Raw Chocolate

Sirius Chocolate
@sirius-chocolate
04/18/10 05:18:41PM
10 posts
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 asnever 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".}

updated by @sirius-chocolate: 04/09/15 10:23:15AM
Sacred Steve
@sacred-steve
04/19/10 05:49:24AM
116 posts
Hi Sirius,Thanks for your passion!FYI, I am pretty sure that RANCID fats and TRANS fats are two totally different things. I would research that more if interested.Welcome to our forum!Hearts!Sacred Stevehttp://www.SacredChocolate.com
Sacred Steve
@sacred-steve
04/21/10 01:47:37PM
116 posts
True Raw is fresh unfermented beans that are fresh out of the pod or dried at low temperatures.It all depends on your definition of raw of course. If your definition of raw is below 118, then you are correct, your chocolate is cooked. The more you ferment, the more you degrade antioxidants. Understand, this area is grey in nature. The more heat that is applied to any food, the more the food degrades in its natural life giving properties.
Suzanne Marie
@suzanne-marie
04/25/10 02:33:48AM
1 posts
From a personal perspective I agree with you, Sirius. I was introduced to raw chocolate only a couple of months ago and now my other organic chocolate is in the past. I recently bought raw cacao nibs and I love them in the raw! I'm reading "Naked Chocolate" and also "12 Steps to Raw Foods" to help me adjust to the raw diet. Am wanting to learn more about raw chocolate personally, and turn my passion into a business to support me in my golden years! Thanks for the interesting posts.Chocofully yours, Suzanne
Clay Gordon
@clay
04/26/10 09:52:22AM
1,680 posts
Steve:I have to respectfully disagree with you on your first statement - unless you can point me to an external, credible, and definitive source (i.e., not your web site) that makes the distinction between "raw" and "True Raw" - especially as it refers to chocolate. Beans fresh out of the pod are technically seeds (as they are still viable) and so "Fresh Cacao Seeds" is what they should be called. Calling them "Truly Raw Chocolate" is, in my opinion, sloppy and inaccurate marketing lingo that does the raw community a disservice as it lessens its credibility.Lacking any external support, the only "standard" to go by is the "standard" that the raw community as a whole agrees to. By that "standard," the maximum temperature to which food can be subjected without loss of enzyme activity (and related nutritional aspects of a food) is 118F -- despite the fact that there is no firm scientific evidence to back the claims made for this specific temperature.According to my research, there is no magic temperature for all foods in all conditions.A lot depends on the structure and density of the food itself (e.g., lettuces are a lot more delicate than are seeds), whether the food in question is wet or dry, contact time (i.e., the length of time the food is subjected to a source of heat), the nature of the heat source (e.g., you can set a dehydrator to 125F and evaporative cooling - water escaping the food - will keep the temperature of the food below 118F until the water is removed), and the specific heat transfer profile of the food in question (e.g., it should be okay to subject the outside of a nut covered by a thick shell to very high temperatures for surprisingly extended periods of time to kill pathogens on the outside of the food - with little or no heat not transferred through the shell to the nutmeat inside.It is actually easy to fully and completely ferment cacao and keep the pile under 118F - thereby satisfying the most widely accepted definition for the maximum temperature to which a food can be subjected and still be called raw. The "trick" is to control the size of the pile. There are a number of fermentation boxes I have personally seen that make it possible to do this.It is somewhat harder to dry the beans and keep the temp under 118F - if the beans are dried in direct sun, and especially if they are dried on a concrete pad. Temperatures can easily reach 140F - at least at the surface of the pad. It is possible to dry beans at low temp, it just takes a lot more care, takes longer - and therefore costs more.On the other hand.I have eaten a lot of so-called raw (as some sources have now been discredited) chocolate from a lot of different vendors in the past two years or so that I've been researching this. When the rest of my diet is clean enough, I do notice a difference in the way my body responds and the way I feel after eating some raw chocolates, but that may be due as much to other "superfood" ingredients that have been added as the cacao itself.I don't question that there is a difference, I only question the absolute cutoff temperature of 118F - knowing that there are ways to process cacao into chocolate that minimize the loss of all manner of nutrients and keeping the resultant chocolate a relatively whole food.That's the key. If the temp hits 125F for 10 seconds or even 10 minutes, it doesn't really matter because the amount of chocolate you have to eat to reap meaningful benefits is actually quite small. New studies suggest that as little as 1/4 oz (~7 grams) of "cooked" dark (i.e., no dairy) chocolate is enough, when eaten consistently, to deliver measurable benefits even without any other changes to a person's diet. Here's one of the few cases where food combining actually makes scientific sense. Eating a 100% raw chocolate with a glass of raw milk reduces the antioxidant benefits of the chocolate because some of the proteins in the milk will bind to some of the antioxidants thereby reducing the bioavailability of the antioxidants.I have a stone grinder and make a variety of foods for personal consumption. One is a nut and seed butter that consists of a combination of almonds, pecans, and cashews with sunflower, sesame, flax, and chia seed. I happen to like roasty, toasty flavors. A lot. So what I do is dehydrate, at a relatively high temp, a small amount of some of the ingredients. I find that this approach gives me the toasty flavors I crave while delivering virtually all of the benefits of the foods in the raw state. While it's not "100% raw" I can't see that it makes any meaningful difference, dietarily.All raw chocolate makers face this problem when it comes to the sweetener they choose. Agave syrup is subjected to high temperatures to reduce moisture content - as are coconut palm sugar, maple syrup, and most of the other options (I don't know the processing steps for any of the sugar alcohols - xylitol, erythritol, etc.- so I can't speak authoritatively on the temps used). So - even though the cacao in a product may be "raw" the sweetener is almost certainly not.In the end, the question is, "Where do you choose to draw the line?" 100% raw chocolate is difficult to do and comparatively very expensive. One of the clues that the chocolate you might be eating is not even close to 100% raw is the price. If it's anywhere near close to the price of a commodity "cooked" chocolate - then it's not 100% raw.


