How to Make Cocoa Tea and Other Amazing Cacao Facts
If you don’t live relatively close to the equator, you’d be forgiven for not knowing much about cacao. After all, cacao trees only grow within 20 degrees of the equator and 75% of them grow within just 8 degrees of it
We’re fortunate here in Grenada as we are within the growing zone for cacao trees, and we can either produce our own cacao or purchase it in local supermarkets. We usually buy it from a supermarket in Sauteurs in the form of ‘cocoa balls’ or ‘cocoa sticks’. In some parts of the Caribbean, these are known as ‘cacao sticks’.
What is cacao?
Cacao pods are melon shaped fruits that grow on cacao trees all over the world. Inside the pod itself are cocoa beans. The pods are harvested by hand and inside each pod there are between 20 and 40 individual seeds.
Although cacao trees will grow for up to 200 years, they only produce marketable cacao pods for 25 years. They are one of the oldest foods on the planet.
The region where cacao trees grow is situated between 20 degrees north of the equator and 20 degrees south. There are, however 3.5 million cacao farms within this area. Most of them are located in Africa, as that is where 70% of the world’s cacao is produced.
- In Africa cacao farms are located in:
- •Cote d’Ivoire
Cacao trees also grow on the continents of North and South America and throughout the Caribbean. There are also trees in Asia. In addition the countries of Mexico, Brazil, Jamaica and Indonesia are all producers of cacao, to give you some idea of the diversity of countries that produce it.
Here’s where cocoa tea comes into things…
Here are some cacao blocks that were purchased in one of our local supermarkets so that you know what we’re talking about. Cacao blocks, balls or sticks make a wonderfully authentic gift to take back home with you too. Or perhaps you want to stock up on them for your own good health.
How to make cacao tea or cocoa tea
It’s fairly easy to make cocoa tea, our only advice is to not take your eye off the pot or you could end up with a messy stove.
Here’s how you can make cocoa tea at home (share this page with whoever you have purchased the cocoa for).
1. Measure a cup or two of water into a saucepan and begin to heat.
2. Immediately add a cocoa ball, stick or block, whichever shape you have.
3. As the water warms, the cocoa will melt.
4. Be careful, as it begins to simmer, the cocoa tea is likely to rise and boil over unless you turn it down at this point. It’s not an easy job to mop up lots of cacao off your stove top.
5. Now that you’ve decreased the heat under your saucepan, allow the cocoa tea to simmer until the cacao has entirely dissipated. This should take up to ten minutes.
6. Turn off the heat. Serve by straining the tea into a mug or cup, and adding milk and sweeten to taste.
7. You’ll be amazed at how good it tastes, especially considering that it’s such a powerful medicine!
In case you’re wondering how that cacao shape got to be like it is, then read on. We may as well explore this too seeing as we’ve come this far.
How cacao shapes are made
Cacao is produced in a relatively raw form locally here in Grenada through the following process:
• the cocoa bean is removed from the cocoa pod
• the bean is now dried in the air for between 6 and 8 days – this enables it to develop it’s flavour
• spread out on a baking tray, the bean will now be heated either directly over the fire or it will be baked to make the shell breakable
• The cacao is then extracted by hand and ground into a paste that is then shaped either into a block, a ball or a stick.
• The shape will dry and be sold in local shops or used at home.
Our hotel donkey Darius can often be seen carrying cocoa pods down from the mountain.
Although you’ve may live in a zone where you have very good reason not to know much about cacao, it’s a fruit that can deliver remarkable benefits, some of which you need to know about.
Cacao helps to protect the heart
Containing flavanols, the cocoa bean delivers some protection against cardiovascular disease. It does this by lowering blood pressure and in increasing the elasticity of veins. In a research project undertaken by Dusseldorf University in Germany, blood vessels were improved by over 30% with the regular consumption of cacao.
More cacoa facts
If that isn’t enough for you, then you should also know about these facts about cacao:
1. To make just one pound of chocolate takes 400 cacao beans.
2. Cacao is the main ingredient in chocolate. The first ever chocolate bar in the world was made by Cadbury’s, an English chocolate company in 1842.
3. Over 40% of the world’s supply of cacao is produced by Cote d’Ivoire, otherwise known as Ivory Coast.
4. Over 40 million people depend on cacao to make their living.
5. each year, almost 4m tons of cacao beans are harvested. .
6. Dpressed people rely on the serotonin boost that cacao produces and eat 55% more chocolate than the rest of us.
7. Scientific research has also found that chocolate can boost reaction time and problem-solving skills – that’s from the increased blood flow to the brain. You can read more about this here.
8. In Mexico, healers use chocolate to treat illnesses such as bronchitis.
9. Chocolate begins to melt at around 93 degrees fahrenhet, which is why when you put it into your mouth, it starts to melt.It’s actually the only edible substance that does this.
10. Most commercial chocolate (not the 70%+ type) has more sugar in it than real chocolate.
Cacao is one of nature’s foods that fill today’s scientists with wonder. How can it deliver so many health-giving properties?
Although cacao is something that we need to take notice of, don’t get too carried away with your consumption of it. Chocolate that does not contain over 70% cacao actually has more sugar in it than cacao. Too much of that and you’ll end up being the size of a cacao tree!!