Cold Infusion: Raw Cacao
Do you know that without all the processing and added ingredients, chocolate is incredibly good for you? More precisely, cacao is good for you since it’s generally the processed stuff we buy as ‘chocolate’.
Cacao (cocoa) is jam packed with over 700 known compounds including a massive dose of antioxidants. It’s rich in polyphenols, resveratrol; and magnesium, iron, and other minerals. It’s great for your overall system, skin, heart, blood pressure, it lowers insulin resistance and cholesterol.
Contrary to popular belief, it does not contain caffeine.
It does contain theobromine which can mimic the effects of caffeine. (Caffeine is metabolized into theobromine by the liver.) It works as a stimulant; and elevates mood, a side effect widely loved.
Cacao is harvested in a pod which is full of a white fruit and around 40 cacao beans. The beans are fermented, then dried in the sun, or roasted.
When the shells are removed and the beans are coarsely ground, they become known as cacao nibs.
Ground down further, and gently compressed the nibs are formed into cacao paste a.k.a. chocolate liquor.
When cold-pressed to separate fats and fiber, it becomes cacao butter and cacao powder, respectively.
The fiber (cacao powder) is sometimes further heat processed and becomes cocoa powder. Note the spelling change at this point? The cocoa powder is exposed to more heat and no longer considered a raw food – as far as I can figure out this is when it becomes appropriate to switch the spelling! It loses some potential benefits, but is still good for you.:)
As a side note – dairy has been shown to inhibit the absorption of the antioxidants from cacao. Interesting, since most of us add milk or even use only milk when making hot chocolate! Might want to switch to non-dairy milks!
But – the most important feature is the taste! Most of us love chocolate; knowing cacao is a superfood without all the extra sugars and preservatives is just a bonus!
A lot of higher end coffee shops are now also serving hot cacao – made from beans, not powder. It’s catching on as a trendy hot coffee-replacing beverage.
But as usual, I do things my own way. LOL.
Cold infusions are great because you aren’t damaging or changing any of the awesome beneficial health qualities of the product.
As with any food, heat also changes the taste profile, sometimes drastically!
I did an experiment.
I used a half pint mason jar with 1/2 oz. of grated cacao paste, and filled with cold water.
The second jar was filled with 2 oz. cocoa powder (a very well known, average grocery store brand) and cold water.
I put the lids on and shook them well, then left them in the fridge.
After 24 hours, I strained each of them using coffee filters (I wanted it clear of particulates.)
The cocoa powder is sludgy and gloopy (it’s a word now) and not so fun to filter!:\ The grated paste was quick and easy to filter.
FYI: The darker colored infusion pictured is the cocoa powder; the lighter colored water infusion is made with the paste.
Now, the important bit.
Both were yummy, no sugar added! I’d add either to my beverage repertoire, but they had very distinct flavors.
The powder tastes suspiciously like cold, unsweetened hot cocoa. LOL.
Despite being well filtered, it had a thick mouth feel with a full (not entirely pleasant) aftertaste. The flavor was somehow thick as well. (Trying to describe flavors…it’s not something completely natural to me lol!)
The cacao paste infused water was definitely my favorite. It was a ‘clean’ taste, refreshing and no aftertaste.
Either one is entirely drinkable without any flavorings or sugars added.
But it also makes a great flavor base to add some amazing complex flavoring; either along with the infusion or afterwards…vanilla extract, coconut, mint, orange zest, ginger…(a post coming soon on this! Wow, did I ever hit on a good thing here, yum!)
What ingredients are in your go-to chocolate drink?