UNSWEETENED CACAO TABLEA (DAVAO)
I am really grateful I was born in a country that not only has cacao trees growing in it (equator folks high five), but also has a cacao drinking culture. Drinking hot chocolate that is not of the Swiss Miss® variety is one of the greatest joys in life. Nothing beats sitting in your garden while the sunlight begins to trickle in, sipping from a cup of unctuous, luscious, chocolatey warmth whilst feeling superior to all the poor Starbucks hot cocoa drinkers of the world.
Anyway, our cacao tablea comes from our an agroforestry coop, and processed in our own fermentary (yes cacao beans are fermented when they are still covered in flesh or mucilage). All too often this very first step of processing is done hastily or not at all. Once the pods are broken open, we remove any visible insect damage or bad beans (brownish or clumped together). We then ferment the beans for about a week (this depends on the weather, humidity, amount of sugar in the pulp; there’s an art to it) and turn them to ensure even fermentation. We dry them in a clean, sanitary place, “agitating” and raking the, to be sure all sides of the beans dry, as prolonged sogginess can lead to overfermentation or mold growth. We use a raised solar dryer, not floor drying (seen birds and dogs poop on rice and things drying on the floor!). Once dry, we roast and grind the beans.
A lot of bad tablea experiences are because of woody or moldy beans. The former is annoying, the latter can actually be dangerous if you have an allergic reaction to it. We try to ensure that you have none of those. So, be picky with your tablea!
To prepare: There are many ways of preparing tablea, and this is one of them. You can measure out as much water or milk as you want in your drink. Pour it in a saucepan and cook over medium heat. Once it boils, drop the tablea in (1 or 2 pieces, it’s up to you), lower heat slightly, and stir continuously until no chunks are left. Allow to boil softly and remove from fire. Sweeten. Drink.
(Note: the white stuff that may appear on the surface of the tablea is cocoa butter that "blooms" because we don't temper our tablea like we do with chocolate bars)