Chocolate tea: Taking craft to the next level

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

MiCacao is made from roasted cacao shells, tapping into craft and health & wellness trends
MiCacao is made from roasted cacao shells, tapping into craft and health & wellness trends

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The entrepreneurs behind MiCacao, a US start-up which makes an organic ‘tea’ from cacao shells, say their product is ready to tap into a craft movement which is stretching beyond beer and across beverage categories.

MiCacao takes roasted cacao shells and turns them into tea, which consumers can make and drink in the same ways as other teas.

Its founders believe the cacao tea can be a success as it offers a craft style alternative to traditional coffee and tea, while chocolate’s eternal popularity and the health benefits associated with cacao will also help it catch the public’s eye.

Peru discovery: ‘We knew we had a product to share with the world’

The cacao bean is found inside the pulp of the cacao fruit, and is the raw ingredient for chocolate. MiCacao is produced from the shell, or husk, of the cacao bean, which is often discarded when chocolate is made.

Entrepreneurs JJ Sabia and Rafael Albornoz have been friends since college and had always been interested in starting a business together. A few years ago, Sabia was hiking in Peru and went to a chocolate making workshop.

“During the workshop we steeped hot water on the cacao shells after roasting and I thought it tasted delicious,” ​Sabia told BeverageDaily.

MC-6 inset

“A handful of places had the drink in Peru but I was not able to find it when I returned to the US.

"It took some time to find good credible and organic supply sources from South and Central America, but once we figured that out we knew we had a product to share with the world.”

The duo saw an opportunity for the cacao tea in their own consumption occasions – We love chocolate, and we were also tired of drinking coffee every day and wanted to find a healthier solution that would give us energy without a crash,” ​said Sabia.

On further investigation they realized cacao is associated with a number of health benefits, containing antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and theobromine (which is related to caffeine but linked to gentler, long-lasting effects). Studies have also suggested cacao has mood-enhancing properties.

“At first we thought [MiCacao] would be a novelty for people who already like chocolate,” ​said Sabia.

“After extensive research we were shocked by all of the health and wellness benefits of cacao.

“I think consumers have to like the taste of the product first, but what makes consumers get the second and third cup is knowing that it actually is healthy for them to do so.” 

Craft comes to tea

Sabia says MiCacao was surprisingly easy to make, but sourcing good quality, sustainably produced cacao was the main challenge. The brand only sources beans that are grown organically and treated without the use of pesticides or chemicals, he added.

What is craft?

"Craft means entrepreneurs taking risks to do something different, in markets that have been dominated by large corporations where the products have become stale"

He considers the drink to be a craft beverage, saying the term applies to many more beverages than beer.

My first thought of craft comes from my love of craft beer. To me, craft means small companies and entrepreneurs taking risks to do something different in markets that have been dominated by large corporations where the products have become stale.

“Did you know black, green, oolong, dark, and white tea all come from the same plant? Talk about stale! We are trying something completely different and it tastes amazing!”

 And so what does cacao tea taste like?

“First off, when you open the package a strong chocolate aroma hits your nose,” ​Sabia said. “Drinking the cacao tea plain you will get that same strong chocolate aroma with a mellow chocolate taste which is easy on the palate. 

“Currently it is made the same way you typically make tea, and the great thing about it is you can dress it up anyway you like. I personally like mixing it with coconut milk, cinnamon, and chili powder. We always steep it with boiling water, but then drink it hot or cold depending on preference.”

MiCacao’s tea is sold loose like loose tea, and in tea bags. It is available in the US and the company ships to Europe for wholesale orders. 

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