Cocoa is among the world’s oldest beverages that only recently was sweetened into a kids drink. Crio Bru brings back the old-world favorite as a grown-up drink, providing an alternative to coffee for an eye-opening boost.
Coffee beans are harvested from plantations around the world, roasted, ground, and brewed into a beverage that’s sipped, sucked, or guzzled by everybody except Mormons, some Brits, and ulcer patients. It serves as a fuel source for the entire media industry, rivaling the sun and oxygen for importance in many of my colleague’s lives.
I don’t drink coffee for religious reasons, and that leaves me at a distinct disadvantage on long backpacking trips. Coffee is warm and light weight. It’s not packed with sugar and other junk. It’ll keep you regular when most trail food acts like intestinal super glue.
I used to carry hot cocoa packets but the only real benefit they offer is warmth. It’s mostly sugar and non-dairy creamer. It’s not helpful when you’re squatting above a cat hole and it’s certainly not good for your health.
The solution, is a very, very old product made new. Crio Bru is nothing more than cocoa beans—ground and roasted, then brewed into a beverage that I sip, suck, and guzzle.
It’s the original form of hot cocoa. I’m not talking about the first round of Nestlé’s packets or even the melted chocolate in steamed milk that predated that. I’m talking about ancient America old, Aztecs before the conquistadors old. An important commodity in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, Cocoa was the third member of the holy trinity of hot beverages growing up alongside coffee and tea.
Somewhere along the way it became a kid’s drink and got tucked into a too-sweet, processed packet losing its ancient, robust awesomeness.
Crio Bru: Roasted Ground Cocoa Beans
Since Crio Bru is just ground and roasted cocoa beans, it has roughly the same calories as coffee — 10 if you take it black.
Depending on your perspective, the fact that it’s virtually caffeine-free may be great news or it may cause you to stop reading and go pour a fourth cup of joe.
For those of you still with me, cocoa (and therefore chocolate) contains a chemical called theobromine that’s related to caffeine but has some minor differences from it’s more familiar kin. It’s less habit-forming and doesn’t cause the harsh energy spike or jitters. It does give you a boost but it’s more gradual, long-lasting energy.
Crio Bru Review
Crio Bru tastes like chocolate. Good chocolate. Real chocolate. It’s not a candy flavor unless you add sugar and syrups, but rather a hearty richness with undertones of fruit and spices. Like coffee, each area’s beans have distinct flavor notes and can be influenced by local vegetation and soil conditions.
Crio Bru owner Eric Durtschi travels around the world to buy cocoa beans direct from the farmers to ensure a quality product and ethical sourcing.
During a month-long project in Peru, I had the opportunity to taste cocoa that was so recently removed from the tree that calling it “fresh” isn’t enough. It was new, virginal, perfect. Crio Bru is the closest thing I’ve found to that experience.
Its current lineup features beans sourced from six countries — Peru, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Ghana, Nicaragua, and Ivory Coast — and I’ve gotten to sample them all. Ghana Light Roast is my favorite but there’s no wrong answer.
How To Brew Cocoa
The brewing process is similar to coffee. In fact, you can use the same tools. Cocoa can’t really be over-brewed, so the longer it sits, the stronger it gets. On the trail, I use the MSR WindBurner with the French press attachment, and at home, I use the new Bobble insulated press/infuser. If you’re into dripping, percolators, or k-cups — they all work too. When I really need a fix, I just pour the grounds in hot water to make what I call Cowboy Crio.
For some, it’s a replacement beverage — taking the place of coffee or hot cocoa. For others, it’s just another option. Most of my friends have come to the conclusion that it’s best mixed half-and-half with coffee grounds, then brewed into a sort of black mocha.
Crio Bru retails for $10.95/10oz. bag and is available at CrioBru.com, various specialty grocers, and Amazon.