Last Updated on November 1, 2020 by marvz
Ever heard of cocoa shell tea? I’ll talk about it.
Table of Contents
What is cacao shell/husk?
Coco shell or husk is the outer covering of cacao beans. Technically, it’s called a seed coat.
Cacao manufacturers remove the shells while farmers usually use it as mulch.
In my experience, about 20 to 30 % of cacao is lost during winnowing. The lost percentage is mostly shell plus some nibs.
Is it cacao husk or cocoa shell?
People call it both. Sometimes shell and sometimes husk.
In my opinion, shell is more proper. Coconut for example. The thick outer covering is a husk. While the hard and brittle covering is “shell.” The coffee industry also calls the thick covering a husk.
Why separate shells from beans?
Manufacturers remove the shell for the following reasons:
- Only the cotyledons, known as nibs, are needed for chocolate production. The shells make the chocolate taste bad.
- The shells contain most of the microbes and chemical contaminants. Its removal gets rid 93% of the problem.
How to separate the cocoa husk from beans?
Separate shells from the bean by:
- Roasting the beans to loosen the shell.
- Bean cracking in preparation for winnowing.
- Winnowing to suck out the lighter husk, while leaving the nibs.
Cocoa bean shells are edible
Cocoa shells aren’t edible. That’s why chocolate makers are trying their best to remove all the husks.
However, clever people learnt that it can be used as tea. Steeping in hot water like real tea.
The second food application is as powder additive. You can mix it in cocoa powder and flour.
Uses of cacao husk
As of date, the popular use of cacao is as cocoa tea. But, there are more:
- A fiber-rich and antioxidant additive to cocoa powder and sometimes flour.
- Cocoa shell tea.
- Papermaking, with other fibrous grass.
- As mulch and fertilizers for plants.
- As brooding beds for animals such as chicks, ducklings, and pigs.
- Burn as fuel.
What is cacao tea?
The question answers itself, but I’ll tell you more.
Cocoa tea has two versions:
- Tea made of cocoa nibs. This version tastes great.
- Tea made of cocoa shells. I personally dislike it. Yet, many people are drinking tea made from husks.
What are cocoa nibs?
Cocoa nibs are cacao, shells removed, and broken into smaller pieces. Most products available for sale are roasted. Sometimes coated with sugar. While others are raw or unroasted.
How to make cocoa tea
To make cocoa tea:
- Place a measured quantity in any coffee maker. Filter drip, French press, or percolator.
- Do the same for cocoa tea made of cacao nibs.
The seller often has instructions. Start from there and modify as needed.
Where can you get cacao shells?
You can get cacao shell by:
- Purchasing from a reseller.
- Getting the cocoa husk directly from the chocolate maker.
- Roasting your cacao.
How to make cocoa shell powder?
To make cocoa shell powder:
- Grind the husk immediately after winnowing. Waiting more than 24 hours before doing so, allows the reabsorption of moisture.
- Store in an airtight container.
Can I add cocoa shell powder to my chocolate bars?
The allowable percentage of cacao shells in nibs and chocolate is 1%. Cocoa shells make the chocolate taste bad. So, lesser husks make better chocolate.
If you want to sacrifice quality for quantity, then go add cocoa husk to chocolate bars and cocoa powders.
Can I use cocoa shells in salads?
I urge you not to do that. However, the choice is yours.
Rather, use cocoa nibs. It’s great for salads.
Cocoa shell is rich in antioxidants
A study by Lienda Handojo et al (2019) showed that cocoa shells can be used as flour mixture with no significant effect on taste. The study also stressed that shells contain rich fiber that is important for dietary foods.
Dayane C. G. Okiyama et al (2017) found out that cocoa shell is a rich source of fiber. In addition, it has high phenolic compounds – which make the shells promising as an antioxidant agent.
Cocoa shell has methylxanthines such as theobromine …
If you’re cutting back on caffeine, cacao or cacao shell may not be your best alternative.
Jelena Panak Belentic et al (2018) cited, during cocoa bean fermentation, methylxanthines migrate to shells. Cacao methylxanthines are theobromine, caffeine, and theophylline.
Theobromine is the bitter alkaloid found in cacao beans. As a benefit example, it’s a heart stimulant and aids urination.
Yet, large doses may cause nausea and anorexia. National Hazardous Substances Database stated that 0.8-1.5 g theobromine per day or 50-100g cacao a day is linked to sweating, trembling, and severe headache.
Theophylline is a drug for the treatment of respiratory diseases such as asthma and chronic pulmonary disease, COPD.
Caffeine is the main stimulant drug found in coffee. Beneficial when taken in moderation but has side effects when taken too much.
Cacao bean has moderate caffeine content.
Safety: Ochratoxin and shell
Cacao beans are susceptible to ochratoxin, OTA, contamination. It’s a mycotoxin produced by several fungal species such as Aspergillus ochraceus, A. carbonarius, A. niger and Penicillium verrucosum.
Shell removal gets rid about 93% OTA.
According to the study conducted by Travis R et al (2016), it causes nephrotoxicity and renal tumors in a variety of animal species.
Many studies linked OTA intake with human illnesses such as Balkan endemic nephropathy, chronic interstitial nephropathy, and other renal problems.
Safety: Cadmium and lead
Cocoa shells may contain heavy metals. Cadmium has the highest percentage.
Too much intake of cadmium can lead to nausea and heavy metal deposits in kidney.
Cadmium is gathered from the soil while lead can be from somewhere else. Like drying and pod breaking.
Shell removal also removes cadmium and lead.
Cacao Shell Tea and Powder. Ensuring Safety
How can you ensure safety?
If you’re a customer:
- Just don’t drink cocoa tea or eat any food with cocoa shell.
- Buy cocoa shells from a reputable source. Ask for a safety certificate.
If you’re a maker:
- Ensure that cocoa beans have undergone proper drying. Fungi grows when cocoa beans are not dried immediately after fermentation.
- Get a safety certificate for all the cocoa shell products you’re going to sell.