This is interesting. The artisans of Undone Chocolate mentioned cocoa hulls make a delicious tea. I never know how, maybe just steeping or boiling a handful of hulls in water will do the trick.
Unfermented cocoa bean shells have kind of nasty taste, too bitter and astringent. Fermented shells are kind of woody and dusty flavored. Now I am wondering how it taste when prepared like a tea.
At this point, the best use of husk is for fertilizing cocoa tree. Mine fertilize different plants including weeds because I am dumping it near random flora. I thought of including it in hand-made paper but experts told me not to. It contain a lot of nutrients needed by plants and so better be besides their roots.
Going to save some husks for trial.
Lately, I discovered the heaps of cocoa shells is loved by native chickens. They play around it, searching for food and occasionally sleeping.
Base from what I heard and read, the allowable shell percentage in winnowed cocoa nibs is one percent. The less is better. I like my chocolate bars to have the best taste possible so I am patiently hand picking the remaining.
Fellow artisan did trial batches, intentionally adding shells. He concluded that a maximum of 5% is tolerable. He did it not to launch such. It was just for the sake of curiosity.
Adding shells to chocolate and related product is not adulteration. It is allowed. In fact a big chocolate company patented this technology. If you see a fiber-rich claim on the label. Then, don’t give it a second thought.
update: September 20, 2015.
So, after I finished my last batch. I saved a glass half full of large hulls. I tasted some to verify the flavor consistency. It is still what I said above, woody, dusty and kind of astringent.
I gathered my favorite contraption for tea preparation, the steep style tea pot. Placed the hulls in wire mesh and poured, a recently boiled water and swirl gently for few minutes. I was considering this a preliminary trial so I never jotted down any measurement. If I ever liked the outcome, then I will do repeat trials to get the formulations to my liking.
Unfortunately, there was no appreciable change after tea preparation. The solution tasted woody, dusty and a bit astringent. I never liked it in short words. A bit of sugar never made the thing better.
I ingested a few sips and threw off the rest on kitchen sink. I think it is not worth it or just lack a bit of research.
Update as of September 12, 2017
For the sake of education, I added the term “tea” as one of the uses of cocoa shells. I presented it and and one from the audience had a violent reaction. Cocoa bean like coffee has potential to have Ochratoxin A. A possible carcinogen. It is concentrated mostly in shells, so its use for food consumption is highly discouraged.
Without further ado. I closed the curtain for cocoa shell tea experiment.
A lot of inquiries coming in and I see more and more manufacturer venturing into such. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I need to reconsider.
According to FAO (CAC/RCP 72-2013). Ochratoxin A (OTA) is a toxic fungal metabolite classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as possible human carcinogen (group 2b). JECFA established a PTWI (provisional tolerable weekly intake) of 100 ng/kg body weight. The main culprits are Aspergillus species.
So it is not a sudden death poison, contrary to what I was thinking. I was so afraid back then! It takes time before the symptoms manifest and cannot be pinpointed to cocoa shell tea in case. I think the evil within me is getting stronger.
There is a way to control OTA. The fermentation should be carried out properly in such manner that fermentation organisms overpowered OTA producers. Then should be dried fast enough to prevent mold growth and without sacrificing bean quality. Moisture content requirement is 8% or less. Moisture absorption and re-wetting should be prevented.
After, the only process that can significantly reduce OTA contamination is shell removal. About 95% reduction as proven by studies.
Marvin is the lead chocolate maker of Ben and Lyn Chocolate Inc. Has strong background in food research and development. Occasionally conducts training and lectures. Lecturer of Cocoa Foundation of the Philippines. Do coaching and consultancy services on his free time.