In today's world, wellness, nutrition, and health are top priorities. As we strive for better health, we're constantly searching for new and delicious ways to achieve it. One beverage that is gaining popularity amongst health enthusiasts is tea infused with cocoa. These two ancient beverages have rich histories as cherished ceremonial drinks and traditional healing remedies. This article explores the powerful health properties of a delicious and nutritious tea and cocoa combination.
All About Cacao, Cocoa, Chocolate & Tea
Cacao, cocoa, chocolate, and tea are similar in taste and can have robust, nutty, and smokey undertones. All of them are delightful, satisfying, and healthy drinks you can sip throughout the day. They do an excellent job of pleasing our indulgent nature. However, these drinks are vastly different in many ways. Let's break down the differences between cacao, cocoa, chocolate, and tea.
Cacao: The Original Bean
The terms cocoa and cacao are used interchangeably and can be easily confused because both products come from the seeds of the fruit of the same plant - theobroma cacao tree. The most significant difference between cocoa and cacao is that cacao is more "raw" because it undergoes little processing.
The cacao beans are dried, fermented, and roasted over very low heat to remove the fatty part of the cacao bean from the cacao husks. What's left of the cacao bean is either ground into a powder, cut up into nibs, or left as whole beans and eaten on its own. You can use the powder to make chocolate-flavored cakes, cookies, and cereal. Or add it to a cup of warm milk as a delicious drink.
Even the discarded cacao husks are put to good use and transformed into cacao tea. You make this drink by boiling the cacao husks in hot water to make a strong brew similar in taste to hot chocolate. Some of the potential health benefits of cacao tea are better bone health, reduced risk of diabetes, and lower blood pressure.
Cocoa: The Heart of Everything Chocolate
Your chocolate cravings are all thanks to cocoa. This finely ground powder and a few other ingredients are the foundation for all the chocolate products you love. Cocoa powder is made similarly to cacao, but the cocoa beans are roasted over high heat to quickly bring out a sweet flavor instead of using low heat.
Even though cocoa products, like cocoa powder, go through slightly more processing than cacao, they still offer a generous supply of beneficial compounds like flavonoids and antioxidants. These compounds are responsible for health benefits such as better cardiovascular health, a quick energy boost, and better cognitive function. And don't let the bitterness of 100% cocoa fool you. It can transform into some of the most delicious treats on the planet. One of our favorite cocoa-infused delights is combining it with tea leaves to elevate the brew's flavor and health properties.
Chocolate: From Chocolate Bars to Hot Chocolate
It is almost impossible to go anywhere in the world without finding something made of chocolate. You can find that delicious chocolate taste we all know so well in an endless list of products like chocolate bars, hot chocolate, and chocolate ice cream. Making chocolate is a relatively simple process. You start with the base foundation of cocoa powder and then add cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and sugar. Easy peasy!
Dark chocolate may have a bitter taste, but it is the healthiest chocolate choice because it contains fewer other ingredients and more cocoa. Dark chocolate also contains flavonoids which provide several health benefits. It can reduce insulin resistance for people with diabetes and even boost health to reduce the risk of heart disease. Milk chocolate typically has fewer health benefits because it contains less cocoa and more other ingredients, including milk solids, cocoa butter, and sweeteners. If you need a healthier chocolate tea fix with more beneficial nutrients, stick with dark chocolate or cocoa tea blends.
Tea: A Beverage Steeped in History
Tea originated in China around 2737 BC. Since that first discovery, this world-renowned beverage has traveled the globe, been part of ceremonies, used in traditional healing, and enjoyed in many different ways. Whether you prefer a cup of matcha tea, a sweet English Breakfast, or add sugar and milk to make a Chai latte, tea is versatile, full of flavor, and loaded with many health benefits for a healthy diet.
Derived from the Camellia sinensis plant, tea comes in two main versions black and green tea. Under this black and green tea umbrella are endless tea and tea blend varieties. Black tea leaves undergo the most processing, such as drying and oxidization, to retain their smokey flavor and dark color. At the same time, green teas like sencha and matcha undergo less oxidization and drying for a pleasant earthy flavor and bright yellow-green color.
Black and green tea both contain powerful health benefits. Green tea can improve mental alertness, relieve headaches, and help with weight loss while improving your skin's condition. Black teas help reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and improve focus.
If you want the most health benefits, compounds, and cocoa flavanols from your chocolate tea taste sensation, choose a blend that uses less processing and more natural ingredients.
A Tale of Two Antioxidant Powerhouses: The Top Health Benefits of Cocoa-infused Tea
Their combined high antioxidant levels are at the core of cocoa and tea's several health benefits. Cocoa contains abundant flavonoids, including flavonols. These healthy compounds provide the body with beneficial antioxidant properties. They also combat oxidative stress in the body and help reduce the risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. Let's jump in and look at the numerous health benefits of combining tea with cocoa.
