In this post, we explore the difference between cacao and cocoa, the history of the cacao drink, different types of chocolate tea, such as cacao nib tea, cacao/cocoa powder tea and cacao shell tea. We also reveal the health benefits of chocolate tea and how to make it. Let's get started!
What's The Difference Between Cacao and Cocoa?
Chocolate Tea. Hot Cocoa. Cacao Tea? All these terms are synonymous and essentially refer to the same thing, right? Maybe not.
At a quick glance, the words cacao and cocoa may look the same, but more than just the tiny deviation in letter placement sets them apart. The main difference is that cacao refers to the plant itself or the fruit from the Theobroma tree, native to South America, and cocoa refers to the chocolate product of the roasted cacao seeds.
Cacao, in its unprocessed raw state, is rich in nutrition and the purest form of chocolate.
While its roasted counterpart loses some of its nutrients during the heat of processing, it is still high in antioxidants and nutrients.
Whether it's cocoa or cacao, we can all agree that chocolate tea is the food equivalent of a warm hug from your favorite person. A steaming mug of this beverage is sure to heat you right up from the inside out and the aromatic blend is the perfect kick you need to start your mornings or soothe your senses.
Where Did It All Start?
Thanks to the Mayans and Aztecs who have been cultivating chocolate (known as the food of the gods) and drinking chocolate tea for more than 2000 years, we are blessed with what we know today as chocolate tea.
Although we’ve come a long way from the original drink of the Aztecs, we still indulge in the savory sweetness of this famous beverage. In addition to maize, chili, and vanilla, we have found extra flavorings to add and various ways of making our own versions of chocolate tea.
Satisfy your sweet tooth and indulge in your love of chocolate without the usual health concerns. With so many styles and recipes one can use to make cacao tea, there’s really no shortage of ways to mix it up and create a different concoction of perfection every time. Usually prepared by mixing some elements of cacao with black tea, finding the right recipe simply comes down to personal taste.
Read on to learn about different kinds of chocolate tea and how to make them.
Cacao Nib Tea
Are you a coffee lover? Perhaps you'd prefer a richer flavor with more subtle hints of cacao?
Cacao nibs have a texture, not unlike coffee beans, with the added health benefits of being abundant in antioxidants but with less of the side effects that come with a cup of joe.
The key to getting the full flavor of the cacao nibs is in how long they are roasted. We'd say 10-15 minutes is ideal. Spread the nibs evenly in a thin layer on a sheet of baking parchment and bake in the oven on medium or high heat. The roasted nibs can then be ground down to a texture similar to coffee grounds before being placed into a French press, but please let them cool down first!
For a simpler approach, place the roasted nibs in boiling water and allow them to steep. Add more nibs or boil longer to increase the intensity of the flavor. Don’t forget to strain the nibs before pouring yourself a cup. Add some cinnamon or nutmeg and a spoonful of sweetener.
At less than 50 kcals a cup, you can have the pleasure without the guilt.
No need to toss the nibs out once your tea is brewed. You can save them for later by sprinkling them over a scoop of ice cream for a delicious dessert.
Cocoa Powder Tea (Hot Chocolate)
Looking for that rich, creamy chocolate taste? Cocoa powder tea may be the solution for you. This is more commonly known as the famous hot chocolate that’s popular during the winter season.
The powder is made by heating raw cacao to high temperatures which removes bitter enzymes, leaving behind that indulgent sweetness that we all know and love. This treat is quite simply made by dissolving the cocoa powder into hot water or steamed milk for a creamier taste.
Be mindful that this powder is not easily soluble and the best way to get that smooth and creamy texture is to add the powder to an already hot liquid.
Cacao Powder Tea
What’s the difference between cocoa powder tea and cacao powder tea?
Keep in mind that the distinction between cocoa and cacao remains in the way in which they are processed. Where cocoa powder tea is made sweet by employing heat, cacao powder is made by the method of cold pressing the raw beans. While this powder is less sweet than its counterpart, it packs a nutrient-dense punch.
So, if you’re leaning more towards a healthier option you might want to set your sights here.
