Raw chocolate makers want to change the way we think of our chocolatey treats. However, there’s a lot more to the story than unroasted cacao beans. While the process for raw chocolate is different in a significant way, the question remains – what do we mean when we say raw?
Even the best of high cacao count bars go through quite a bit of processing. Proponents of the raw approach claim that the roasting, fermentation and grinding of the cacao beans kill precious enzymes and deprive us of their benefits.
Raw chocolate is said to be high in minerals like magnesium, potassium, zinc, iron. More Vitamin B, protein and fiber are all arguments for keeping chocolate raw. Other claims include a healthier heart, better digestion, improved mental health and lower blood pressure.
Raw Chocolate gets Real
While all of raw chocolate benefits sound amazing, the issue is with the actual process each cacao bean needs in order to be edible. The cacao beans are collected from the pods, then spread out during fermentation. The beans warm up as they dry in the sun. Food is considered raw if it is processed below 118°C (48°C), but the fermentation alone can get the beans above standard mark.
After the fermentation, standard chocolate is roasted to control the flavor of the bean. The roasting process adds depth to create that dark, familiar flavor so many consumers love. Raw chocolate is unroasted or roasted at very low temperatures so as not to cross that 118°F line.
Despite all of these noble efforts, there is one major problem – the standards for raw foods of any kind are all unofficial. There is no regulation from the FDA that qualifies food as raw or cooked and no seal or certificate to show the consumer that the product hasn’t been cooked. While a company may say they’ve never cooked their cacao beans, this is purely their interpretation.
Raw chocolate makers can buy low-temperature machines for grinding and pressing after avoiding the roasting step. Though the chocolatiers monitor the process carefully, by the time all the phases have been completed, those beans simply can’t be raw anymore. However, one brand has a solution.
Raaka the Virgin Chocolate Bar
Frustrated with the pitfalls of not-quite-raw chocolate products that seemed to make impossible promises, two chocolatiers decided to try a new approach. Chocolate lovers and makers Nate Hodge and Ryan Cheney decided to work with unroasted beans. They work with the odd variations in flavor that the lack of roasting can leave in a bean. They refer to their unroasted and yet still processed beans as virgin chocolate.
“It’s about harnessing the flavor of the raw beans,” Hodge told author Megan Oiller in her book Bean to Bar. “We want to transport people.”
Oiller describes the many flavors that Hodge and Cheney have found within their unroasted beans. Everything from lemon to smoked chai has made an appearance in the Raaka company’s beans. Rather than try to control these tastes and flavors, the two chocolatiers decided to follow those unique tastes and enhance them and make their own raw chocolate.
Even the name Raaka is a Finnish word that has many meanings. It can mean “uncooked food” or it can be “a fresh wind in one’s face on a fall day”. Both Raaka the company and the word are open to interpretation, not set in stone and forever adjusting, growing and evolving.
Try some raw chocolate and decide for yourself if this is the product for you. Please comment below and tell us how you feel about raw chocolate, the word raw or a great bar that you’ve tried.
In the mean time, check out our article on Madagascar Chocolate and the family who brought this chocolate to the world.
Source: Bean-to-Bar Chocolate by Megan Giller