I love discovering new tastes and my friend Elexis brought me back this new experience from Peru that I am excited to share with you. Cacao husk tea is the shell of the cacao bean after it has been fermented, dried and roasted and then broken off from the bean itself. The bean is used for our beloved chocolate, but the husks have amazing flavor and nutrients when steeped.
The look: Cacao husk tea looks more like potpourri than tea or herb, really. Lightweight, sizeable, medium brown pieces dotted with whole dried stevia leaves.
The scent: This is one of those times when the dry, in this case ‘husks’ rather than ‘leaves’, smell the same as the steeped tea does: like a fresh, good quality milk chocolate bar. Other reviews said ‘dark chocolate’, but I smelled milk chocolate. Who knows what you’ll smell when you try it! Fudge? (Elexis has also been offering me great fudge lately, so I have fudge on the brain. I’m hoping it doesn’t go anywhere else. )
The color: It came out a beautiful amber color. Like that prehistoric bug encased in amber in Jurassic Park, but without the bug part.
Steeping: There wasn’t any steeping advice on the package. In one way that’s annoying but in another way it leaves the door for experimentation wide open...and of course, internet searching. Generally, most sources said to use boiling water, as with most herbs, and to steep between 5-10 minutes. After experimenting I found I liked the 5-7 minute range best.
Taste: It resulted in a soft, aromatic cocoa taste that has just a hint of sour at the end. It even felt a bit creamy even though there is nothing creamy in it. More time brought out more of that sourness and that just isn’t my thing.
I tried adding sweetener first and then milk but found I liked it best plain. In the 5 minute steep the sweetener was ok. I used honey once and sugar another time. I think the sugar paired better. Honey is a bit too, “Look at me!” (Yeah, honey, I love ya.)
The particular brand I had includes dried stevia leaves for natural sweetness and they perform beautifully. The chocolate scent and flavor is enhanced by the stevia. Those who are used to sugar, honey or just greater sweet taste in general will want to add their sweetener of choice.
The milk covered the lovely chocolate flavor rather than enhanced it. Extending the steep time didn’t really change this. It just made the tea more sour instead of more robust.
Is it caffeinated?: No, it doesn’t have caffeine like tea or coffee, but like tea it does have theobromine, a slower acting, weaker stimulant.
Nutrients/minerals: It is high in magnesium, antioxidants and has the “bliss chemical” anandamide.
My internet search also revealed that cacao husk flavor is impacted by it’s origin and conditions like our beloved camelia-sinensis is:
“Depending on where the husk is from, there's subtle variation in the taste and aroma of the brew. Each single origin husk taking on its own unique flavour profile.”
More options: I mixed the cacao husk with black tea and really liked it. They work well together. Another idea I had but haven’t yet tried is to steep the husks in simmering milk directly to see if a latte-like taste could be achieved.
Elexis also told me about a crazy fruit she had in Peru that looked kind of like brains but tasted great. She was surprised to find some at a local market here and got me one so I could have the sweet grey jiggling experience myself.
The fruit is called granadilla. Though the look of it on the inside is a bit funky, the great taste is worth it. The flavor reminded me a bit of lychee, perhaps slightly less sweet and the texture like a passion fruit (it is in the same family). It was juicy and had seeds that gave a satisfying crunchy texture.
Have you ever had cacao husk tea or a granadilla? Have you ever visited Peru? Let us know. If you’d like to see more, my friend took some great pictures on her trip and you can view them on her Instagram.
Wishing you continued adventures in tea and life!
this is not a sponsored post
There are two Blue Moons this year. My friend and I set our alarms for 5am this past January 31st to step out and groggily try to view the even rarer Super Blue Blood Moon – the first to be seen from the US since 1866. The next one will be in 2037 so it seemed worth it to try and catch this one. So there we were, two women in our pajamas on the sidewalk in the blackness of early morning that looks like night trying to take a picture through binoculars with an iphone of a moon that kind of looked like a floating orange. It was very cool though. NASA’s pictures do it far more justice but here is one of ours.
When I posted the pics on twitter I noticed posts about Blue Moon Tea from Adagio Teas. They have an herbal blend called Bella Luna Blue that they only sell when there are 2 full moons in one month. It is also blue in color when brewed. Very intriguing. Then, as there is another Blue Moon (though not Blue Blood Moon) March 31st, Adagio reached out to me about this unique tea. I love all that synchronicity! I gladly took the opportunity for a new tea experience so here we are. The ingredient of this blend that gives it such a beautiful indigo blue color is pea flower. The other elements of this blend are lemongrass and natural blueberry flavor.
SCENT – The dry leaves have a sweet blueberry dessert-like scent with the lemongrass walking around in the background. The pea flower doesn’t seem to add much scent. The steeped tea is also sweet smelling, like a blueberry cobbler.
