March 7, 2013

Food Experiment - The Mayan's Favorite Drink

Violet saw a book at the library about Mayan heiroglyphs and picked it out for us to read at home. She is very interested in early humans and ancient peoples, so this book really hit the spot for her. On one page, there is a side panel about "The Mayans' Favorite Drink", made from cacoa beans. Violet was keen to try it out, though you might not guess it from her expression the in above picture! I think she had just finished eating a raw cacao bean, which is an interesting experience if you have not tried it before.

The process for turning cacao beans into something edible involves fermenting them immediately after they are harvested. This makes them edible, and apparently they don't really taste like chocolate at all until after the fermentation. I could not easily locate unfermented cacao beans, so I got the next level intermediate product: dry, unroasted cacoa beans. These are sold as a "Superfood" these days, so they were easy to order from Amazon.

Working from the one line description in the book, we roasted them in a cast iron pan for a bit.

I think the rear pot is a batch of beef stock Becky was making that day. After roasting, we tried to pulverize them in a mortar.

We quickly noticed that they had a shell, which comes off easily after roasting, yielding what is commonly known as cacao nibs.

The nibs have an interesting flavor. Texture is sort of squeaky, a little like cork, and flavor is strong and bitter, rather like coffee in a way. Of course there is a strong component of chocolate flavor, but eating these is nothing like eating chocolate. Everyone enjoyed picking the shells off the roasted beans.

Next, we worked some of the shelled beans with the mortar and pestle for a while. At first, dry crumbs are produced, but with further grinding an oily, chocolatey paste develops, known as chocolate liqueur.

To make chocolate out of this, one would add sugar and any other ingredients, then mill until the particle size is down around 20um.

But instead, we made an attempt at the Mayans' Favorite Drink.

We put our few tablespoons of paste from the mortar into a canning jar, added a little vanilla, plus a spoonful of honey.

 ~250ml of boiling water was poured in, and the contents of the jar mixed well. The liquid was poured between jars in a vain attempt to make it more foamy (the pouring mostly failed to engender the desired effect).

Time for a taste test. What do the tasters think?

Hmm, first thing was to strain it to remove the gritty particles.

After that we just kept adding honey until everyone felt it was drinkable!

A fun experiment, but I must report that no one has been clamoring for more Mayans' Favorite Drink since then. We did roast up all the rest of the beans and I've been eating them at work a few at a time. They are strangely compelling when eaten with cofee, a banana, or together with some fine dark chocolate.


Peter Lappin said...

I've been eating cacao nibs for years, though they've gotten very expensive and they're very un-green. What a great and tasty experiment!

Holly Gates said...

I hadn't thought about the un-green aspect of cacoa/chocolate before. But of course you are right that any agricultural product from tropical regions that also support rainforest is a dicey proposition, environmentally speaking. A good reason to cut down on chocolate consumption in general.

This indeed was a fun experiment though!

Holly Gates said...

Claudia Glennan writes:

Wanted to comment on your favorite Mayan drink but with anything other than Wordpress Blogs, I have issues (can't open a Google account due to something my DH did/did not do on computer set up and although I thought I set up an Openid with Live Journal (and at Openid) nothing I do seems to work . Anyway, a few things that may be of interest:

1.We watched an "America Unearthed" episode recently (History2HD) on proving Mayans had a connection to the US (Georgia), convincing argument & interesting: mounds, temples, language, esp. chemical analysis proving pigment Mayan Blue derived from clay found in Georgia.

2. Chocolate drinks: we roast coffee but have not tried our own cacao beans, however we have purchased them from: (they are listed as organic and raw) We tried them after sending some to our son who was then a Marine in Afghanistan trying to say awake on long patrols (home safe & now in college in So Cal). FYI, There is also a product called Choffy (roasted & ground cacao- that we enjoy on occasion.
For "frothing chocolate try a Molinillo ( I received one this Christmas and it is fun to use.