Nibs: They Need Love, Too.
I've heard cacao nibs referred to as nature’s chocolate chips. Ummm . . . chocolate chips they are not. Anyone I’ve seen taste cacao nibs for the first time usually gets a confused look on their face. They assume that because nibs come from the cacao tree, the nibs, like chocolate, should be sweet to some extent. Cacao nibs do have an unexpectedly bitter taste, particularly if you're about to toss them back under the impression that they are similar to chocolate chips.
BUT, nibs are fabulous, and a necessary addition to every kitchen.
For starters, cacao nibs are pieces of the cacao bean before that bean gets completely processed and blended with other ingredients to make chocolate. Cacao nibs start out as part of the cacao pods that grow on the Theobroma cacao tree (Greek for “food of the gods”). Inside the cacao pods are seeds or cacao beans. Cacao nibs are pieces of fermented, dried, roasted, and ground cacao beans.
Doesn't sound very sexy, hunh? Hang on.
Cacao was worshipped by the Mayans, who believed the cacao tree to be a gift from the gods. The nibs are said to be loaded with antioxidants, contain fiber, and are packed with minerals such as magnesium and iron. Cacao also contains theobromine, which is a natural stimulant, along like lines of caffeine, but less powerful. Cacao even has been known to be a mood-enhancer. (No brainer. Can you be sad while eating chocolate? And if even you were sad when you started eating chocolate, you can’t stay sad for long, can you?) So yes, of course you can understand why cacao was worshipped. Unfortunately, cacao nibs don’t get as much credit as they're due, always taking the backseat to chocolate.