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So, I have noticed a recent upsurge in "raw" chocolate products. A couple I have tried have been tasty. But I don't understand what makes raw chocolate raw. Are the beans just not roasted? And if not what is done with them. Why would leaving chocolate "raw" be advantageous? Is it healthier and why? Inquiring minds want to know....

Tags: chocolate, health, raw

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Hi Sarah,

Thanks for your question! I am the maker of Sacred Chocolate , which is considered in the "RAW" world to be the gold standard by which all raw chocolate is compared!

Technically, what makes Raw Chocolate RAW is the following:

1) Beans are never roasted and always stored and processed at temperatures below about 115 degrees F.
2) All or most of the other ingredients used also follow the rule in 1).

Most sweeteners are not considered truly raw. It is VERY difficult to use a really raw sweetener to make traditional chocolate. Look at my research on "raw" agave nectar here:

Sacred Chocolate makes 19 flavors and only our 100% cacao bar is technically truly 100% raw, since we use things like organic maple sugar, essential oils, and vanilla beans, which are all not technically raw (Vanilla Bean has to be "cured" at non-raw temperatures to bring out any vanilla flavor; some flavors such as coffee and caramel can only be obtained by the cooking process). What I can guarantee you though is that the cacao itself in Sacred Chocolate never exceeds temperatures above 114 degrees F ! Why do we do this?

1) Raw cacao has an antioxidant rating (ORAC SCORE) of 600 umoleTE/g !!!! Acai is about 150 as a comparison !!!! Roasting or processing at high temperature destroys about 80 to 90% of those antioxidants!

2) Roasting or Processing at high temperature also can create trans fatty acids, of which Sacred Chocolate has none.

3) Check out the lab report done on our Ginger Flavor. The Ginger is only 57% cacao content, so if 100% cacao is at 600, then the Ginger should show up at 342 if we have done our job right! Check out this report (Scroll to the bottom to see the TOTAL ORAC score): You will see that it is listed at 343 !

FYI, Sacred Chocolate is Certified Organic, Vegan, Kosher, and Halal, and is sold above fair trade standards. (For the most part the cane sugar industry used BONE CHAR as a processing/filtering agent!)

Hope that clarifies things...

Sacred Steve
In the article you reference on agave nectar, you start out talking about maple sugar and mention that you use "Criollo Aromica Ecuadorian" beans to make your chocolate. I have never heard of this kind of bean. Can you let us know more?

Also, could you please explain for everyone what "600 umoleTE/g" means, not just spell out the technical terms. ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity but people may not know what that means.

:: Clay
Thanks Clay for that added clarification!

The unit notation umoleTE/g means micromole of trolox equivalents per gram.

That is a mistake actually! Thanks for pointing that out! The bean we use is officially called "Arriba Nacional Aromica". It is sourced from Ecuador.


Sacred Steve

Sorry if it seems like I am belaboring the point, but while some of us may know what "micromole of trolox equivalents per gram" means, other members of TheChocolateLife probably do not.

:: Clay
I am not an organic chemist. What I do know is that that is the units by which they are measuring the antioxidants present in our Lab report. People in the health industry loosely use the term ORAC score to refer to any method used to measure antioxidant levels. This should shed some light on the matter!
Dear Samantha, I don't have a lot of confidence in that report only because they are reporting such a huge swing in the min and max values (202 to over 1000) for a 100% cacao bar (the 1000 level was probably gotten from a bar where the beans were not roasted and the 202 value was probably from a bar where the beans were minimally roasted; The more you roast, the more you blow out the antioxidants--this is a repeatable experimental fact.) Even the cocoa (cacao) powder which is devoid of about 80% of the cocoa (cacao) butter is reported to be in the 600 range on average with a much smaller range in min and max values probably because they do much of the pressing in the industry before the beans are roasted. On a per weight basis since it is much more concentrated, it should be much higher than the bar. Check out this chart:

Forgot to answer your other question! The beans we have are being farmed in a very special unique fashion to ensure that fermentation temperatures do not exceed what is considered raw. The beans are only lightly fermented!

