The Chocolate Life

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Greetings Chocolate Lifers,

I have been enjoying so much rich information from perusing this website, the time has come for my debut contribution - a discussion on "Raw Chocolate". Now before everybody launches into this based on personal convictions of the "correct", "traditional", or "market standard" way of processing chocolate, let us take a moment to consider the nature of human knowledge and how it progresses through the ages, be it scientific breakthroughs or cultural/industrial practices pertaining to food handling, and how the accepted assumptions of one age can be overturned and proven "false" by new "discoveries". Thus, let us keep an open mind and really consider other possibilities than the known, than what's conventional. That being said, this forum post is intended to be a place for discussion citing scientific studies, and experts in the field and on the ground, to see if there is anything of real value that can be gained by examining chocolate from a slightly different vantage point.

My interests in chocolate grew out of my involvement in the Raw Food movement (Youtube: David Wolfe), which for me is a fairly radical attempt to get as far away from the industrial and agricultural "revolution's" impacts on human health, and ecological health, by eating as close to the natural source as possible. Now, the discussion of raw foods is intimately intertwined with many other political issues, including organics (an attempt to lessen artificial pesticides and fertilizers which destroy long-term soil fertility), fair-trade (an attempt to equalize the economies of a global commodity market), human nutrition (the well known debate on the heat sensitive nature of enzymes, amino acids, and certain vitamins, ect.), and so on.

While not being for everybody, and perhaps most valuable only as a cleanse (as opposed to a long-term diet; research: Daniel Vitalis), I feel totally confident in saying that going raw for several months completely changed my experience of life in a drastically positive way. As raw foodists sought vegan sources of high-vitamin/mineral content foods, we saw the birth of the "Superfood" movement (research: David Wolfe, Linus Pauling), which brought to general market a certain pricy commodity being sold as "Raw Chocolate".

Praised for its rich mineral content, along with a wide array of psychoactive components, minimally processed cacao products fast grew into a trendy health-fad among "conscious" consumers who could afford it. As someone who came to chocolate from this perspective, I now am delving deeper into the history, the processing, the business, and the fine culinary aspects of cacao.

From my understanding, all fine chocolatiers roast their beans, a process which chemically alters the cacao in a way which produces the flavor profiles commonly associated with "good" chocolate. Now, there are two different approaches to come at this subject from this point: there is the personal approach which is most concerned with how different chocolate products make me feel. And then there is the scientific perspective incorporating biochemistry, and how various practices of processing affect human health and nutrition.

From the personal perspective, I have this to say. All "processed" chocolate, (ie. pressed at high temps/pressures, roasted, conched...) makes me feel bad compared to "raw" chocolate, despite the "fine" chocolates having a more subtle flavor profile. Now, the fine chocolatier would say I have not developed the palate for differentiating the subtle flavors of fine chocolate; the raw foodist would say the chocolate connoisseurs have not detoxed their body enough to feel the effects of eating the processed chocolate. Again, this claim is personal to me, although being confirmed by many people I know.

Now then, of the scientific perspective, examining how the chemical constituents (changed by different processing techniques) affects our biological system, I have heard several claims made. The first is that heating cacao (in the pressing to remove the oil, and in the roasting) kills the enzymes. I have also heard it argued that cacao does not contain considerable enzymes after the fermentation process. Next, exposing the cacao to high temps (especially over 200 degrees F.) supposedly reduces and/or eliminates the presence of some of cacao's fancier psycoative molecules such as phenylethylamine, anandamine, and tryptophan, as well as deteriorates the methylxanthines from theobromine into caffeine. Third, high-temp processing has been said to lessen the nutritional value of chocolate by reducing the amounts of vitamin C, as well as many of the other nutrients found in an unpressed, unroasted cacao bean (B-vitamins...). Lastly, and claimed by David Wolfe to be the final arbiter on "raw" versus "processed", all high-temp exposed chocolate contains rancid omega fatty acids (trans-fats) which can cause an inflammatory reaction once consumed by humans, whereas "raw" cacao contains stable omega fatty acids beneficial to human health.

 {for information purposes: "raw" is generally defined as never having been heated over 118
degrees Fahrenheit
. All chocolate that I know of being sold as
"raw" has been fermented, which does take the temp over 118 degrees F.
However, the difference from this point is in the processing which takes
place once the beans get in the hands of the "chocolate maker".}

Tags: benefits, chocolate, health, heat, of, processing, raw, roasting, temperature

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Clay, this is all a matter of opinion and loose definition. "Raw" means something totally different in the cane sugar industry for example. In many cases raw can mean a lightly processed material such as "raw evaporated cane juice" or it can mean the lightly processed substance we are calling "raw fermented cacao"
Think of the context of this discussion. We are talking ONLY about your assertions of True Raw and "raw."

