First off, how can you hate hot chocolate??!! If your idea of hot chocolate is mixing some cheap sugar-laden powder with hot water then you need to up your hot chocolate game. if this is you, drop everything and go an read my reviews of the Hot Chocolate Shaker and the Velvetiser. You can thank me later.
If you've tried hot chocolate all ways (using good quality chocolate together with dairy milk, plant-based milk, or water), and you still don't enjoy it, fear not. London-based bean-to-bar chocolate maker Lucocoa has you covered. Not only that, you'll help divert food waste too, extracting all the benefits from the husks before they head in your food recycling bin.
Say hello to cocoa tea.
A silver metal tin with a push-close lid keeps the cacao shells in one place. Simple in design, this reusable and refillable container has a presence about it that means it could make a nice gift for friends and family. Perhaps a foodie treat to take around to a coffee morning with friends?
A two-tone label wraps around three sides. The front lists the Lucocoa logo, together with the strapline "not naughty / just nice". To one side sits information about the production process, together with guidance on how to brew your chocolate tea, while the nutritional information sits on the other side.
The ingredients in this vegan-friendly product are simply roasted cocoa shells. They're the by-product of the winnowing process.
In case you're unfamiliar, cacao beans are roasted, and then winnowed to separate the cocoa nibs (used in the production of chocolate) from the inedible husks. Ordinarily, in most chocolate making operations, these husks end up in landfill or in food recycling plants. Some head off to the beauty industry for use in body scrub products, but that's about it.
However, a select few entrepreneurs, including Lucocoa, use high quality cocoa beans in their chocolate making process, and sell their leftover cocoa shells for use at home. These cocoa shells can be steeped in hot water to impart a tasty chocolate fragrance in what I suppose could be called cocoa tea or chocolate tea.
Per 100ml of brewed tea, there's typically two lonely calories and half a gram of protein, with trace results for fats, carbs, fibre and salt. If you love hot chocolate but are counting calories, cocoa husk tea may well be your answer for that afternoon chocolate fix you crave.
Lucocoa Cocoa Shell Tea Review
Lifting the lid is like walking into the Bermondsey-based factory, tucked beneath a railway arch. It's a heady aroma of freshly born chocolate, with tobacco, woody and pecan notes leading the way. There's a hint of leather in the background too, together with a touch of raisin vibes. It smells like a cross between a chocolate brownie and a rich hot chocolate, so is arguably ideal for making chocolate tea.
Inside, is an assortment of roasted cocoa shell fragments - some large and some so small they look like specks of dust. The smaller pieces tend to settle at the bottom of the tin as you move the shells around, so as you decant them into a tea infuser, you're naturally filtering the smaller particles out.
Speaking of which, I had to buy a mesh tea infuser. I bought this two-pack° on Amazon for £5 and found it works very well. Very fine fragments bleed out of it, but the bulk of the husks stay inside the easy-to-use infuser. If you've got the budget, opting for something with a finer mesh will suit better, and remove the bits that leach out into the beverage.
My diffuser typically holds between eight and ten grams of husk, meaning I can get around 12 servings out of this 100g tin. To minimise packaging waste, Lucocoa also sells 100g refill packs so you can refill your tin when it gets low.
A thin oily layer sits on the surface of the muddy brown tea. Specks dance around in the water but typically sink to the bottom over time. Avoid stirring or agitating the water too much to help speed up this process - and remember to leave a bit in the bottom of the mug at the end to avoid a mouthful of cacao husk shell dust.
The aroma notes remain almost identical when the tea is ready. A rich chocolate flavour is made up of with tobacco, leather and woody notes, with a hint of nuttiness in the background. There's a subtle sweetness to the fragrance too.
The flavour is near identical again. With a water base, this understandably doesn't have the same texture as a luscious hot chocolate, so while it smells like one, it is comparatively thin. As far as the flavour goes, it tastes very much like a rich, high quality bar of chocolate, with a rounded flavour profile.
The longer you steep the husks, the more intense the flavour becomes. Follow Lucocoa's advice of a five to ten minute steep and you'll get a far more flavourful (and satisfying) brew, than if you give it just a quick dip.
