Cacao Tea Review: A Caffeine-Free, Chocolate-y Treat

A glass mug full of cacao tea. In the background is a packet from Cacao Tea Co.I’m a devoted fan of hot beverages, and I’ve got a tea chest to prove it. Loose-leaf and bagged, black and green and herbal… it’s all there. What I had never tried until a few months ago, however, was cacao tea. Record scratch.

I’ve had so-called “chocolate teas” in the past, but they invariably left me disappointed. Generally speaking, I like rich, bold, dark chocolate, which is almost impossible to taste in a tea. Instead, most chocolate-based tea blends have a stronger chocolate aroma than actual flavor, leaving me disappointed and wondering why I didn’t just make hot cocoa instead.

So when the kind folks at Cacao Tea Co. reached out to me a few months back and asked whether I’d like to try some of their thoughtfully crafted cacao husk tea, it didn’t take more than a few minutes of browsing their website before I responded with an enthusiastic, “Yes, please!” After a phone call with Jessica — the company’s founder — I was even more excited to try it. Here’s why.

Top-down image of cacao tea in a glass mug.

  • It’s naturally caffeine-, gluten-, and sugar-free. Although I love (love) coffee and the comforting ritual of drinking it, it doesn’t exactly love me. I’m sensitive to caffeine and quickly get addicted, which is not a state in which I want to remain! I also can’t drink anything caffeinated in the evening without suffering the (sleepless) consequences. Cacao tea is a great alternative.
  • It’s ethically sourced. Y’all know I had to ask Jessica about this, and she assured me that her company takes care to source their cacao from suppliers who pay farmers more than a living wage.
  • The company donates 15% of its profits to charity. Specifically, to charities that provide meals to families in underserved communities in developing countries.
So, what is cacao tea?

It’s simply the husks left over after cocoa beans are harvested and the nibs are removed. You can brew the husks to make a chocolate-y, tea-like beverage.

How do you make cacao tea?

However you want! I tried it three ways: steeped in a tea strainer, brewed in a French press, and boiled on the stove for 5-7 minutes. The latter is my favorite method because it creates a nicely concentrated and rich drink, but the French press method is my go-to when I make it at work.

What does cacao tea taste like?

Like chocolate! OK, maybe not like hot cocoa, but like a rich and pure form of chocolate. Not bitter, but deep and nuanced. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the flavor! It was much better than those tepid “chocolate teas” that have disappointed me time after time.

When I spoke with Jessica, she called Cacao Tea Co. her passion project, and her love for the product was obvious. I’m so glad she reached out to me, and I’m glad I’ve added a new, caffeine-free hot drink to my repertoire. Up next? Experimenting with it! You can use a concentrated version of the tea in baked goods, which is obviously quite appealing to me. I’ve got a few other ideas I’d like to try, too… a cacao-oat milk latte? Cacao sorbet? Cold-brew cacao?! Actually, scratch those last two… I’m sticking with hot drinks only as the winter approaches. :)

Although this cacao tea was provided to me for free, this review is 100% my unbiased opinion. I only accept review products that align with my ethics, and I always note when I’m reviewing a product I did not purchase myself. (See more here.)

5 Caffeine-Free, Alcohol-Free Hot Drinks to Keep You Cozy

It’s here: the end of daylight savings time. Goodbye, drives home from work in the slanting golden rays of a sublime autumnal sunset; hello, evenings where the transition from work to home happens under cover of darkness.

For those who rouse themselves early, the changeover at least provides a little more light in the mornings. But for dedicated sleepers like me who see few dawns and can find the snooze button without opening an eye, the benefit goes unnoticed.

And so, on these darker evenings, I find myself turning to all things comfy and cozy and hygge, to sweatpants and hot mugs of something steaming: a bracing cup of English breakfast tea, served black and unsweetened, bitter and tannic on the tongue. Carafes of coffee made strong and shared, poured out still steaming. Hot buttered rum so rich your belly aches, decadent hot chocolate thick as liquid fudge… the list goes on.

But what to sip late at night when the merest milliliter of caffeine would spell disaster for my sleep schedule? What to enjoy when a sensitive tum rejects anything a bit boozy?

The question came to me last weekend when I wanted something un-caffeinated to sip but wasn’t satisfied with the standard mug of green or chamomile tea. Oh, I thought. I should write a blog post about that. So, here we are: Five ways to satisfy your craving for something hot without resorting to caffeine or alcohol.

Hot Molasses Mug

1. Hot Molasses Mug

Filling and iron-rich and shockingly satisfying, with an almost salty note that you can temper with a little extra liquid sweetener, should the mood strike. (Maple syrup and agave nectar both work fine.) Personalize your molasses mug with spices that speak to your soul; ginger is an obvious choice, but go wild and see what works! (And let me know what concoctions you like best!)

Feeling boozy? Try this spiked maple-molasses mug for a little extra kick.

2. Golden Milk

While I’m sure many of you are familiar with this turmeric-infused hot beverage, the uninitiated may (rightfully!) wonder why anyone would want to drink something flavored primarily of a golden root more frequently used in curries and other savory delights. The most common answer peddled by many food bloggers will almost certain include the following phrases: superfood! anti-inflammatory! health benefits!

