“Brewed Cocoa” seems to be a bit of a thing right now. The idea is simple; make a cocoa drink in the same way you’d usually make coffee. So rather than use chocolate or cocoa powder, you simply let cocoa nibs (and sometimes shells) infuse in hot water.
British bean-to-bar maker Duffy has been producing a cocoa infusion using the papery shell of the cocoa bean for some time and I recently wrote about Mast Brothers brewed cocoa, which uses finely ground cocoa nibs.
Crio Brü is a brewed cocoa drink you can make at home, either in a French Press or a coffee maker. Made from finely ground whole cocoa beans (both nibs and shells as far as I can tell), it comes in 340g pouches that cost £12-£13 each.
The Crio Brü were kind enough to send me four different varieties to try, along with a French Press to make them in. Simply put a couple of tablespoonfuls into the press, add hot water, stir and leave to steep before serving.
Crio Brü recommends steeping for 8-12 minutes, but in practice I found that a little too long. Having had brewed cocoa drinks in the past, the thing I noticed immediately about Crio Brü was just how finely ground the beans are. This is really important as a finer grind means a higher surface area and a quicker, fuller brew. I prefer a lighter cocoa drink, so for my tastes 5 minutes was enough.
The other thing that comes through right away is that the beans are roasted quite heavily. I’m sure that’s a deliberate attempt to appeal to coffee drinkers who like that fuller roasted flavour, but I would have preferred something a little more gentle. That said, each variety had its own characteristics and flavour.
I added a spoonful of sugar to each cup, which I suggest doing just to take the bitter edge off the drink.
This one has the most interesting and complex flavours, but also the highest roast. There are some great fruity notes in this Venezuelan cacao, but the high roast means it just tastes burnt to me. I’d love a lighter roast version of this one.
Cocoa River Ecuador
A less complex cacao, but the slightly lower roast makes this my favourite of the group. I’d still prefer a slightly lower roast, but this one makes a really quite pleasant pick-me-up.
Cavalla Ivory Coast
Simple, chocolatey flavours with a slightly bitter roasted edge that a little sugar helps to even out. Quite coffee-like in flavour.
Cavalla Ivory Coast French Roast
A higher roast version of the Ivory Coast drink. For me, the most interesting aspect of this one is just how much like a roasted coffee it tastes.
All in all, I love the idea of Crio Brü, but I’d like to see some varieties with milder roasts before I’d buy it myself. I could add more sugar or a little milk to my drinks, but personally I love the natural flavours in cacao and I’d rather not cover them up.
If you’re into coffee with a strongly roasted flavour and want to try something a bit different, you’ll almost certainly love them though. Brewed cocoa is definitely the future!