You can add a sweetener (Lucocoa recommends coconut sugar) but I didn't find it needed it. If, however, you regularly add sugar to your tea and coffee, you'll probably want to do the same here.
Overall, it's a satisfying beverage, and while it won't lure me away from my addiction to hot chocolate, it will at least allow me to enjoy drinking a hot chocolate drink without the guilt. The fact that this tea is made from the husks of ethically sourced cacao, and it helps release every bit of goodness from the shells before they are wasted adds to the feel good factor.
Remember, this is a natural product produced from cocoa husks used in the production of bean-to-bar chocolate. As such, the composition of husks is likely to change from batch to batch, and even from tin to tin, depending on which type of beans Lucocoa is working with at the time and their desired characteristics for these beans. In short, your tea might taste slightly different to mine, and my next batch may well vary from this one.
As a side note, I gave this a go with a mug of hot semi-skimmed milk to see what would happen. The result is a mug of hot semi-skimmed milk filled with small flecks of husk and just the slightest flavour of chocolate. My guess is the milk is too thick for the husks to infuse, and no amount of time nor jiggling the infuser around will help. This method is best avoided if you want to taste the chocolate flavour. Stick to water instead.
Lucocoa Cocoa Husk Tea Review
RRP: £6.20 | Lucocoa | Shop now
What's not to love about a product that is crafted in London out of food waste? These cocoa shells were destined for the bin, but instead were given a new lease of live as the basis for a refreshing chocolatey cuppa. It serves up a completely different tasting experience to traditional leaf tea, but offers a lighter water-based alternative to hot chocolate.
Where to Buy Online
You can buy starter tins and refill packs of Cocoa Husk Tea from the Lucocoa website here.
You can buy just the cocoa husks or the husks together with coconut sugar for a sweeter drink.
You'll need a tea infuser too. I bought this two-pack° on Amazon for £5 and found it works very well. Very fine fragments bleed out of it, but the bulk of the husks stay inside the easy-to-use infuser.
Scotland's Chocolate Tree also sell cocoa husks here (£4.95/800g), so you may want to order from both to compare and contrast flavours. Chocolate tree reckons the cocoa husks can be used for making tea, brewing beer or infusing oils and alcohols. Time to get creative, perhaps?
Stainless Steel Pen Tea Infuser Stick Reusable Mesh Filter Portable
This steel pen tea infuser stick is a sleek and practical solution for tea enthusiasts. This reusable and portable tea strainer is crafted from high-quality stainless steel and designed in a cylindrical shape. The tea infuser stick is 16.5 cm in height, with a loading tray of 1 inch. Ideal for tea lovers who appreciate convenience, the tea strainer stick is a perfect unit type for brewing a single cup of tea. The stick features a silver colour and is branded by a reputable company, blomus. Bought afew years back at the Moma store in New York and never used.
£18.00 + £2.00 postage
Coffee Filte Stainless Steel Tea Infuser Basket Fine Mesh Tea Strainer W/Handles
Ideal for loose teas, it allows for easy water flow. With Lid: The Tea Infuser Basket's lid doesn't just maintain hot tea temperature--it's also designed to serve as a drip tray to catch excess water.
Harrods Stainless Steel Mesh Tea Infuser
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£10.00 + £3.50 postage
Tea Infuser Mug Tea Infuser Loose Tea Mesh Tea Infuser Basket
3pcs Stainless Steel Tea Diffuser Long-handle Tea Infuser Tea Strainers for Tea. Travel Universal Tea Infuser Otter Leaf Strainer Accessories. Easy to use and clean, it is really a wonderful gadget for tea-drinker.
40 Pcs Tea Pot Accessories Drain Infuser Turkish Filters Net Mesh
Silicone Loose Tea Strainer Tea Steeper Kitchen Utensil Tools Tea Lover Gift. 2 PCS Stainless Steel Teapot Strainer Infusers Loose Filter Steeper. Loose Leaf Tea Infuser Tea Steeper Diffuser Tea Brewing Basket.
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Chocolate tea versus hot chocolate - which one wins? Let me know in a comment below.