Well, dear reader, I am not that food blogger. As my go-to source for Real Science states, “…the scientific evidence for turmeric is insufficient to incorporate it into medical practice. As with so many supplements, the hype has gone way beyond the actual evidence. There are some promising hints that it may be useful, but there are plenty of promising hints that lots of other things “may” be useful too.”

So, instead, drink golden milk for the simple reason that it tastes good. This recipe from Minimalist Baker is a great one to start with, though you can just as easily make it up as you go, flavoring your golden elixir to meet your personal preferences.

3. Spiced Apple Cider

No recipe for this one because it doesn’t need it! Simply heat your favorite apple cider (I like a high-quality, fresh-pressed one from the farmers market) with a few spices and enjoy. If you’re short on time, nuke it in the microwave and then add a cinnamon stick for flavor and festivity. If you’ve got a few extra minutes, heat it on the stove in a small pot with mulling spices (I like cinnamon sticks, cloves, nutmeg, star anise, and ginger, but you can go wild). Strain and enjoy!

Feeling boozy? Add a shot of your favorite bourbon or whiskey!

Hot pumpkin molasses mug

4. Hot Pumpkin-Molasses Mug

Another take on my molasses mug, this one incorporates pumpkin for an even more seasonally appropriate hot drink! Swap the cinnamon and nutmeg for your favorite pumpkin pie spice mix to make it even easier (and even more delicious).

5. Hot Pumpkin Mug

Dubious about sipping on a molasses-infused beverage? Go simple with Kathy’s hot pumpkin mug. This bright orange hot bevvy is the perfect choice for you hardcore pumpkin lovers, and the cheerful, sunny color is sure to brighten up those dark winter nights.

Bonus!

Though I haven’t tried it myself, this caffeine-free hot carob milk could hit the spot when you want something along the lines of hot chocolate but don’t fancy the idea of a sleepless night.

~~~

I hope this list helps you find a caffeine-free, booze-free beverage to warm your hands (and heart?!) as winter descends. For added fun and deliciousness, top your drink of choice with any of the many (!) vegan whipped creams that now crowd supermarket shelves. (Well, you may want to avoid whipped cream if your drink of choice is hot cider.) And let me know which other hot caffeine-free, alcohol-free vegan beverages I’ve missed!

PIN IT!

Five caffeine-free, alcohol-free hot vegan drinks to keep you cozy // govegga.com

Hot Molasses Mug (and a brief disquisition on iron needs)

LVV MoFo 2014 main

If you’re a woman and you’ve ever gone through a spell of exhaustion, chances are you’ve gotten the “Maybe you’re anemic!” suggestion from a concerned friend or family member. Although anemia is technically a lack of hemoglobin in the blood, the term tends to be used colloquially for an iron deficiency. (1)

So—why can an iron deficiency make you tired, both mentally and physically? In over-simplified terms, it’s because iron is an “essential component of hemoglobin,” a protein that carries oxygen from your lungs to your tissues… tissues like your brain and muscles. (2) In truth, it’s actually rare for people in developed countries to have a serious iron deficiency; it’s more common in the developing world. Most of us get enough iron from our diets. However, pregnant women are often encouraged to take iron supplements because their bodies require more iron—it takes a lot of red blood cells (which carry hemoglobin) to feed the fetus and placenta. (2)

One complication for us vegans stems from the difference between heme and non-heme iron sources. Heme iron comes from animal sources and is absorbed more efficiently than non-heme iron, which comes from plants. Therefore, you technically should consume more iron if you’re vegan. However, you can increase non-heme iron absorption by eating foods containing vitamin C at the same meal—and many iron-rich foods are also naturally high in vitamin C. (1) And the good news is that as far as we can tell, vegetarians don’t have greater incidences of iron-deficiency anemia than meat-eaters. (3)

The CDC’s recommended daily allowances (RDA) for iron vary by age and sex, and it’s good to have a sense of how much you need. As a 27-year-old ciswoman, I need 18 mg according to the CDC. However, the Vegetarian Resource Group notes that vegetarians could require up to 1.8 times more iron than omnivores. (3) That’s about 32 mg for me.

Luckily for us, non-heme iron is not hard to find. One cup of lentils has 6.6 mg. An ounce of pumpkin seeds has 4.2 mg. One cup of cooked fresh spinach has 6.4. And blackstrap molasses—that unassuming viscous liquid!—has a whopping 7 mg in just two tablespoons.

Blackstrap molasses, as it turns out, makes an excellent hot beverage when whisked with hot almond milk. (Thanks for the inspiration, Pinterest!) Beats taking it by straight by the spoonful, as I’ve been known to do.

Hot Molasses Mug

Hot Molasses Mug
Serves one

  • 1 cup almond milk (or other nondairy milk of choice)
  • 2 T blackstrap molasses
  • Dash pure vanilla extract

In a small saucepan over low-medium heat, warm the almond milk until it begins steaming. Transfer to a mug and add the molasses and vanilla extract. Whisk vigorously until combined. Enjoy.

Hot Molasses Mug

With one warming beverage that could barely be any easier to prepare, I’ve got nearly a third of my iron requirement fulfilled. And—bonus!—I’ve found my new favorite fall beverage.

How do you take your molasses?

Sources cited:

(1) http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/basics/vitamins/iron.html
(2) http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional/
(3) http://www.vrg.org/nutrition/iron.php

Note:

I’m neither a doctor nor a dietitian; please don’t treat my posts as medical advice! Consult a medical practitioner for specific medical or nutritional recommendations.