By Koa Kahili, 2008-11-04
Is Chocolate "Raw"?
Chocolate is a fermented food. A lot of people have been asking if Garden Island Chocolate is Raw. My answer is, "there is no such thing as Raw chocolate", leads to only more questions, hence this simple blog.
The white pulp that surrounds the beans in the pod is most definitely raw and a delicious refreshing treat. The beans eaten straight from the pod are raw but rather bitter and astringent, the health benefits from choking down some wet viable cacao seeds are yet to be investigated. Raw food is all food cooked below 48 degrees Celsius (118 degrees Fahrenheit), as defined by Wikipedia. The fermentation process in cacao generates temperatures as high as 125 degrees Fahrenheit.
A lot of foods are fermented, so can you eat fermented food and still be a raw foodist? That all depends on who you ask. In actuallity the cacao seeds are not fermented, its the white mucilaginous pulp that surrounds the beans that are fermented. The pulp disappears completely, leaving only the dead heated seeds. The seeds are then dried and become known as 'beans', ready for the chocolate factory. Poor fermentation can have serious consequences. If fermentation stops completely, the beans will be 'slaty' and unable to produce quality chocolate. Short fermentation prevents flavor precursors developing and bitterness and astringency reducing. Too much fermentation develops undesirable flavor characteristics, or 'off-flavors', when the beans are roasted. A pure criollo only requires a 3 day ferment reaching 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) for only about an hour after each days oxygenation or turning of the beans. Cacao beans can have flavor development if not fermented, but usually these beans are roasted to bring out some flavor. The unfermented, unroasted beans usually have an off sour taste that when made into chocolate are quite bad.
As for "Raw" cacao powder, the Broma process uses less heat and pressure then the hydraulic press. Cocoa liquor pressing if definitely not "Raw". The chocolate used in this process generally comes from moldy beans that are roasted at a high temperature. The liquid cocoa liquor is stored in large storage tanks where it is kept at a temperature of about 70C to ensure that the liquor remains liquid. From there the liquor is pumped to the liquor conditioning tanks mounted on each press, where the product is prepared to achieve optimum conditions when it is pressed into cocoa butter and cocoa cake. The liquor is heated to the required temperature in the tank, while high-speed stirring gear ensures quick heat transfer and homogenization of the product as well as reducing the viscosity. This gives the product a relatively thin-fluid consistency, and improves its flow and pressing properties. Industrial presses use as much as 6000 psi, requiring over a hundred tons of hydraulic pressure pushing on a press cylinder. "Raw" foodists should also be suspicious of dutch processed chocolate. Dutched chocolate, is chocolate that has been treated with an alkalizing agent to modify its color and give it a milder flavor. Dutched chocolate forms the basis for much of modern chocolate, and is used in ice cream, hot cocoa, and baking.
The Dutch process accomplishes several things: Lowers acidity; Increases solubility; Enhances color; Lowers flavor. The Dutch process destroys flavonols (antioxidants).
In conclusion, if "Raw" chocolate tastes like chocolate, chances are it's not "Raw". Most of us eat chocolate because it taste good, it makes us feel good and satisfied so the preoccupation with "Raw" should be left to our tastes buds not a label.