cup of chocolate tea. One sip at a time, mindfully, you will arrive at your destination.