Thursday, March 10, 2016

MICACAO: The next big thing in chocolate...er...tea?


Cacao tea, or cacao husk tea, as some may call it, is the newest gourmet beverage to hit the market. And I can't decide if it is the next big thing in chocolate, or the next big thing in tea.

So you might be asking, what is 'cacao tea'? The answer is immediately clear to a chocolate maker, but slightly more complex to explain for those who have no knowledge of cacao and cocoa beans. So I'll start from the beginning:

Chocolate is made from cacao or cocoa beans, which grows in a bright-colored pod on the cocoa tree in warm climates. The beans and pulp are removed from the pod, fermented for several days, then drained of the remaining pulp and dried, usually in the sun.  What is left is a bean, with a husk on it (picture the husk on a hazelnut or almond, only a little stronger, thicker and 'crunchier', so it is more difficult to remove). The beans are roasted with the husk on, then the husks are removed by hand, or the beans and husk are crushed together, then run through a winnower that essentially blows the husks off of the bean pieces to separate them.

Chocolate is made from the beans, with the husks removed. And the husks are simply discarded, only saved sometimes for use in gardens as lovely-smelling mulch.

But now, an ingenious idea has formed as a way of making use of the discarded husks: Cacao Husk Tea.

I recently had the opportunity to taste a brand of cacao husk tea called MiCacao, sent to me by company owner John Sabia. MiCacao is a start-up producer of 'South American Cacao Tea', sold online in the United States.

I first tasted it plain, with no milk, sugar or any flavours added to it, since I drink most tea like that. I found it had a strong aroma of cocoa, but the taste was very mild, and easy on the palate. Overall, it was enjoyable, and the sort of ease with which peppermint tea goes down. See below for a few different ways that I enjoyed this tea, with recipes you can try.

So why drink cacao tea over other teas? For starters, there are reported health benefits, including antioxidants, iron, magnesium and mood enhancers like Serotonin and Anandamide. According to Livingmaxwell.com, the cacao shell is high magnesium, potassium and Vitamin D, and like chocolate and cocoa, it also contains Theobromine, which is supposed to raise our serotonin levels, which "increases feelings of well being".

But since these are the husks or shells of the cacao beans, I am not sure how much they contain in comparison to chocolate. Likely significantly less than chocolate, but if that is the case, there should be less caffeine than in chocolate - a bonus for those of us trying to reduce our caffeine intake. So if you are choosing between brewed cacao beverage, such as Crio Bru, where the beans are ground without heat so they can be brewed like coffee, you might choose MiCacao tea for a similar flavour but lessened caffeine (please keep in mind that regardless, chocolate does have less caffeine than coffee).

Are there concerns with drinking cacao husk tea? I have seen in online forms that some people are concerned about cacao husk tea because of potential bacteria being left on the shells, or possible pesticides.  But pesticide use should be on the outer pod only, before the beans and husks are removed (unless perhaps if sprayed for shipping, but again they'd be in bags and crates), and since MiCacao is 100% organic, there should be no pesticides used on this brand. The beans are also roasted with the husks on, which kills bacteria. And Mr. Sabia had the product tested by a US food inspection facility, and it passed with flying colours.

How is it packaged?

MiCacao comes loose in a 0.2 lb bag, or in a bag with 12 tea bags so you can more easily travel with it or have it at work. The loose version gives you more value for your money, but there are definitely benefits to the convenience of tea bags. I would try combining a peppermint tea bag or green tea in my cup with a MiCacao bag for added flavor or health benefits.

Cacao Husk Tea Recipes:

Lisabeth's Dark Roast MiCacao:
I tried a recipe on the MiCacao website for combining it with coffee.  But I did not have 'light' coffee, since I am a dark roast kinda girl, so it took a little perfecting, but I finally made an enjoyable mix. Here is my own recipe for MiCacao and coffee:

You need:
2 tbsp.s MiCacao
1 tbsp. dark roast coffee (regular or decaf dark roast is fine)
1 tsp agave syrup, coconut syrup or sugar
1 tbsp. 1/2 & 1/2 cream (likely any cream will do)

Instructions:
Brew together the MiCacao and Coffee in a French Press, let steep for five minutes. Pour into a mug and add the cream and sweetener. Stir and enjoy!