TASTE – Pea flower by itself is pretty mild. I tasted some of the dried flowers alone and they clearly had some of the blueberry flavor on them but were very innocuous underneath that. Some compare pea flower taste to an earthy green tea, but I feel it reminds me more of barley tea. In combination with the lemongrass and blueberry flavor the tea is well blended with all the flavors holding hands in harmony. I like it both unsweetened and sweetened with a bit of honey. The honey brought out the blueberry flavor more.
We took pictures of the tea in a few different vessels with light from above and from behind, with more or less tea and sometimes there were multiple colors visible including purples and deep pinks like a wild sunset captured in a glass.
Then I started playing with the wet leaves. Many artists paint with tea, so it isn’t novel necessarily, but it is fun. This tea reminded me of watercolors. I couldn’t resist splattering and writing with it. I fully believe in playing with your tea and getting creative with the ways even steeped leaves can be used.
Bonus: I was also able to get more than one steeping out of a round of leaves. Satisfying.
You can get this lovely Bella Luna Blue tea on the day of the next Blue Moon, March 31st 2018, from Adagio Teas. I encourage you to set your alarm, grab a friend, bring some binoculars and go out into the night to gaze skyward for this rare experience!
by Cassandra Vincent
"After a fairly shaky start to the day, Arthur's mind was beginning to reassemble itself from the shell-shocked fragments the previous day had left him with. He had found a Nutri-Matic machine which had provided him with a plastic cup filled with a liquid that was almost,
The first loose leaf tea brand I explored while in school in the US was The Republic of Tea. A friend had shared with me one of their herbals (yeah, I know it’s not technically tea. We’ll get to that), Ginseng Peppermint. I was never a fan of mint tisane but found I loved this crazy blend. It was such a surprising well-balanced taste and the ginseng offered a kick in the absence of real ‘tea’ caffeine. I went on to discover The Republic of Tea Blackberry Sage black tea and Ginger Peach black tea which were regular staples in my cupboard. I appreciated not just their unique blends, but also the loose and bagged options. As I still used bags a lot at this time, for travel especially, I really liked that their bags are unbleached. To me there is a massive difference in taste let alone the gross idea of sucking on something that has been through a bleaching process.
When The Republic reached out about their new line of herbal tisanes focused on women I was glad to reconnect with the brand. The line is SuperHerb Tea http://www.republicoftea.com/superherb-tea/c/superherb/ and the one I tried is Nettle. I have had many herbal infusions of just the herb alone and though some are fine this way others do feel like I’m taking medicine either from the blandness or outright yuck taste (valerian – love the effect but it smells like something died in my cup). The Republic of Tea blends peppermint and vanilla with the organic nettle leaves for a light and well-balanced infusion. It has a lovely gentle sweet smell from the vanilla in particular without smelling like a cake or something. It doesn't lure you in with a smell that ends up being far different from the taste - I hate a bait and switch in my tea. Nettle alone is more of a ‘meh’ feeling than a gross one but I prefer some pleasure with my medicinal benefits and this works for me. Like most well-known herbs nettle has been used for ages to aid in a variety of ailments and has been through a battery of scientific tests in the more modern world. Areas nettle is helpful for include kidney function, inflammation, hair growth and allergies. Nettle has been used in women’s health for hundreds of years including supporting pregnancy and fertility.
With herbs it is a good idea to make sure your individual needs are met. Like anything else an herb can interact with other medicines/herbs in an undesired way so I feel it’s a good idea to refer to your doctor and do your research. Also, I have found that herbs are different for different people based on so many factors outside other medications including body weight – I mean really, is that ‘recommended dosage’ on any bottle meant to apply to both a 120 lb. adult and a 300 lb. adult? Take that into account. Also when I’ve eaten and what I’ve eaten in regard to taking in a supplement has changed my results.
Now, I know that herbal ‘teas’ are technically not tea as they do not contain any camellia sinensis leaves. They are ‘tisanes’ – basically herbs steeped in water, sometimes with fruit and/or spices. The etymology of the word goes back to a reference to medicinal barley water (what the Japanese having been drinking for centuries and call mugi-cha, but that’s for another post). I am a fan of herbal infusions and have used them for years. I feel they have a place for discussion in the world of tea because of the similar way in which they are prepared for drinking (not manufacture) and how they have become connected in our society. If I m feeling a bit ‘under it’ I find an herbal tea will give me that experience of sipping a tasty hot (or cold) beverage along with positive benefit in those times when my body just needs it. I’ve told tea about my friendship with herbals and tea doesn’t mind. Tea is very secure about its place in my life;). What herbal teas do you have a good relationship with? Share with fellow tea lovers on Twitter and Facebook.
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