Goodbye Cream & Sugar, Hello Cacao
Coffee and chocolate, dare I say, an even better combination than peanut butter and jelly? Once you know the health benefits of combining the two, you might think the same.
Before we get started let’s define the difference between cocoa and cacao powder. Cocoa powder is traditionally used in baking when chocolate flavor is needed. It’s made by using fermented and roasted cacao beans and then processed at a high temperature. The high heat exposure causes to cocoa to lose some of it’s nutritional content, but makes it less bitter. Cacao powder is made from only fermented cacao beans but not roasted, and processed at much lower temperatures before being ground into powder. The lower level of heat exposure means cacao hangs onto more of it’s nutritional content, but has a more bitter flavor.
How Coffee & Cacao Make Beautiful Music Together
Both coffee and cocoa are loaded with antioxidants know as polyphenols, and together they work even better. Just a few grams, roughly a teaspoon, of undutched (non-alkalized) cacao power is all you need. Make sure to get the undutched powder, like this, since the alkalization process robs the powder of some of it’s nutritional goodies. Two phytochemicals found in cacao, theobromine and epicatechin, bind to adenosine and benzodiazepine receptors in the body. These chemicals aid in calming anxiety, and improve mood, motivation and cognition. These chemicals combat the anxiety producing effects of coffee while enhancing attention and focus. Basically, they numb the negative aspects of coffee while enhancing the good ones. Plus, it tastes amazing, it’s a win-win for you taste buds and brain. I like to mix mine in with my hand held frother. Be warned, you’ll need an oversized mug to mix in so you don’t spill over the sides.
Quality Coffee Only
Not all coffee is created equally, so to get the best effects, you need the proper coffee. Chlorogenic acid (CGA) is the rock star of the many antioxidants found in coffee. However, CGA levels differ based on where the bean is grown and how it’s roasted. Coffees from Kenya, Columbia and Ethiopia all test high for CGA. These countries are all close to the equator and the coffee is grown at high altitudes, which spurs CGA production within the bean. Light and medium roasts coffees contain more CGA than dark roasts. The high temperature of the dark roast process destroys the CGA within. Caffeinated coffee also has more CGA than decaf. Flavored coffees are a poor choice as well, since they typically use lower quality beans. (1)
National brands such as Dunkin’ Donuts Original Blend and McCafé Premium Decaf Medium Roast are two of the best options for high CGA content. But don’t fret, as artisanal hand roasted coffees can have up to 50% more CGA than the big brands, so your local coffee roaster is good option, and will probably taste better anyway.
I drink a couple of cups of cacao infused coffee each morning. If you love coffee and chocolate as much as I do then this is right up your alley. Give it a shot and reap the delicious and healthy benefits for your next cup.