Remember hot chocolate? Savoring the rich, creamy, earthy sweetness as it coated your tongue, and the warmth in your chest after you swallowed? I always craved hot chocolate when I was cold, and impatiently wanted to sip it while it was still too hot. It’s sort of relegated to being consumed only in our early years, as a kid’s drink. Real adults trade up to coffee or green tea, right? But the nostalgia still gets me. Turns out, drinking chocolately beverages is a habit you can easily carry into adulthood with you, piping hot or ice cold. I’ve got 5 ideas to delight your childlike tastebuds today, including cacao husk tea and sparkling cacao fruit juice.
1. Cacao Husk Tea
Did you know that individual cacao beans are protected by a hull, or shell? They’re removed during the chocolate-making process and typically discarded. Turns out they have a wonderfully sweet mild chocolate flavor that lends itself very well to a bit of time soaking in very hot water. After steeping, it produces a cup of chocolate tea whose deep brown color feels indulgent.
The flavor is lightly roasted and earthy, and it reminds me just a bit of weak chicory coffee.
Like most teas, it’s essentially calorie-free, so portion control isn’t really an issue. You can brew it weaker or stronger to your liking but it remains caffeine-free, though some sources I found suggested it contains a similar, although milder, stimulant called theobromine.
And, cacao husk tea is a completely different experience if you serve it as iced tea.
2. Boiled Cacao Nib Tea
Cacao nibs are tiny pieces of the dried and fermented cocoa bean. And the cocoa bean is where all chocolate joy originates, including the 5 drinks in this post.
For my tea, I just boiled a scant handful of nibs in 2 cups of water for about 5 minutes. It really seems like a forgiving process you can’t mess up, but if you want more specific instructions check out this recipe.
The flavor is bittersweet and mellow, with some astringency like tea.
I think there are plenty of creative ways to enjoy either the husk or nib teas. They’re both wonderful hot or cold. I enjoyed them plain, but I bet they’d be excellent:
- With milk or cream
- Cold, mixed with fizzy water
- Warm, mixed with coffee
When I’m in a real hurry, with no time for brewing and steeping, I often throw a handful of cacao nibs into my bottle of water as I run out the door to work. It’s an awfully mild addition of flavor but it’s kind of sweet and much yummier than plain water.
3. Cacao Fruit Soda
The cacao plant is a neverending source of raw materials. Apparently, you can extract juice from the fruit pulp inside the cacao pod. And the company xoca (pronounced show-kaw) has mixed this with sparkling water to make an incredibly unique beverage that resembles nothing I’ve ever had before.
Because of this fact, I really got stuck trying to describe the flavor. It’s sour and tart, and the fizz is quite nice. It makes quite a strong first impression, in a way that’s kind of reminiscent of cola but really its own thing. It might be because it’s fermented? It is fruity but not like fruit juice. Citrusy? Tangy? Yes, tangy! That’s it!
Unlike the teas, however, this cacao option does have calories: 75 per cup. And it’s also a source of theobromine, which the company claims provides a slower, more even stimulant effect than the spike most of us get from caffeine.
Nutritionally, I’m not sure I agree with the claims xoca is making about the soda being a great source of antioxidants, minerals, prebiotics, and vitamins. However, I can agree that it’s a lower-cal version of hot chocolate traditionally made with whole milk, marshmallows, and whipped cream. While not nearly as rich as all of that, it could tame a chocolate craving.
After discovering and enjoying these chocolate-themed beverages at home, I was thrilled to find a chocolate shop in Seattle with an extensive menu of drinks (20+!) I’d never encountered. I sampled two of their signature brown beverages at Rey Amargo.
This was listed in the Iced Chocolate section of the menu. Their description is: “iced fresh drink made with cacao and roasted corn; refreshing and energetic.” I ordered mine with soymilk. It was very mild, wasn’t very sweet, but absolutely reminded me of cereal milk left in the bowl after eating all the Cocoa Puffs. It was sort of like watery chocolate milk, which to me is appealing. On the rare occasion that I do drink chocolate milk I always prefer it over ice. But I’ve never had a glass of chocolate milk with an undertone of unsalted corn tortilla chip. My final assessment after repeatedly sipping, staring quizzically at the cup trying to figure it out, and taking another sip, is that it’s unusual and indeed refreshing.
5. Swiss-Style Dark Hot Chocolate
If you’re going to experiment with drinking chocolate, you’ve got to include at least one cup of regular ol’ hot chocolate, right? Well, this was anything but traditional. It was completely unexpected and undrinkable, mostly because it was spoonable like thick, warm chocolate pudding instead. It had a lot going on in terms of flavor. Is it possible to say it was both subtle and rich at the same time? And the cool creamy crunch of whipped cream with cacao nibs on top of the hot luxurious confection below was perfection.
If there is chocolate to be eaten, I’ll be the first in line. But expanding my love of this classic flavor to all its sippable iterations just means there will be more chocolate in my life, which is never a bad thing.
This is not a sponsored post. I was surprised and delighted to find these unique products, purchased them on my own, and enjoyed them fully.