If history had gone differently, the Boston Tea Party might have been called the Boston Chocolate Party (sounds a lot more fun, right?). In the 18th century, chocolate was just as popular to drink as coffee and tea. But instead of a thick, creamy cup of melted chocolate with loads of sugar, our forefathers drank a heady mixture brewed from the cacao bean itself.
Eventually, coffee and tea beat out cacao as our collective drinks of choice. But now, the rich tea is making a comeback at nouveau cafes and shops across the country. Why? Its chocolatey aroma is unbeatable to start with, and it gets even better when it gives way to a floral, refreshing taste. Plus, it gives drinkers quite the kick, thanks to its natural levels of caffeine and theobromine (a mild stimulant), as well as antioxidants. In other words, it's time for you to graduate from Swiss Miss.
The Mast Brothers
The Mast Brothers's Brew Bar café in Brooklyn specializes in what the chocolatiers call "brewed chocolate." They take cacao nibs from places like Madagascar and steep them in hot water for a few minutes, then add a dash of chocolate-infused simple syrup for a hit of sweetness and serve it either hot or cold. In Montreal, La Tablette de Miss Choco gives customers a complimentary cup of cacao tea while they sample chocolate bars. The drink offers a new way to taste single-origin chocolate, since the brew releases aromas that are sometimes hard to pinpoint in a bar.
Other craft makers sell packaged varieties, so you can brew the tea at home. Brazen Chocolate in Scottsdale, Arizona, makes an organic cacao tea, as well as a yerba maté and cacao tea blend, which you can make in a French press. Meanwhile, Kiskadee Chocolate in Austin, Texas, uses cacao from the Dominican Republic, which lends a nutty taste to its version. But unlike spent coffee grounds, owner Laura Atlas says not to toss the nibs and husks after you brew: Instead, use them to flavor smoothies or baked goods.
With so many good bean-to-bar makers these days, it's easy to get your hands on quality materials and make the drink from scratch at home. Askinosie Chocolate sells its nibs at some Whole Foods and online. Or skip the nibs and buy husks from your local chocolate maker for a pittance (Tejas Chocolate in Houston sells a big bag for $2).
Whether you're using a packaged product, nibs or husks, steep about one tablespoon of cacao in boiling water for five to 10 minutes. If you'd like, add milk, sugar or other natural sweeteners, plus spices like cinnamon or nutmeg. Or drink it straight up, either hot or cold, and have your own modern-day chocolate party.