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Does anybody know whether the Valrhona's sublime cocoa powder is dutch-process? I know Scharffen Berger & Hershey make natural cocoa powder, but in light of new reports that dutch-process decreases cocoa's flavanols...I need to know about my Valrhona!

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Susie:

I did a quick Google search on 'valrhona cocoa powder' and followed this link to Chocosphere.

There it says that the powder is Dutch processed. I would not be surprised to find, however, given that Valrhona is a big company, that they make a "natural" cocoa powder.

As for Scharffen Berger and Hershey. Neither of them actually make their own cocoa powder. On the Scharffen Berger factory tour in Berkeley (at least the one I took) they freely admit that they buy their cocoa powder. They just won't tell you who from. Also, Hershey is no longer a cocoa processor. They farmed the last of those jobs off in 2006 to a number of companies who deliver finished chocolate that Hershey makes into finished candy.

I don't know the application you're thinking about for the cocoa powder but, IMO, the concern is misplaced because the way antioxidant capacity in cocoa and chocolate is characterized is bad science. The simplest example is to note that antioxidant levels (expressed as ORAC) are baselined against "dark chocolate" yet no one knows what dark chocolate means in this context. 70% total cocoa? 65%? 75% What ratio of butter:powder? What bean variety? In what soil were the beans grown? What level of fermentation? What level of roast?

Without knowing all of that, it makes no sense to worry about the loss of ORAC for a specific chocolate product through alkalization, which can run to 50% or more.

It's okay to use something just because it tastes good and not worry about not getting the antioxidants you need (and there is no RDA for flavanols) from fractions of a gram of cocoa powder.

:: Clay
I just sent you the article from Confectionery News that describes a study on alkalising cocoa from Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemistry. A lot of conflicting data in the chocolate world, so I know what you mean about the loose terminology of "dark chocolate" and "cocoa". Here's another good one - same publication reports a recent study from Virginia on seniors, sponsored by Hershey, that found chocolate actually contributes to hypertension. How can it be both good for the heart and bad??
One of the things that people forget is that every single one of us has a different metabolism. Our genes are unique and because of that, generalizations are just that: generalizations. Some people are sensitive to aspirin which can irritate the stomach and others aren't. Some people are sensitive to caffeine and others aren't. So it's not surprising that a research study finds that some people react negatively to substances in cocoa, including contributing to hypertension as the study you reference above states - where most people have the opposite reaction.

The question is not (as Herb alludes to below) whether or not the health benefits of cacao are overhyped, the question is, "Why are we so consumed with turning chocolate into a health food?" As far as I am concerned, chocolate is something that should be consumed in moderation. So - when I want to enjoy chocolate I find the best chocolate I can and simply enjoy it. I don't worry about the fat and the calories so much, and I don't worry whether or not whoever made the chocolate went out of their way to maximize the polyphenol and flavanol content.

For me, the health aspect is a little added bonus - it is not a reason to eat chocolate. If I were truly concerned with the health aspects I would find a way to consume lightly fermented raw cacao, probably by drinking it. Several cups made with water every day.
TSOR doesn't show up a Valrhona unprocessed cocoa.
Don't dismiss dutch-processed cocoa though -it certainly has its place; it's better for hot cocoa since it dissolves better in water, and has a milder taste - good for coating truffles when you don't want your eaters to go into a coughing fit.

I agree with Clay though - flavanols in chocolate are overhyped. Sorry folks, chocolate, while always good for you, will never be a health food, IMO.

/H.
Oh, ye of little flavanoid faith!! The gods have given us another reason to rejoice in chocolate (health possibilities) in addition to the ones you so rightly mention (flavor/texture/pleasure). For a conversion possibility, check out this video link from a professor who conducted studies at UC Davis on how cacao flavanoids work and call me in the morning!

http://stream.ucanr.org/Nutrition/nutrition_flavanols.html

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