Chocolate lovers, have you heard of cacao tea? If you haven’t, you’ll be happy to hear about Benns – a local bean-to-bar chocolate company that also offers cacao tea. The teapasar team sat down with the Benns team recently, to find out more about their company and the true origins of chocolate.
Please tell us more about Benns.
Benns was started about 20 years ago as a chocolate manufacturer focusing on travel retail and local consumers. Through our work in the chocolate industry, we discovered a different way of making chocolate and gained an appreciation for the hard work that Asian cacao farmers put in. This sparked our journey to explore natural and sustainable chocolate/tea making with cacao sourced only from Asian farms, as our way of supporting the farmers.
I didn’t know that there were cacao farmers in Asia! Can you tell me more about them?
Cacao actually grows 20 degrees North and South of the equator which means there is excellent quality cacao growing in Asia just that most people think that cacao/chocolate comes only from Europe, Africa or parts of Central/South America.
According to research done by Oxfam, cacao farmers only receive 3% of the retail price of the chocolate bar. So these guys work extremely hard for very little. We don’t think that’s fair, so we source our cacao beans directly from the farmers, which allows us to build relationships and pay them a higher price (by cutting out middle men). With the additional money, they can invest in new equipment, fertilisers, and other methods that could improve the farm. Less than a year of working with cacao farmers we are already seeing the impact of this – knowing that they are able to fetch a higher price producing better quality cacao, our partner farm in Sungai Ruan is already starting to invest new equipment to improve their produce.
Why did Benns decide to include cacao teas in your product range?
Most people don’t know this, but cacao is the raw ingredient to make chocolate. And if you look at the history of cacao and chocolate, it started off as something totally different from what it is now. Cacao is healthy, high in nutrients and antioxidants, and it was originally consumed as a drink. You may have heard of it, but it was also used as a currency.
So when we created our cacao tea, it was with the history of the cacao bean in mind. We wanted to make something healthy that was also true to its original form as a drink. Our cacao teas are also optimised for flavour and health content.
Can you tell me more about how cacao tea is made?
To make cacao tea, we take the cacao bean, roast it, and separate the husk and the nib; this is called cracking and winnowing. Most of the nibs are taken to make the chocolate bar, but we set aside some nibs to make the tea. The husk is normally thrown away, but it actually has a lot of flavour and healthy properties, so we send it to the lab for treatment with the nibs to make sure it’s hygienic.
There is some oil in the husk and nibs, so don’t be surprised if you see it in the cacao tea. This actually shows it’s natural!
Cool! Are there any other interesting facts about cacao that most people don’t know about?
Most fruits only have one or two colours, but cacao fruit is the most colourful fruit in the world. There’s a whole rainbow of colours and I feel that this makes them the most beautiful fruit in the world. That said, the colours don’t affect the taste of the chocolate – it’s the varietal, terroir and making process that play the biggest roles.
Do you have any tips on how to make the perfect cup of cacao tea?
Yes, to make cacao tea, we recommend you use 90-degree water and steep for at least three minutes to allow the flavours to fully develop. If you feel that it’s not sweet enough, you can add a little honey as well.
Are there any exciting new plans for the near future?
In line with our company mission to help Asian farmers, we will be adding three more origins for the chocolate – Anaimalai (India), Calinan (Philippines), Lampang (Thailand). We are very excited to continue making Asian chocolate accessible to everyone while helping the farmers.
Cacao Tea (Sungai Ruan): Grown in Malaysia, this cacao tea is supposed to be sweet and chocolatey, just like the bar!
As part of this brand spotlight, , enjoy 20% off all Benn’s products at teapasar.com, with the code “CHOCFULLOFLOVE”. Valid until 23:59, 18th February, 2019. Benns’ chocolates can be purchased at NomadX.