The cacao plant originated from tropical regions in Central and South America. The Mayans consumed them over 4,000 years ago.
Cacao has been recently hailed as a superfood, as it contains high amounts of magnesium, antioxidants, calcium, zinc, copper and selenium. It is also known to contain more antioxidants per gram than blueberries, goji berries, raisins and prune.
Not only is it high in minerals and antioxidants, it contains naturally occurring neurotransmitters which helps to elevate mood and mental well being – serotonin, dopamine, phenylethylamine.
So what is cacao? How is it different from chocolate? Chocolate is the processed version of cacao (after sugar, vanilla extract and cocoa butter been added)
Freshly harvested cacao pods, cracked open
Ripe cacao pods are hand picked as the pods cant be mechanised since cacao pods ripens at different times. The pods are then broken, and the beans are then left to fermented. The beans are fermented (turned every 24 or 48 hours) until 6 days have passed.
When the beans have fully fermented, they are left to be dried in wooden boxes or pallets. Drying will decrease the humidity to 7% from 60%. The beans are then aged for around 75 days. After this, the cacao beans are ready for storage.
Cacao Nibs and Cacao Husks
Cacao beans are poured into a machine, where the beans are cracked open and the nibs are separated from the husks. Cacao husks are the fibrous outers shells of cacao beans, whereas the nibs are the cacao seeds.
Cacao nibs which are placed on wooden tray to dry
Cacao tea is made by steeping cacao husks into freshly boiled water for about 5 minutes. You may also choose to add cacao nibs, together with the husks, to give the cacao tea more body and flavour.
For added taste, you can add milk (cow, almond, soy), sugar, dash of cinnamon or nutmeg.
The cacao tea may be enjoyed hot or cold.
So enjoy your cacao tea without the added calories guilt!