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Chocolate in the Raw

The popularity of higher percentage chocolates has been increasing for decades. With the rise of bean-to-bar and single-origin movements, purer forms of chocolate showcase the nuances of cocoa beans. It became almost a rite of passage for gourmands and chocolate connoisseurs to only snack on 72 percent or above, and the release of bars with 80 percent or greater began to appear. But the push to sell 100 percent has been a more recent phenomenon.

Many brands that ventured into the 100 percent territory focused on the European market at first, where there was more customer demand for higher percentage chocolates in general. Venerable Italian brand Vanini notes that sales of their highest percentage bars are significantly higher in Europe. Based on the success of their best-selling 74 percent with cacao nibs, they introduced both a 91 percent and 100 percent absolute dark last year. Similarly, Iceland’s Omnom Chocolate occasionally releases a limited-edition 100 percent bar from Peru using Gran Native Blanco cocoa beans.

Raw chocolate is often marketed as a superfood. It’s widely thought to have extra health benefits due to its higher nutritional content than conventional chocolate. But rather than strictly being defined under the Raw Food Movement, the concept that raw chocolate makers advocate for subscribes more to the idea of eating “paleo,” or eating like our ancestors.

So-called ‘raw chocolate’ aims to provide traditional, unadulterated, organic, and less-processed versions of chocolate, to supply the demand for the growing niche of paleo and raw foodist consumers. However, proponents have attracted criticism for their loose use of the term ‘raw,’ and raised questions as to the extent of their actual added health benefits.

What is indisputable is that it’s nearly impossible to find completely raw cacao, unless it’s fresh out of the pod and dried immediately. In which case, it’s definitely highly acidic and bitter, and probably taste a lot like the ground it was grown from. In short, it tastes nothing like chocolate.

Now let's talk about chocolate in it's purest form from the tree, raw cacao.

The original chocolate is the fruit of the cacao tree. This tropical fruit is still the source of all chocolate and cocoa today. Every chocolate candy bar you’ve ever eaten, every chocolate ice cream, chocolate cake, fudge brownie, chocolate Easter bunny, chocolate milk, every steaming mug of hot cocoa you’ve ever sipped – it all came from this fruit.

Cacao fruit:

Cacao fruit is elongated, shaped like a skinny version of an American football, about the length of an adult’s hand, and it can be red to yellow. The outside of the fruit is a hard shell, which you can cut with a serrated kitchen knife. Inside the shell there are two different kinds of food, only one of which is used in making chocolate. One of these foods is the seeds, arranged in rows, each the size of a large bean – these are the source of chocolate. Surrounding each seed and filling the rest of the space in the fruit is a white-colored sweet fruit pulp. Normally when people produce chocolate, they discard the fruit pulp, so when you eat chocolate you never get to taste it, but that fruit pulp is quite delicious.

I myself have had the experience of eating raw cacao from the tree, interesting...but nothing at all like chocolate as we know it. Here are a few photos from a recent trip to a cacao farm in Concordia Ecuador.

Cheers, and have a great Monday, and check out some of our new chocolate brand "Bloom".

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