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clay - http://www.thechocolatelife.com/clay/
Sacred Steve
@sacred-steve
04/26/10 11:14:42AM
116 posts
Hi Clay,Thanks for this detail and clarification. I have been researching raw foods since 1993 and have been a raw foodist since then too. Keep in mind there is no real definition of "raw", and that is why I stated what I stated the way I stated it. If you were to survey people in the raw food movement, they would respond with a raw temperature definition of anywhere from 105 to 125 degrees F, which is plus or minus nearly 25%. Raw cacao is the actual "true raw" I was referring to. In other words, the FRESH raw beans right out of the pod or those same beans slowly dried at some temperature below a defined raw temperature. Raw chocolate is possible to make like you said, but it takes a lot of time. I make raw chocolate using unfermented beans in many cases in order to maximize nutrient content. I posted an article on this site showing how antioxidants drop off with fermentation times, and it is not determined whether or not those curves are fermentation temperature dependent. I believe it was under the "raw chocolate, what is it" discussion.Steve
Clay Gordon
@clay
04/26/10 12:02:15PM
1,680 posts
Steve:What you call "True Raw" is what I call "Fresh." Because there is no accepted definition (and no research to prove anything) of what raw is, your "slowly dried at low temp" is not scientific - it's personal opinion.That's perfectly okay as long as we all recognize that it's the expression of your personal opinion, not "fact."Can you point me to any research that shows that the nutritional profile of unfermented beans is "better" than the nutritional profile of beans that have been properly fermented yet kept under max raw temp? Or is this just conjecture on your part?As with broccoli (where light steaming makes some of the nutrients more bioavailable), proper fermentation may actually make cacao healthier for you because of some of the changes that occur in the bean during fermentation. Some long-chain polyphenols are converted to short chain version that might (just might) be healthier. I don't know the answer, I am just asking the question.While overall antioxidant levels in fermented cacao may be lower, there is no reason to automatically believe that more necessarily equals better. Fermentation may improve the bioavailability of some components of the cacao and "improve" it in some way. ORAC is one measure, it's not the only measure, and it may not be the best measure as it's not a comprehensive measure of cacao, just antioxidant activity and there may be confounding factors.One of the challenges with raw foodism is that one of the primary tenets of raw foodism -- that enzymes (the source of a mystical life force) in food reduce the need for the pancreas to produce digestive enzymes -- has never been conclusively proved, at least so far as I have been able to find out.That said - there are benefits to be had in the diet/lifestyle without buying into the unprovable "science" behind it. Read Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food. A predominantly raw (it's not necessary or even desirable in most cases, IMO, to be 100% raw) diet is very close to that ideal.Plus - and this is another area where people get confused - raw does not automatically mean vegan. Eating sashimi is a very tasty and way to get necessary macro and micro-nutrients that are hard to get in a 100% raw/vegan diet.


