Why raw chocolate doesn't actually exist

Warum es Rohschokolade eigentlich nicht gibt
There are many myths and misconceptions about the benefits of raw chocolate. Raw chocolate is increasingly being offered in organic shops and supermarkets. And you've probably heard of the superfood potential. But is raw chocolate really that healthy? And what does raw even mean in this context? We have compiled the most important facts for you.

Raw or not raw - that is the question

The term "raw" suggests that the offered chocolate or nibs are natural. But it's not quite that simple, because all raw chocolate products are always processed in one way or another. Sound confusing? It is.
In order to produce raw cocoa, raw nibs or raw chocolate, cocoa beans are fermented. They are usually placed in wooden boxes surrounded by banana leaves, where the cocoa beans are then fermented. Bacteria, yeast and other microorganisms break down and react with the sugar from the cocoa bean pulp during the fermentation process. The fermentation process is a natural step in making chocolate. It is consciously controlled by chocolate manufacturers and farmers in order to emphasize certain flavors and achieve flavor profiles.

What are cacao nibs made from? Raw or already fermented? ©Unsplash

Raw chocolate: it's the temperature that counts

Raw food advocates consider foods "crude" or "raw" when they are not heated above 48°C. If you are one of these people, you must be strong now ;-) We have read many chocolate books and blogs for you and asked experts. Everyone is pretty much in agreement: the “raw” temperature of 48°C is regularly exceeded in the production of cocoa nibs and chocolate. It is often exceeded during fermentation and drying and cannot really be controlled. Even when grinding and pressing, higher temperatures occur naturally due to friction.
Many experts go even further: if the cocoa beans never got warmer than 48°C during further processing, they would probably be inedible. If you've ever taken part in one of our tastings , then you know that chocolate has tannic flavor notes. These are largely broken down in the fermentation process and only partially preserved in order to achieve a well-rounded flavor profile. Without the fermentation, a very bitter product would be created that you don't want to eat either as nibs or as chocolate.

"unroasted" cocoa beans for raw chocolate "Unroasted" cocoa beans for raw chocolate ©Unsplash

Raw vs Unroasted

Our friends and chocolate maker 'Raaka' from New York put it in a nutshell. Instead of calling their chocolate "raw," they use the term "unroasted." We think: great idea! Because what most people - apart from strict raw food supporters - mean by raw cocoa or chocolate is actually not "raw" but unroasted. That's why Nate from Raaka makes the following distinction: “the cocoa beans for Raaka chocolate are fermented and dried, but not roasted. In contrast, only unfermented cocoa beans are truly raw.”
So what is sold as raw chocolate or raw cocoa has very likely - even with a lot of effort on the part of the manufacturer - exceeded the 48°C mark several times. Greg from Dandelion Chocolate gets to the heart of another tricky point about raw chocolate. “A primary goal of fermentation is to kill the cacao seed. Once fermented, there are no more viable seeds, it can no longer sprout. So there is nothing “raw” about a fermented cocoa bean anymore”.
So instead of selling chocolate under the “raw” label, we would like to further establish the term “unroasted”. Even if this one is perhaps a bit bulkier and less trendy. In essence, it mostly hits what is really meant.

You can of course find lots of chocolate made from roasted – and a few from unroasted – beans in our shop !

Reading next

Was passiert während der Fermentation von Kakao?
Öko Caribe: Kakaobohnen aus der Dominikanischen Republik