I am having one of those “little bit of heaven – olfactory senses overwhelmed – transported to a warm, sunny climate” moments.
I am not a pretty sight.
I have my nose firmly planted in a bag of Kokoleka Lani Farms 100% Hawaiian Roasted Cocoa Beans.
I may have to do things with one hand today, because the aroma of these beans is so heavenly, I don’t want to extract my nose from the bag.
Here’s a video from Kokoleka Lani (which means “chocolate heaven”) Farms
As I gulp in another lungful, the aroma hits the back of my soft palate: red wine, liquor, earth, sweet, almost citrus, fruity. The beans themselves are funny-looking shrivelled red-brown things, easily crushed between the fingers. Seems as though they would taste delicious. I lick bits from my fingers. To me, they do not.
My husband/photographer/chief taster and confidante, disagrees. He crunches into one, chews it up and reaches for another. I am amazed, and ask him what he finds so compelling. He says they are like the best chocolate covered coffee beans he has ever tasted. He says they have a kind of bite to them, a clean and sharp shot of flavour, intense, with a bitter edge which he likes, as he really doesn’t care for sweet chocolate.
A couple of months ago, I made a whimsical chocolate treat: Patron Saint of Stanley Park Seagull Scat. Composed of white chocolate, cacoa nibs and slivers of organic dried apricot, the blobs were dropped onto a Silpat mat into distinctive “splats”. As I recall, my husband ate quite a few of them.
I am tempted to grind these cocoa beans with my morning java, as I am sure they would impart a wonderful taste to that beverage, turning it into a sort of mocha. But what if you can actually make hot chocolate with them?
As it turns out, you can, and oh, it is bliss. A quick trip to my laptop, and I find the recipe for Myriam Paiz’s special Nicaraguan chocolate milk – Orchata de cacao, in an article by Elaine Johnson, in Sunset magazine, April 1994 – I love the internet!
From the article:
“THE BEST CHOCOLATE MILK we’ve ever tried.” That’s the first thing tasters say about it. Then they ask how she gets the creamy texture and unusually good flavor. Her secret? Cocoa beans, rice, and cinnamon–typical chocolate milk ingredients to Nicaraguans but a little unusual to North Americans.
Rice gives the drink body. Freshly roasted cocoa beans–just chocolate in a more elemental form–add a fresh, complex flavor. The cinnamon gives a subtle spiciness.
Paiz roasts the beans until they crackle, and soaks rice to soften it. Then she pulverizes these ingredients with water in a blender, strains the mixture, and adds milk, sugar, and vanilla.
As if I needed any further reason to immediately set about making this beverage, I also discover that cacao nibs (the inner part of the cocoa bean) are rich in antioxidents and are a good dietary source of magnesium.
Well, I am all for a boost of magnesium, so I run out to the market for the rice, as we don’t have any long-grain white in the pantry – although perhaps wild or brown basmati rice would give the beverage a “nutty” flavour …
No. Stick to the recipe the way the lady wrote it! Soon, I have the rice soaking in cool water, where it will soften, over the next hours. I do not have to roast the beans as they are already, so I can relax and contemplate the fact that this is definitely the longest amount of time I have ever invested in a cup of hot chocolate!
But I do love the stuff, and cannot wait to get on to the next step. I get out my trusty blender, and in goes the cocoa beans, lovely fragrant cinnamon stick, water and the rice. I wasn’t sure whether I was supposed to strain off the remaining soaking water from the rice, (the recipe never states how much water to soak the rice in) but finally did, as I wanted the measurements to be as exact as possible.
It smells wonderful, and I pour the thick mass of pureed cocoa beans and rice over a strainer, into a bowl, and re-strain that thick liquid through 2 layers of cheesecloth.
I am left with a great deal of pulpy residue, in the cheesecloth, which seems a real shame to just throw into the compost, but I guess it would be unpleasant to have grit in this cocoa, so out it goes. I will have to think on how this could be salvaged – perhaps the leftover puree could be turned into a natural face scrub!
To the (to my mind) small amount of liquid remaining, I add vanilla and sugar, then whisk in hot milk. It looks pale and delicate, and I get out my best tea cups for the grand tasting.
The whole family is summoned, and we each receive our small cup of this, the hot chocolate which has been a whole day in the making.
I am not expecting the boys to like it, but as always, their honest critique surprises me:
“It’s really good, Mum”
“Hey, I like the way it tastes. What does the rice do?”
“It’s there to add texture”
“Hmm, yeah it’s … mmmmm”
“You could make this again, Mum”
I take my own “fancy cup”, and inhale the aroma of the cocoa beans, now “married” with the other scents. It is delicious. Delicate, not heavy or thick, an aromatic blend of the cocoa beans, cinnamon, vanilla and milk. The rice does add a certain silkiness to the texture. This is a refined drink.
Yes, I will make it again.
I have used all my cocoa beans to make this lovely Nicaraguan hot chocolate. And it was worth it to make this elegant drink, worthy of the fine china teacups my mother gave me. But tomorrow we have thunder storms and more snow in the weather forecast. I guess I will have to be content with keeping my nose in the empty Kokoleka Lani Farms bag, to conjure up the visions of Hawaii. Not a dignified sight, but definitely a delicious one.