The ins and outs of brewing cocoa

brewed cacao

A friend posted on her Facebook the other day about brewing cocoa: roasted, ground cocoa beans intended to be steeped in boiling water* and consumed like tea or coffee. Her question: is this stuff good for me?

It certainly tastes good. Coarsely ground cocoa beans prepared in a French press result in a pleasant, toasty tea-like beverage with subtle chocolate aromas. (Some sources warn that steeping for more than five minutes will make the resulting drink “astringent and funky,” but others recommend steeping times up to 10 minutes; I leave the actual experimenting up to you!)

And because it contains no dairy or sugar, brewed cocoa beans are thought to confer the health benefits of cacao without the potential downsides of added fat and calories.

As far as stimulant effects go, brewed cocoa is said to give you a “natural, healthy energy.” Most of this energy is due to theobromine, though cacao does contain a small amount of caffeine. In general, theobromine’s stimulant effects are described as milder than caffeine, also slower to ramp up (= no sudden caffeine jolt and resultant crash) and longer-lasting. (Science nerds look here.)

You can get roasted, ground cocoa beans from a wide variety of sources. Some well-publicized brands include Choffy out of Nevada, and Utah’s Crio Bru, but in Portland, any chocolate maker working with whole cocoa beans can make the stuff. One of our favorites is the Brewing Cacao from local, family-owned Portland bean-to-bar maker Creo Chocolate.Brewing Cacao

*Ground cocoa beans can also be steeped in room-temperature or refrigerated conditions, much like cold-brewed coffee.

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