Also, the reason that I can guarantee that Sacred Chocolate never exceeds 114 degrees F is because I designed and built the machines that grinds the cacao beans! yay!

Sacred Steve
Also, forgot to mention that most commercial dark chocolate at 70% cacao content does test out at about 90. Our Gingeroo at only 57% cacao content tests out at 343!
Finally, one reason there is a great variation in ORAC value in finished chocolate is because each chocolatier has his/her own way of roasting...some roast minimally while some roast a lot! 15 to 45 minutes is typical at anywhere from 250 to 400 degrees F !
Woah! I wish I had read the xocai thread before I started us down this road again. Apologies about that. I still don't feel that much more enlightened on the subject. I mean, I have a lot more information but it is a little hard to sort through.
You have to actually get into it for a while and study and sit with it and it gets more clear after a while! Chocolate is really both an art and a science! A true alchemy!
Sacred Steve

What you might consider taking away from this discussion is that there is a group of people who are dedicated to eating "raw" foods because they consider them to be healthier than cooked foods. Not necessarily better tasting, but healthier. There are other groups of people who don't think it's necessary to be so strict about the temperatures at which their food is processed.

As near as I have been able to discover, there is no legal scientifically-accepted temperature below which foods are raw and above which foods are no longer raw. The raw food "movement" has settled around a temperature of 115F as the threshold.

As several people have pointed out, the temperature of fermentation piles routinely exceeds 120F, at which point the beans should no longer be considered raw. So, to be truly raw, the beans must be either unfermented or only partially fermented. Steve says he uses only partially fermented beans and I can empirically accept that partial fermentation is possible, though there is a difference between farming and fermentation so his explanation on this point is a little unclear, but I think not deliberately misleading.

Steve is right, roasting temperatures always exceed 115F, so raw cacao is never roasted. Also, it is technically possible to grind beans and keep the temperature below 115F as cocoa butter is liquid around 96F so if Steve says he has built special grinders then we should be able to accept him at his word.

There is some ambiguity in the raw food and organic food world about "purity" in its most literal sense. Legally in the US, manufacturers of organic foods can call them organic even if they contain small quantities (I think the max is 5%) of not-organic ingredients. Steve appears to be saying that the same thing is true in the raw food world - there are just some ingredients that somewhere in the process the temperature has to rise above 115F. He cites vanilla: "we use things like organic maple sugar, essential oils, and vanilla beans, which are all not technically raw (Vanilla Bean has to be "cured" at non-raw temperatures to bring out any vanilla flavor.)" Steve very clearly states that "only our 100% cacao bar is technically truly 100% raw." The maple sugar Steve says he uses is also not raw but has the "best vibe." However, a 57% cacao bar contains over 40% sugar which is way over the 5% max for organic foods so I personally think that calling a bar "raw" when it contains such a high percentage of "not-raw" ingredients - no matter what the vibe is - a stretch.

In the case of cacao, cocoa, and chocolate, it is pretty easy to demonstrate that the more you process it, the lower the residual levels of the chemicals that contribute to wellness. However, in one of Nature's perversely common surprises, the more you process cacao the better it tastes - at least to most people.

The point that I keep coming back to is, how far do you have to go to get the benefits of cacao into your diet? For me, and for many people, it is not necessary to go to extreme of raw chocolate in order to do so. For others, it is. In the end, it is really a matter of lifestyle choice as well as a matter of taste - even if the definition is a little hazy.

In the end, the FDA/USDA are not likely to get involved and regulate the meaning of the word "raw" unless a lot of people start dying because they ate raw food that wasn't safe, or unless there's a huge amount of money in it for someone.

Personally, there are very few raw chocolate "products" that I have liked well enough to want to eat every day. But that's me. I find that a combination of "natural" cocoa powder, nibs, and really good processed chocolate each day provides me with all the wellness benefits of cacao as well as providing me with the sensual pleasures I find lacking in most raw chocolate products.


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