How Do You Define Raw Chocolate?
Posted by Jeff Stern on May 22, 2017
I get lots of requests for raw cocoa beans or products, see lots of raw claims, and continue to wonder what the *&@* raw is…you probably do too. I’ve read that foods remain raw if the food has not been heated over 118°F, or 114°F. Supposedly this protects any naturally occurring enzymes as well as the nutritional value of the food. When it comes to chocolate, lower processing temperatures help preserve flavanoids and anti-oxidants. But to make even some of the most rudimentary chocolate products such as cocoa powder or butter, or even nibs, temperatures can and often do easily exceed these numbers.
Almost all cocoa beans, fermented or not, have probably been subject to temperatures over 114F. Have you ever tried laying out on a cement patio or roadside in the tropical sun? It gets pretty hot, and that pavement gets even hotter. Cement is the standard floor for most drying patios, and the sun is the standard heat source. As well, anyone who claims they are overseeing the entire fermentation and harvesting process on the ground, or claims to have a supplier that does so and and clearly and regularly document the conditions of the beans is taking advantage of your naiveté.
I haven’t found any organization or person out there with bona fide credentials and qualifications, as well as recognized credibilty, who can tell us what raw is. Have you?
What I have found are numerous claims, some more ambiguous than others, about what raw is. Peruse these selections below:
- Wikipedia: Raw chocolate, often referred to as raw cacao, is always dark and a minimum of 75% cacao. Because the act of processing results in the loss of certain vitamins and minerals (such as magnesium), some consider raw cacao to be a more nutritious form of chocolate. Retrieved from Wikipedia:  ^The Raw Food Lifestyle: The Philosophy and Nutrition Behind Raw and Live Foods – Ruthann Russo. Google Books. 20 October 2009. Retrieved 21 April 2012.
- It’s our love for living food that keeps our chocolates free from added sugar, dairy and artificial ingredients, and guides our gentle processing techniques – we never use temperatures above 42 C (114F) – which means that the nutritional goodness of cacao and all the other ingredients reaches you unspoiled by cooking. Retrieved http://www.therawchocolatecompany.com/allan_html_pages_new/why_is_our_organic_choc.htm September 15, 2012
- Why Raw? Good question. What it’s all about is essentially keeping more of the original nutritional benefits of the raw cacao bean in these chocolate bars as possible. So, in normal chocolate processing, there are stages such as roasting where the antioxidants and nutritients are reduced as they are heat sensitive. Raw chocolate attempts to process the cocoa more gently thereby keeping more benefits intact in the final product. The products in this unique shop continue the trend toward a healthier chocolate with the inclusion of ingredients such as probiotics and fruits, as well as the exclusion of unhealthy stuff such as refined sugar. We also have snack bars, pies and truffles for an alternative way to enjoy raw chocolate. Retrieved from http://www.therawchocolateshop.com/, September 15, 2012.
- Raw chocolate is a carefully chaotic celebration of life! Cunningly absent of sugar, dairy and additives, its the highest antioxidant food source we know. All the ingredients are in their natural state – crafted at low temperatures to keep the flavor, nutrients and vitality of this celebrated food alive and buzzing.Retried from: http://www.fineandraw.com/raw, September 15, 2012.
I haven’t heard anyone claim they’re using unfermented, truly raw beans-probably no one is because they’re nearly unpalatable and inedible-hard to find as well. If they are using fermented beans, it’s very likely that the beans have been raised to temperatures over 114F, either during fermentation or drying. So just what is raw? We’d love to hear your thoughts.
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