When I first heard about Chocolate Tea I was confused. Why wouldn’t you just call it hot chocolate? After seeing it made I realized why it’s called Chocolate Tea. First, let me explain Jamaican tea a bit. Tea is to Jamaicans as Coffee is to Americans from Seattle. Before I married a Jamaican I wasn’t the biggest tea drinker, but I have no choice but to be one now. I still enjoy my coffee, but I have to go out of my way for it. Tea here is a morning drink, but like in America people also drink it throughout the day. The herbal teas are called bush teas (Yes, they literally come from the bushes outside your house). More on bush teas in later posts, but for now the most important thing to understand about Jamaican tea is that it is commonly made like loose leaf herbal tea. This is why I thought that Chocolate Tea is called “Chocolate Tea” and not Hot Chocolate because the cocoa in it is grated and steeped similar to loose leaf herbal teas. As it turns out it’s really just called Chocolate tea because Jamaicans call all hot drinks that aren’t coffee tea.
I heard about chocolate tea for years before I actually got to taste it, so I was anxious to see what the big deal was. Turns out real Chocolate Tea can only be made from the cocoa that is grown here, and further you have to have someone make it into a ball or stick. The process to make a cocoa ball/stick is arduous and done by hand. Even when you have the cocoa ball/stick there is no guarantee that Chocolate can be made properly. There seems to be a direct correlation between age of the preparer and taste. A few years ago when we lived in New York we got a cocoa ball from Jamaica. It sat there for a long time before my husband (Omar) had the courage to attempt it. Since then I’ve tasted both Omar’s and his mother’s (Ms. Faye). Ms Faye’s was infinitely better, and I’m told by Omar that his grandmother (Ms. Phyllis) makes it the best [read: grandmothers make everything better].
Once I finally got to taste of the real version of chocolate tea I realized why it was so special. Not only does it taste amazing, but it’s a special treat. People mostly make it on cold days [read: rainy days in December]. Because people don’t make it all the time, when you get it you instantly feel like you’re on holiday. I’m working on trying to make it a Christmas morning tradition in our family, and hopefully one day soon I’ll get to try Ms. Phyllis’ :)
Here are the basic steps. Hopefully one day you’ll come to Jamaica and try some at Woolery Kitchen…