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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Thanks for the kind words.

As I mentioned in the broccoli comment and you responded to, there are tradeoffs to be made in fermentation. While Aox levels may be higher without fermentation (and I am prepared to believe that there is a limit above which there is the potential for toxicity - where antioxidants actually exhibit pro-oxidant effects), the fermentation process may generate compounds (other than potentially psychoactive ones) that are even more beneficial. The fixation on one measure of "healthiness" is not beneficial, IMO. More research (and meta-research) needs to be done.

To pun on your dialectic/semantic comment, maybe it's better said, "the way things RAWly are."

:: Clay
Wow. Lots of passionate discussion, by obviously well educated individuals. While Steve may rather stay out of further discussion, and I certainly am not one to take sides. Technically RAW by definition- is "not cooked", perhaps the question should be: is fermenting=cooking.
While it may seem like semantics, and popular slang suggests that fermenting is cooking, truthfully cooking is the preparation of food by the use of heat. Is the purpose of fermenting to cook? More correctly it's the use of bacteria to chemically/enzymatically change the makeup of said product. The heat in this instance is merely a bi product, given this, and as already stated, I "believe" (read: my opinion) you can have raw and fermented at the same time, if properly prepared, if only by not allowing it to "cook".

I do believe fermenation can bring much to the party. Why, where would grape juice be without fermentation. There's certainly room for both on our grocery shelves, but walk down one isle then the other, it's obvious that one has a much greater following. But then that becomes a matter of personal taste/choice.

I say this only as another thought, perspective, one not as well versed in this context as many, it may not have any value, but I see the point in both discussions. While one could argue all day that it's hot outside, someone else would surely contend that it's cold. At some point it becomes perspective, and my part of the elephant feels like a tree. :o)

two questions,  have you ever tried roasted cacao without refined sugar? Are you comparing chocolate bars made with roasted or raw or just the bean itself?  Also it seems there is alot of variation in temperature in the definition of raw. Where did you get your degree (temperature)?  I myself make and manufacter bars both raw and roasted.  I am making my bars from scratch using coconut sugar (which is technically not raw).  I find that for me what I love about raw chocolates is the different sweeteners and other ingredients which are not found in mainstream chocolate.  I personally find coconut sugar and even roasted cacao powder to be still full of life and nutrients.  The only major difference I notice in how I feel is the caffeine. The roasted gives off more of a buzz and can tend to keep you awake, but there is a time for everything.  Beth with  Belicious Chocolate Alchemy


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