Cocoa tea, Cocoa Tea, candied pumpkin, and cattle

We’re deep in preparation for tomorrow’s Mama Ganache Halloween now. Tom made cocoa tea this morning.


Last weekend at Central Coast Bioneers, we saw a delightful sequence about cocoa tea in Kum-Kum Bhavnani’s wonderful film Nothing Like Chocolate. Yesterday evening we researched it  and came upon this 2008 Obama song by Cocoa Tea:

It’s sad how much less enthusiastic we are this election.

Chocolate tea is a popular drink throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America, wherever cacao grows. What goes into it varies from place to place. It’s the drink made from those cocoa balls, sticks or lumps of roughly milled chocolate you can buy there. Sometimes there’s milk added, or condensed milk, sometimes not; usually it’s made cinnamon, bay leaves, and sugar, sometimes with nutmeg and allspice, in places it’s thickened with corn and served as breakfast, in others spiked with rum. Chocolate already induces happiness. Chocolate tea sounds absolutely enchanting.

So this afternoon Tom boiled cinnamon sticks and some bay leaves from our garden in a big pot. Then he threw in a pan of roasted nibs he’d made: Cameroonian beans chopped up in the food processor, hulls winnowed away by window fan set in a flower box on our deck. Finally he grated in some of a chocolate stick someone brought us from Cusco, in Peru. Since then it’s been simmering and filling the house with an astounding wonderful aroma.

In the morning we drove out to Gopher Glen the Prefumo Canyon way, high over the hills – from the top you look down on Cerro San Luis, down on Bishop’s Peak, Hollister, the whole line of the Morros. The peak of the hill is very treacherous, barely two cars wide with no turnouts or places to pull over, which is appropriate, given what a tumble anyone in the slightest accident could have. It’s a long, slow ride, 11 miles or so, quite a few dirt road – one of those little winding California roads that haven’t become part of the rest of the world for good reason.

A  little over the top, just into the See Canyon side, we did pull the car over and stop the best we could. Fortunately, that part of the road allowed for it, because coming toward us at a good pace was a herd of cattle being driven up the road by two cowboys on horses. No kidding. The cattle came right up to the hood of our car before they realized there was a way around. Then they all rushed by. They were huge. Lily Bear couldn’t believe it either. (Lost opportunity for a great picture, but my phone was at home.)

A few miles later, we tasted the apples being sampled at Gopher Glen and brought home 10 lbs of Fujis, a few gallons of apple cider for tomorrow, and a small pumpkin that Tom is candying as I write. It’s for the chocolate cake  he’s working on right now. I’ll post a picture of the cake – which will be spectacularly delicious and beautiful, a burst of Tom’s unique creativity – when I can.

He’s doing it in the chocolate kitchen while he oversees his current batch of chocolate being made in the new mill. I’m not sure if he’s using the Ecuadorian or Peruvian beans he has or if it’s the Cameroonian ones that went into the chocolate tea, but the plan is to have some bean to bar chocolate to sample tomorrow.

All very exciting. I can’t wait to see the cake!