#1. Reduced Blood Pressure
Cocoa, cacao, and dark chocolate may help lower blood pressure because they improve the blood's nitric oxide levels. One of the first discoveries of this effect came from studying the island people of Central America who regularly drank cacao. They had lower blood pressure than their mainland relatives who didn't drink cacao. At the same time, another study suggests that people who consumed 0.05–3.7 ounces of cocoa products containing roughly 30–1,218 mg of flavanols saw a significant reduction in blood pressure.
Tea, especially black tea, is also great for lowering blood pressure and improving blood flow. Studies show that drinking black tea for over seven days significantly reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Combining tea and cocoa may help increase healthy blood flow, improve blood vessel function, and help regulate blood pressure levels.
#2. Rich in Polyphenols
Polyphenols are potent antioxidants in vegetables, fruits, red wine, chocolate, cacao, cocoa, and tea. These antioxidant effects have numerous health benefits, like reduced inflammation, lower blood pressure, lower "bad" (LDL) cholesterol levels, and improved blood sugar levels.
Cocoa and tea are one of the richest sources of polyphenols and flavanols, and together they contain fantastic antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Adding cocoa-infused tea to a healthy daily routine of exercise and a diet of fresh foods will give you a healthy dose of these compounds for a healthy lifestyle and overall well-being.
#3. Lower Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke
In addition to reduced blood pressure, cocoa and cacao may contribute to a lower risk of heart attack and stroke while promoting better heart health. Rich in flavonol, cocoa helps improve the level of nitric oxide in the blood. When this happens, it relaxes and dilates the arteries and blood vessels, improving blood flow.
Research shows that cocoa may also help reduce "bad" LDL cholesterol levels because it thins the blood like aspirin does. Cocoa also decreases insulin resistance and reduces inflammation, a contributing factor to a heart attack or stroke.
Tea, especially green tea, is naturally loaded with polyphenols. These compounds can help improve the function of the arteries allowing them to dilate properly with less constriction. Polyphenols may also help regulate good cholesterol levels protecting the heart from inflammation and clotting.
#4. Better Brain Function and Health
That hot cup of cocoa-infused tea may help reduce the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases like dementia and Alzheimer's by improving blood flow to the brain. Since flavonols can affect nitric oxide production, relaxing the blood vessels and improving blood flow, your blood supply to the brain is also enhanced. One study showed that adults given high-flavonol cocoa increased blood flow to the brain by 8% after only one week of consumption.
And tea is just as beneficial to brain health. A 2017 study indicated that people who drank green tea had better cognitive and brain function and a more relaxed mood. The compounds in tea, such as caffeine, L-theanine, and theobromine, are responsible for giving the brain a gentle push for alertness and focus while reducing mental fog.
#5. Great For Weight Loss
Chocolate bars and candies are loaded with a ton of sugar and are not good if you're on a weight loss program. However, cocoa or cacao tea is! Cocoa may help regulate how much energy you use. It does this by reducing your appetite and the inflammation in the body while increasing fat oxidization and making you feel full.
Researchers found a link between those who frequently consumed cocoa and having a lower BMI, despite cocoa products like chocolate potentially having more calories and fat. One weight-loss study shows that participants who consumed 42 grams of cocoa chocolate daily had faster weight-loss results than those on a regular diet.
A cup of tea is also a great way to achieve weight loss goals. Tea is naturally caffeinated and sugar-free, and some studies suggest that caffeine may help boost your energy, causing you to burn more calories. And the flavonoid in tea called catechins boosts your metabolism and quickly breaks down fat cells.
#6. Anti-Cancer Properties
Flavonols are flavonoids found in fruit, vegetables, coffee, red wine, and other foods like tea and cocoa and are essential to supporting human health. Flavonoids have become a hot topic for medical researchers because they contain anti-cancer properties with few adverse side effects. And cocoa has the highest concentration of flavonoids out of any food item per weight.
Studies show that the antioxidant effects in cocoa may help protect cells against damage from free radicals. These antioxidants also help inhibit cancer cell growth, promote cancer cell death, boost the immune system, fight inflammation, and reduce cancer risk. What's more, tea contains powerful antioxidants that offer the same protection against free radicals while protecting and boosting the immune system.
Skip The Hot Chocolate! Cocoa Tea is a Healthier Dessert Drink
Living a healthy lifestyle is something most people strive for. But healthy doesn't have to taste bad! The highly satisfying cocoa/tea combination is a great alternative to your morning cup of coffee. It has less caffeine than coffee, so you'll get a nice energy boost without those unnecessary caffeine jitters.
It's a unique blend of flavors and nutrients that delights the senses and provides you with benefits like better heart health, low blood pressure, energy, and weight loss. All it takes is a little hot water and a few minutes to steep to create a magical warm, inviting drink. Explore these fantastic blends here for the best of cocoa and tea!