Over the past 4 years or so, I’ve gotten a lot of students in my online and live classes asking if raw chocolate is really raw. Back in the day, before we knew the whole story of how it was being produced, I’d always say that it was really raw. My source told me their product was raw and I trusted my source. As time has gone on, and the raw chocolate industry has boomed, more information has come to light on the subject.
Cacao, whether labelled raw or not, has been heated. It’s not roasted, but during the fermentation process ( this process was thought to be excluded from raw chocolate production for many years ) the chocolate naturally heats to approx 50°c, which is 5°- 7°c over the “raw” temperatures. I have personally had a few chats with people in the industry and it seems all companies ferment their cacao, making it no longer “raw”.
Here is where I stand on the topic.
There are many “raw” cacao farms in the world that are run by corrupt governments and affiliated organisations. They use slave, child labour. The storage and processing of the cacao is done carelessly and, to me, their products are dirty in many ways. From the exploitation of women and children to the environment the cacao is stored, how it’s shipped and beyond. It gets even worse when we start talking about chocolate labelled as “fairly traded” and “organic”. The purchasing of these labels have become big business for the governments in the countries where cacao is farmed, such as, Mexico and Africa.
At this stage, the label “raw” doesn’t mean a whole lot to me. What I value is the following —
Are the people who farm the cacao fairly compensated?
Do they have a good quality of life that I am contributing to ?
Is the cacao the highest quality ?
Are the ingredients I’m buying being farmed without the use of pesticides and other chemicals ?
Is the cacao delicious ?
My friend and fellow chocolate maker, Pablo Spaull, makes three of his chocolate bars from beans that are grown by a traditional village of indigenous people in Peru. He’s visited and spent time with these people, he’s gone through non negotiable rituals they set for people wanting to visit their community. These are the type of people I buy my chocolate from.
Tree Harvest is another supplier I buy the bulk of all my ingredients from. They are a family run business in the UK dedicated to establishing relationships with all the suppliers they buy their extensive product range from. They go to each individual farm, meet the workers, chat with them and carry on long lasting relationships with them. This is something I want to support.
The point for me is we don’t place so much value on the “rawness” of a product at the potential expense of others being mistreated. What’s important to me is that I am buying the best product I can afford and that it tastes the way I like it to taste. What’s important to me is that I am using “clean” sweeteners in my chocolate so that I am supporting the health of my friends, family and customers.
I am realistic. I know that we all live very busy lives these days and that the time we spend making yummy treats for people is precious and limited. Therefore, I don’t expect you to go out and source “really raw” cacao beans from the farmer, bring it home, peel the skin yourself and process it in a stone grinder for 3 days just to make some treats for your kids or yourself. If that’s a process you’d like to undergo, I’ll teach you all about it in my online chocolate course, but if you want some quick and easy stuff to make too, that’s also included in the course.
I believe in meeting people where they are and giving them the time and space to become whatever they wish to become within any given field. If that means starting with “not raw” cacao powder because it’s easy for you to find and in your price range, then that’s awesome. If it means starting with the best beans you can find and grinding them slowly over 3 days to perfection, that’s a beautiful thing too.
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