Adding a bit of stevia can help combat the slightly bitter taste of cacao. While you’re at it, why not grate some nutmeg or sprinkle some cinnamon on top to sate your sweet tooth without the added calories of sugar?
Cacao Shell Tea
This particular variation is a unique experience from start to finish. For one, this loose leaf chocolate tea is made from the outer husk of the cacao bean. The beans are passed through a device that separates the husk from the nibs. Whereas cacao nibs boast a bit of a stronger chocolate flavor, the husks carry a more delicate note of sweetness.
You will need a tea infuser/strainer for this one. Simply place the loose shells into the strainer and brew. Much like other loose leaf teas, the flavor intensifies the longer it is brewed. Check out our Complete Guide to Brewing Cacao Tea.
Feel free to add milk and sweetener as desired.
This treat sounds too good to be true, but really, it isn’t!
Cacao is such a super-food that you’ll be doing yourself a favor by drinking chocolate tea. It’s so full of antioxidants that it ranks near the top of the world list. That means with each sip you are helping to clean up those free radicals in your body before they can cause any damage, lowering your blood pressure and even improving your mood.
It’s high in nutrients and even has more calcium than cow’s milk so you could skip the added dairy altogether and still come out winning. In addition:
- Antioxidants support anti-aging by repairing your skin and preventing the appearance of blemishes by improving the skin’s complexion.
- Magnesium can be responsible for a healthy heart, brain, and bones. This nutrient aids in preventing diabetes and is even known to reduce levels of anxiety. So, next time you need a little something to calm you down, look no further than chocolate tea!
- Iron is vital to the immune system and is even linked to sleep restoration. And, with cacao having the highest level of plant-based iron, there’s really no excuse as to why you shouldn’t be drinking it. Bottoms up!
Caribbean Style Cacao Tea
We might be biased, but would you like to know how to make the best cacao tea? Let's take a leaf from the book of the Caribbean's style of making cocoa tea.
Or rather, a bay leaf!
You may be surprised to learn that the secret ingredient to the best tasting cup of chocolate tea you'll ever have is the famous bay leaf.
The first thing to know is that the most popular form of this style of tea uses cacao powder, so bypass the nibs and loose-leaf shells and husks and go straight to the powdered form of cacao. It sometimes comes in pre-measured ball form or loose powder. Either is perfect for this version of tea.
Make sure to dissolve the powder in a hot pot of water. Be careful to keep it at a simmer, just under a boil.
Drop a dried bay leaf into the milk or water as you brew and let it do its magic.
The almost floral essence will bleed into your tea to give you something extra; an almost savory blend of spices to further enrich each sip.
Usually, this beverage is sweetened with a generous dollop of condensed milk or evaporated milk. This syrupy sweet recipe is not for those of you on a diet or trying to curb your sugar intake.
But don’t despair, there are variations that will do the trick.
Not sure which alternative milk gives the best flavor? Try a type of nut milk, which is sweet by nature if you prefer to avoid dairy.
Macadamia milk will do the trick, but others, like almond and coconut, work just as well.
This drink is quite popular during the Christmas season. If you speak to a Trinbagonian native, we’re sure they’ll be able to tell you about memories of waking on Christmas morning to the sweet aroma of a hot pot of chocolate tea wafting through their home.
Want a taste of Grenada? The aptly named ‘Isle of Spice’ will have you coming back for more. In addition to the bay leaf, further spices like ground nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and even ginger are added to make a blend that will awaken your senses and liven your palate.
Interested in taking it up a notch? The Caribbean is the land of rum and many islanders are not afraid to pour a shot into this already delectable drink. Be careful though, one too many of these tasty drinks can leave you feeling less than superb the next day.
Though this tea is perfect for the winter months, don’t be afraid to switch it up in the summer for some refreshing iced versions of the same recipe!
As you can see, the world of chocolate tea is varied and diverse. You can enjoy a light and sugar-free chocolate tea made from cacao husks, a more dense and indulgent tea made in the Caribbean style, or anything in between. In each case, you will enjoy a blissful experience and the many health benefits of cacao. Enjoy!