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clay - http://www.thechocolatelife.com/clay/
Sacred Steve
@sacred-steve
04/26/10 12:13:03PM
116 posts
Hi Clay,You should look up the article I already posted on this site which I already referred to in this discussion. It goes into great scientific detail on the fact that raw unfermented beans are higher in antioxidants than fermented ones.BTW, I think we are splitting hairs here on symantics. But, just to clarify further, "Fresh" would mean fresh beans out of the pod. In regards to cacao (not chocolate), "Raw" would mean "Fresh" beans out of the pod that are then NOT fermented and then dried at a temperature below your currently defined "Raw" temperature threshold/limit.Although what you say about broccoli or other herbal teas may be true, in general, one of the challenges of cooked foodism is that it causes a noticable increase in white blood cell count upon ingestion.Steve
Clay Gordon
@clay
04/26/10 12:23:37PM
1,680 posts
Steve:Please make it easy for everyone by posting the link to where you provide great scientific detail. That's a whole lot easier than making everyone search for it on their own.:: Clay


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clay - http://www.thechocolatelife.com/clay/
Sacred Steve
@sacred-steve
04/26/10 12:25:19PM
116 posts
Hi Clay, I don't have the time unfortunately. I forgot where I posted it unfortunately, but if the search function on this site is good, it should turn up the article using keywords like "antioxidant" and "polyphenol"Steve
Sacred Steve
@sacred-steve
04/26/10 12:26:05PM
116 posts
you might consider installing a google search into this site if you don't already have it? It is super useful and free!
Clay Gordon
@clay
04/26/10 12:29:56PM
1,680 posts
Steve:Words are important so arguing about semantics is important in many instances.I wasn't objecting to raw in and of itself, I was pointing out that your locution "True Raw" was an expression of a personal opinion, not something that is generally held as being "true" in the raw community in general - at least so far as I know.What you called "True Raw" is what I think most people would agree would be "Fresh."I also disagree with your definition that "raw" categorically means unfermented as it is demonstrably true that it is possible to properly ferment cacao and keep the temp below 118-125F.What you call raw is "unfermented raw cacao" as opposed to "raw fermented cacao."The distinctions are very important.


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clay - http://www.thechocolatelife.com/clay/
Clay Gordon
@clay
04/26/10 12:32:07PM
1,680 posts
It's on the home page and has been for months.I do a lot of work maintaining a forum for you and others to participate in. All I am asking you to help me out a little - it's in your best interests.


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clay - http://www.thechocolatelife.com/clay/
Sacred Steve
@sacred-steve
04/26/10 12:33:35PM
116 posts
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"Steve
Clay Gordon
@clay
04/26/10 12:39:21PM
1,680 posts
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.


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clay - http://www.thechocolatelife.com/clay/
Clay Gordon
@clay
04/26/10 12:44:27PM
1,680 posts
Steve:Your definition of "raw" in a previous post:Reply by Sacred Steve on November 4, 2009 at 6:43pmFYI...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) ...Hearts!SS


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clay - http://www.thechocolatelife.com/clay/
Sacred Steve
@sacred-steve
04/26/10 12:46:46PM
116 posts
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?Steve
Sacred Steve
@sacred-steve
04/26/10 12:48:51PM
116 posts
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.Steve
Clay Gordon
@clay
04/26/10 12:53:17PM
1,680 posts
No, I am not trying to belittle you.I am pointing out inconsistencies in your definitions that may confuse people. They confuse me.


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clay - http://www.thechocolatelife.com/clay/
Sacred Steve
@sacred-steve
04/26/10 12:54:14PM
116 posts
ok, no problem. sorry for any confusion. i think we have FULLY clarified this point now.
Sirius Chocolate
@sirius-chocolate
04/27/10 01:18:40PM
10 posts
Brian,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
updated by @sirius-chocolate: 09/10/15 06:47:28AM
Clay Gordon
@clay
04/27/10 01:54:37PM
1,680 posts
Sirius: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


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clay - http://www.thechocolatelife.com/clay/
Dusty Thomas
@dusty-thomas
04/27/10 08:33:00PM
5 posts
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)
Clay Gordon
@clay
04/29/10 12:40:14PM
1,680 posts
Steve: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.


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clay - http://www.thechocolatelife.com/clay/
Sacred Steve
@sacred-steve
04/29/10 03:20:14PM
116 posts
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 http://www.SacredChocolate.com lists the detailed specifications of Sacred Chocolate if you drill down to the product detail area.Steve
Sacred Steve
@sacred-steve
04/29/10 04:57:06PM
116 posts
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.
beth campbell
@beth-campbell
03/01/13 07:14:08PM
40 posts

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

beth campbell
@beth-campbell
03/01/13 07:21:42PM
40 posts

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.

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