First thing’s first: Cocoa Tea is not the official married name of Ice-T’s wife Coco. It’s a hot drink from the Caribbean island of St. Lucia and a complete 180 from that tired sugar-filled cup of Nestle’s hot cocoa with the tiny, completely artificial marshmallows that you love so much. You can think of cocoa tea just like your morning cup of coffee, except instead of roasted coffee beans, it’s brewed with roasted cocoa nibs. Mind blown yet?
The people of St. Lucia have been drinking cocoa tea for centuries thanks to a perfect growing environment for cacao trees. You can find ripe cocoa pods all the island and those pods contain cocoa beans that the locals harvest, dry, ferment, and roast. Once the roasted beans are out of their shells, they become cocoa nibs and those nibs are ground up and paired with spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, then rolled into tube-like cocoa sticks. Take the stick, grate off a little bit and add it to hot water or milk (the locals prefer milk) and you’ve got yourself a glass of cocoa tea.
The best part is, cocoa tea is pretty much a health food. It’s based off of the original use for cocoa, which was as a Mayan superdrink meant to give special power to ancient kings. Rich in anti-oxidants without all of that excess sugar, “cocoa tea has all the good things from chocolate without all the bad things from chocolate,” says chocolatier Wouter Tjeertes of St. Lucia’s Emerald Estate chocolate company. Cocoa tea also has the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee, so you can rest easy knowing you’re getting your morning jolt without giving a kickback to Juan Valdez.
What’s that? You don’t have cocoa sticks laying around? There aren’t cacao trees growing outside your window? No worries, pal. Cocoa nibs are readily available these days. You can find them at Whole Foods or at your local health food store. If you prefer to go the online method (which is much, much easier) you can buy your own cocoa nibs here. Make sure to roast them first to unlock a much richer flavor, but the amount of roasting is totally up to you. The best advice is go low and slow.
Once your beans are ready, add in any special flavorings (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, vanilla, etc.) and then grind everything together in a food processor or a coffee grinder. Once you’ve got your cocoa-grounds, pop them in a coffee filter (about 3 tablespoons is a good portion size) and run your coffeemaker like normal. In a few minutes, you’ve got a gourmet glass of choco-joe.
This post first appeared on FoodRepublic.com