Cacao Husk Tea

17 Feb

A couple of weeks ago at this time, I was roasting, shelling, and grinding cacao beans to make my own chocolate bar. In Nicaragua. In 90°F, sunshine-filled bliss.

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Xalli Beach Hotel, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Today, I’m staring out the window at horizontally flying snow in Chicago. Another 6 inches, and still going strong. The only source of sunshine is straight out of my Nicaraguan memories, so I’m going to live inside of them for a minute.

During our stay in Granada, we spent a couple of hours at ChocoMuseo, a small business dedicated to making chocolate where cacao beans actually grow. In addition to Nicaragua, they have shops in Dominican Republic, Peru, and Guatemala. They sell various kinds of chocolates and things, but they also offer a hands-on workshop that starts with fermented, unroasted cacao beans and finishes with full-blown chocolate bars. There are a few steps – roasting, cracking, grinding, conching, tempering, and molding.

Large chocolate manufacturers usually spend several days conching the chocolate, a process that mixes and refines the flavor of the chocolate, making it less bitter and smoother in the mouth. Tempering comes next, the tricky process of bringing chocolate to certain temperatures, up and down, so that when it is molded the fat molecules are perfectly in place, giving the hardened chocolate a pretty sheen and a nice snap.

At ChocoMuseo, the conching process is cut down to 15 hours, and they forgo tempering all together, recognizing that it is futile to try to control chocolate in an non-air conditioned room at 90°F. The end result is a chocolate that is grittier and drier than what I’m used to, with a marbleized, matte finish. The workshop itself was very fun, informational, and well worth the price of admission, even if the finished product wasn’t ethereal.

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Frothing freshly ground cacao beans into hot milk with a molinillo. There was also some Spanish chanting and countertop banging going on at this point, led by our teacher. We sounded crazy, but it was fun. You should try it next time you make hot chocolate – spice it up a little!

I brought home a bag of Cacao Husk Tea after sampling it in the store. As the name says, it’s a bag of cocoa bean husks, packaged and re-purposed, instead of discarded after the cracking step of the chocolate-making process. Pretty brilliant, and pretty delicious, too. The husks get steeped in very hot water, just like tea. It delivers big cocoa flavor, and since it is made with water and not milk like most hot chocolates, the pure chocolate flavor isn’t masked by dairy notes.

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Cacao husk tea. Note the pieces of untempered chocolate with almonds.

Since I’ve been home, I’ve done a bit of reading about cacao husk tea. Turns out it’s full of antioxidants, flavanoids, and vitamin D, as well as theobromine  which is a mild,ting mood booster. So let the snow fall just a little longer. A mug of steamy Cacao Husk Tea and the memory of sunny Nicaragua take the sting out of winter.

 

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9 Responses to “Cacao Husk Tea”

  1. Francene Stanley February 18, 2014 at 4:01 am #

    I love the sound of cacao husk tea. I’ve never seen it here in the UK. I’d definitely give it a try because tea of all sorts is my drink of choice. You’ve described the chocolate-making process very well. My husband and I saw the cacao trees growing in the Caribbean islands. They gave the air a lovely aroma.

    • Beth Somers February 18, 2014 at 4:54 pm #

      Ahhh, I would love to smell the cacao trees right now! How lovely! Thanks for commenting!

  2. sophiebowns February 18, 2014 at 6:33 am #

    I have followed your blog. :)
    This sounds really pleasant actually, even though I’m not a tea drinker!

    • Beth Somers February 18, 2014 at 4:55 pm #

      Thank you, Sophie! I’m not a huge tea drinker, either, but I really liked this stuff.

  3. Angel February 23, 2014 at 1:49 pm #

    Oh, it sounds delicious. I can almost smell it now. I just found your blog through Twitter and glad I did.
    Angel

  4. D.J. Paris February 27, 2014 at 7:51 pm #

    Disappointed that you did not properly credit me with the photo above. I demand satisfaction!

  5. PJ June 16, 2014 at 8:09 am #

    I, too, have been gifted with a small package of cacao husk tea from Cacao Musee…and would love to obtain some more. I live in the Midwestern US. Do you know anyone who sells this on line? Thank you.

    • Beth Somers June 26, 2014 at 9:43 pm #

      Unfortunately, I do not. Cacao Museo doesn’t seem to sell online, and I’m having a difficult time turning up similar products. Ration the bag that you have and enjoy every sip!

    • Jessica August 10, 2014 at 6:08 pm #

      http://www.chocomuseo.com/english/online-store/

      My sister brought me some cacao husk tea from Nicaragua, and I came across the above link when looking for instructions on how long to steep it.

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