Peppermint MiCacao:

I also enjoyed MiCacao with peppermint tea, and drank this mix on several occasions.  Here are the instructions if you'd like to try it to:

You need: 
2 tbsp. MiCacao or 1 tea bag of MiCacao
1 pure peppermint tea bag (my favourite peppermint tea is President's Choice)

Instructions for Loose Tea:
Place your two tablespoons of MiCacao in the bottom of a French press or loose tea steeper pot, then open the peppermint tea bag with scissors and add to the MicCacao. Pour in 1 cup of boiling water and let steep 5 minutes. Pour into a cup and enjoy!

Instructions for Bagged Tea:
Place one MicCacao tea bag in a cup with one peppermint tea bag. Fill with 1 cup of boiling water and let steep 5 minutes.

There are other recipes on the MiCacao website.  You can find them here.

Happy drinking!

10 comments:

  1. "Since MiCacao is 100% organic, there would be no pesticides used on this brand."

    It's a common misconception that organic farming uses no pesticides. In fact, a number of pesticides are used in organic farming.

    http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2011/06/18/137249264/organic-pesticides-not-an-oxymoron

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    Replies
    1. Thanks! I'll read that document! I meant to say "should" :-), and I'm always learning so I appreciate the feedback. Of course we want to believe that chemical pesticides are not used in organic farming. I expect natural pesticides to be used, but people will always find ways to get around the wording. Thanks again for your feedback!

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  2. My favorite way to make cacao is cold brewed following the same process as cold brewed coffee. I made it in a Clever Coffee Dripper which worked well.

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  3. Currently I have been pondering the concerns expressed by some chocolate makers about the contaminants picked up on the husks by drying cacao on the ground. These can include road tar, road chemicals, dirt, urine, animal feces, and anything tracked onto concrete or roads. The roasting could and maybe should get rid of bacteria and germs but any solid matter would still remain. I want to ask some chocolate makers I know-- like Dylan at Manoa or Sam at Videri-- more about this. Personally, I'm holding off for now until I get more solid information.

    I hope it's OK to be honest here; I only do so not to be negative but in order to help people.

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  4. The Drying of all the cacao beans used for MiCacao is done in separate drying beds away from the roads where contaminants can attach to the husks. MiCacao inspects and tests every batch we receive from the independent farmers we work with to ensure the finest quality standards are met. - JJ

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    Replies
    1. I'm glad to hear this. Cacao tea is my favorite hot beverage, so I your company thrives!

      What countries and regions do you source your cacao from? I can't find anything more specific than "South America" on your website. In addition, who roasts the beans? And what country are they located in?

      P.S.- I tried to contact MiCacao through the website, but the email contact form would not accept any gmail address. You might want to look into this.

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    2. Thank you for the info about the website not accepting gmail addresses we are looking into it now. feel free to reach out to me directly with any questions at jjs@micacao.com (My name is JJ)

      We get our current supply through a small company in Mindo Ecuador that grows and roasts the cacao.

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  5. I LOVE THIS TEA!! I have been drinking this ever morning (mixed with my coffee in my K-cup) and I feel 100% better. It gives my coffee and smoother finish and a hint of chocolate flavor!! Plus it has helped me decrease the amount of caffeine i typically need!- I can even have a cup of full micacao tea in the afternoon and know it won't disrupt my night sleep!!

    In regard to the concern about animal feces and dirt. You may be surprised to find out that there is a acceptable amount of imperfections allowed in every packaged food per the FDA. If you want more information you may want to research it.. Made me almost sick when I read the list! But it's very interesting- and it's good to know that the owner knows where the product is packaged and who it is coming from- can't find that to often from distributors!!

    I think the only thing that anyone should be worried about are the contaminents that could possibly harm you. This product has been tested and each batch gets tested and is clear of all harmful contaminets!. I don't know about you but this puts me as a consumer at ease! I can deal with a little dirt.. I mean how much dirt did I eat as a child- mud pies?? I think it made my immune system stronger (personal feelings). But to each their own!!-
    not saying this product has dirt or anything else in it.. Just a general thought ;)

    I know me personally.. I LOVE everything about this tea (and have never liked tea- but LOVE chocolate) so I know this is going to continue to be a staple for my morning routine!!
    If you haven't tried it but one batch and you will be hooked like me!!

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  6. This sounds amazing! Absolutely love raw cacao because of the natural taste that is has, plus the benefits that one gets from using it. Plus there are so many different ways that raw cacao can be used!

    An awesome product that has raw cacao as its base ingredient is MitoXcell. It only has four other all natural heart healthy ingredients.

    Putting raw cacao into a tea? That sounds interesting! Definitely going to have to try it out.

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