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:
- Fermentation: Certified organic cacao beans are fermented using a stair model, as opposed to the practice of being heaped into a pile that can easily take the temperature over 50C. The beans are moved around frequently on the wooden stairs so that the core temperature of the beans never exceed 40C. The high sugar content in the pulp favours the growth of yeasts which ferment sugars to ethyl alcohol in this anaerobic environment. Fermentation of the cacao beans is crucial to allow flavours to develop.
- Drying: The organic beans are placed into a large roaster for a very short period of time, whereby the air outside of the bean reaches a maximum temperature of 70C, (to prevent pathogens, bacteria and mould). The core temperature of the bean remains around 40 - 42C during this process due to their high moisture content. Each batch is then tested for health and safety requirements.
- Winnowing: This cracks and separates the husk from the nib. The broken inner beans, or ‘nibs’, is what is then turned into chocolate or couverture.
- Conching: This is done in a melanger or stone grinder. This greatly enhances our flavour profiles enabling the release of volatiles from the bean by reducing acidity. Additionally, particle size of the couverture is reduced down to small microns giving our chocolate a smooth mouth-feel. Keeping the speed of the process slow, we are always able to maintain the temperature of our chocolate well below 47C (usually around 42C max.) There is some debate over the instantaneous shear temperature under the stones, however any such temperature spike would be very short lived and the ‘core’ temperature of our resulting coverture is never compromised.
- Tempering: This is the process of taking the chocolate through a series of temperature increases and decreases in order to remove destabilising and promote stabilised cacao butter crystals. It is the formation of these stable crystals that give our chocolate the gorgeous crisp snap. This process is obviously temperature critical, and again it is always below the 47C guidance. Once in temper, we hand mix in our inclusions, hand adorn and hand package every single one our bars.
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.