We are not talking about the cane sugar industry. Don't change the subject and introduce irrelevance.

Your definition of "raw" in a previous post:

Reply by Sacred Steve on November 4, 2009 at 6:43pm

FYI...Sacred Chocolate does make a 100% Organic, 100% RAW (Defined as using only UNROASTED CACAO and keeping grinding temperatures below 115 degrees Fahrenheit from start to finish) ...

Clay, my point exactly. You must always define what you are talking about in order to have it apply in the context in which you are speaking. I actually define it mid-sentence to avoid confusion contextually. It is funny that you are pointing this out. Are you trying to belittle me?
Hi Clay,
I already defined what I meant by "True Raw" above. Is there any further confusion here? I am happy to clarify further if necessary.
No, I am not trying to belittle you.

I am pointing out inconsistencies in your definitions that may confuse people. They confuse me.
ok, no problem. sorry for any confusion. i think we have FULLY clarified this point now.

I've been thinking about this for the past couple of days.

I think I understand where you may be coming from when you want to differentiate your chocolate made from unfermented raw nibs from chocolate made from fermented raw nibs - "True RAW" versus "raw."

However, there is no single agreed-upon definition for what raw is. The max temp quoted differs by as much as nearly 25% as you stated and there is the very legitimate question raised about whether fermentation == cooking when it comes to other foods.

Given that there is no strong consensus about these topics - even within the raw community - it is potentially detrimental to start marketing a position of "mine is raw-er than yours." While that may be good for Sacred Chocolate - it disses not only other raw chocolate makers but lots of other companies who produce raw foods. All of them might start claiming that their process makes their food "raw-er" than their competition: "Truly Raw" implies that other foods are not really raw.

Again - I understand why you might want to make this claim from a Sacred Chocolate business perspective, but not why you would pursue it if it has the potential to cause confusion - and harm, in my opinion - to the entire raw foods community.

Now, I don't want you to answer this for at least 48 hours. Just accept what I have to say and really think about it. I want you to spend as much time thinking about this as I did.
Hi Clay,
I am confused. I have made no claim that Sacred Chocolate is more raw than other raw chocolates in the marketplace.
I have already defined what I meant by "Truly Raw" as it applies to this discussion thread above. Some chocolate is "Rawer" than other chocolate in the market place. That is for sure. Mostly that depends on weather or not somebody is using cooked cacao powder and/or cooked cacao butter to make chocoalate and how much cooked sweetener, cooked vanilla, etc. is in the final product on a per weight basis. I will eventually post all raw percentages on our website. Have not had the time to do that yet.
Our website lists the detailed specifications of Sacred Chocolate if you drill down to the product detail area.
I forget to mention also Clay, that in the raw chocolate world, there has been recently some stir about what is being called "CacaoGate". Basically, a trusted supplier of raw ingredients came out with the truth that the raw cacao powder and raw cacao butter they had been selling for years under the term "RAW" was actually processed at high temperatures in the range of several hundred degrees F. It really caused a lot of confusion and distrust in the community! So, to bring up the "RAWNESS" of a product, especially chocolate and cacao is appropriate at this time in my opinion.

just wanted to say there are still lots of antioxidents found in roasted cacao and if you are truly trying to eat chocolate just to get antioxidents you would have to eat alot, and that is not balanced. If you want antioxidents then eat some blueberries and then enjoy your chocolate.  I am also not an advocate of processed, full of refined sugar chocolate , but I am not totally sold on this raw food approach.  I think if the cacao was roasted and then fresh ground with good sugars and other ingredients (not lecithin), it is full of health and still has tons of benefits.   



With regards to "aromica", which I assume you could also be referring to "arriba", a forum post allready exists exploring the matter of cacao genetic strains in great detail here.

While fermenting does decrease antioxidant levels according to Steve, David Wolfe wrote in his book "Superfoods" (which cites many scientific studies and lab tests) that fermentation significantly increases the amount of psychoactive substances in cacao, such as phenylethylamine (from ~%1 to ~%3). I personally enjoy fermented, unroasted, cold-processed (never heated above ~118 F, particularly in the oil pressing) cacao, and that is what I use in my chocolate.

Clay and Steve, I want to personally thank you both for your passion, and the work that you do for chocolate! In my studies, I truly believe that cacao is of significant benefit to help our current situation on this planet - ecologically, economically, nutritionally, dare I say spiritually! You are both inspirations. Dialectics, semantic or otherwise, serve to refine our own assumptions of "the-way-things-REALLY-are", and the language we use to communicate them.

Sirius Alchemy


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