Chef Priscilla Soligo is the founder and co-director at Raiz The Bar, Hong Kong's Local Chocolate Makers. As a graduate of Matthew Kenney Culinary Academy (USA), Elaina Love’s Pure Joy Culinary Academy (USA) and Ecole Chocolat Professional School of Chocolate Arts (Canada), she was formerly one of the pioneers in the raw food/ plant based movement in Hong Kong with her education based company Rawthentic Food.
Chef ‘P’ set out to create pure real chocolate without the junk, fillers and the sugar rollercoaster for her young children and nieces. She was hard pressed however, to find an unadulterated chocolate bar with a high cacao content without hidden nasties that wasn’t bitter, or gritty - basically, chocolate the whole family could enjoy!
With a passion for real food and all things eco, Priscilla chose to focus on the art of small batch chocolate making, instead of melting ready made couverture, or using powder so that she could have more control over how the chocolate is processed and what has gone into it. “The genetics, terroir, climate, soil, harvesting, fermentation, drying, conching (stone grinding) of the beans all affect the final flavour and texture of our chocolate.”
She later teamed up with her sister and best friend, Rachel Whitfield, a graduate of The Institute of Integrative Nutrition (USA, NYC) and fitness trainer who is co-director at Raiz The Bar.
Together, they make family trips to Indonesia for co-op farm visits in support of sourcing organic sustainable and ethically grown cacao. As an environmentally and socially responsible business, these Sydney Australian sisters employ earth friendly biodegradable/ compostable packaging using vegetable based inks. Their integrity, ethics and healthy lifestyle is rooted in their daily life living in Hong Kong as devoted mothers and business owners.
"We are a small family business run with a big heart. My sister and I 'Raiz The Bar' by creating delicious innovative chocolate that is good for you and our planet. Our chocolate makes us and our kids feel good - so much love and care goes into every bar we make."
We believe that taking someone’s word for an ingredient is simply not enough today. We prefer to build relationships and wherever possible visit the source of our organic cacao as a family, so our children also understand how and where Theobroma cacao is grown, harvested, fermented and dried. Integrity and social responsibility is at the core ethos of how we run our business.
From our ethical and sustainable sourcing, to our low temperature 'responsibly raw' chocolate making process, to our earth friendly packaging - we don't cut any corners. We only support ethical practises and genuinely care about bringing you the worlds most delicious and nutritious chocolate.
Our goal is simply this, to ‘Raiz The Bar’ by creating playfully innovative yet seriously delicious chocolate that is good for you, good for our planet and enjoyed by everyone.
We strive to use only the purest, most nutritiously dense, ethically sourced ingredients. Other than the Fleur de Sel sea salt (which cannot be certified organic as it comes from the ocean), ALL of our ingredients are USDA Certified Organic and ACO (Australian Certified Organic). We choose to use only Certified Organic ingredients because such farming practises promote ethical, sustainable and healthy working environments for the farmers throughout the supply chain, while providing the purest most nutrient dense of ingredients for our customers. We are also fully certified vegan, paleo and kosher (please click on links below to learn more.)
Our commitment as a company to choose environmental and sustainable practises extends to our packaging. We consciously source suppliers that are committed to using renewable plant-based products that have minimal environmental impact. Our outer box is FSC certified, biodegradable and is made from post-consumer waste product. It is printed with earth-friendly vegetable based inks. Our inner clear film packaging is completely 100% compostable and is actually a translucent plant-based film, a new technology bio-product called NatureFlex. Sure, this costs more, but by choosing to 'Raiz The Bar' we also do our best to take responsibility for our products' environmental impact.
The word ‘raw’ has become controversial among chocolate makers, and for very good reason. Not all chocolate is created equally. There are often hidden misconceptions as to the essential process of chocolate making, many of which do not adhere to so called ‘raw’ standards. As a result, consumers are often misled by a myriad of raw marketing and misrepresentations. We choose to be transparent by educating consumers on the true process of chocolate making, and responsibly defining ‘raw’ as it applies to Raiz The Bar chocolate.
Raw food implies the dietary practise of eating mostly plant-based, uncooked, unprocessed foods in their natural state. The raw food movement, in short, believes that temperatures of approximately 47.7C/ 118F (or less, depending on your opinion) is said to preserve enzymatic activity in the food and maximise nutrition.
Similar to the confusion over ‘raw’ is the misleading marketing catch phrase ‘sugar free,’ when in fact a ‘healthier’ sweetener may have been added to a product. While there are sweeteners that have lower impact to no impact on blood sugar levels, there are many so called ‘healthy’ sweeteners that react in the body like sugar, so the use of the terms ‘no added sugar,’ or ‘sugar free’ when an additional sweetener has been added is a misnomer. Equally, most sweeteners to include maple syrup, yacon syrup and coconut nectar go through an evaporation/ reduction process which employs the addition of heat, so most ‘natural’ sweeteners cannot be classified as being 'raw'. In all of our bars we use highly mineralised coconut blossom nectar which is low glycemic, sustainably sourced (from Indonesia) and a truly natural sweetener from the flower blossoms of the coconut palm.
Unlike our USDA/ACO Certified Organic, Vegan and Paleo certifications, raw food does not have a certifying body and therefore the word ‘raw’ is often misused by many well-meaning producers who do not understand the process and physics of chocolate making. Makers can only have control over this process when they start from a traceable supply chain that begins from the whole bean as opposed to using ready-made couverture or, processed powder.
Chocolate making is a complex journey of several processes using numerous processing equipment each involving varying degrees of heat transfer all of which are essential to the finished product - the beloved chocolate bar. From the raw fruit theobroma cacao growing on the tree with its fruit seeds (cacao beans) inside of the sweet white fruity mucilage to the finished bar, there are indeed many hands involved.
We coined the term 'responsibly raw' to help explain our processes to our consumers. To be ‘responsibly raw’ we use minimally evasive and low temperature processes during the journey from bean to bar. This is the process our beans undergo:
To this end, chocolate doesn't meet the raw 'unprocessed' criteria, however without these critical processes which enhance complex flavour profiles of the beans along the way, cacao could never taste like the chocolate we all know and love.
From our family annual farm visits to the Co-op where we directly source our ingredients, to our chocolate factory our cacao is processed at low temperatures. We are further able to ensure that our organic cacao is sustainably and ethically grown without the use of child labour and where farmers are paid proper wages for their efforts.
At the end of the day whether we call ourselves pure, cold-processed, virgin, unadulterated, or raw what is paramount here is the transparency of our low temperature processing and the traceability throughout the supply chain that we as a manufacture can verify so that consumers are educated and thus can make honest and informed choices.
While the word ‘raw’ for us in part refers to not roasting our beans and the very low temperatures in which our chocolate is processed at more importantly for us, it refers to the raw purity of real organic chocolate without the refined sugar, dairy, gluten, soy, tree nuts, peanuts and fillers that are found in most commercial chocolate today. We create chocolate that is playfully innovative and seriously delicious while being good for you and our planet. That’s what makes Raiz The Bar different.