What is Raw Chocolate?
Posted by Jeff Stern on May 08, 2017
Raw food products have gained a popular following among consumers and the market for raw products seems to be expanding. But there is very little clarity or definition in what is considered raw, and that goes for chocolate too. Raw really has not been defined clearly, there is no officially recognized industry organization putting a seal of approval on what is raw, and there is a lot of poetic license in the language being used by most suppliers of raw chocolate products.
I frequently get inquiries for raw products, raw cocoa powder, raw cocoa liquor, raw cocoa butter, even raw chocolate. There are suppliers who claims to sell raw chocolate and other raw chocolate products such as cocoa butter and powder. And when you ask these suppliers, specifically, about how the producesare made, you’ll be told “well, that’s a secret. I can’t tell you, but I can tell you that we have a lot of loss when we do it.” Maybe that's to justify the high cost of some raw products.
Just another example of a supplier using vague, poetic language to define what raw is. For certain products, like those that are cocoa-based, no one will tell you just how it’s made-they might be revealing a secret. Nor will they tell you what their precise, specific, scientifically based definition of raw is-because there isn’t one.
So, when pressing cocoa liquor for cocoa butter you might have a lot of “loss” if you are doing it at as low a temperature as possible. With an industrial scale hydraulic press, most cocoa powders have about a 12% fat content. With the Broma process, which would still have to be done in a rather hot environment, you would not recover as much cocoa butter out of your liquor. Most likely you would end up with a cocoa butter of around a 24% fat content. But first you have to produce the cocoa liquor or paste.
No one ever seems to mention that when you make cocoa liquor, which is the step that follows after roasting (where temperatures in excess of 100°C are frequently and commonly used) and winnowing, you generate quite a bit of heat.
There’s no way to grind cocoa beans without some serious friction, and all that friction creates heat of at least 45°C to 50°C, often even 80°C. At these temperatures, cocoa becomes liquid because the fat is melted. Unless you have really cheap manual labor, or some kind of specialized mechanized transport, you would have a very difficult time moving your solid ground cocoa liquor into whatever kind of press you are using. Your cocoa liquor needs to be in a liquid (meaning hot) state, to get it into your press.
In fact, in all the chocolate factories I’ve visited, cocoa liquor is more likely to reach a temperature of at least 80°C. No one ever discusses this part of the process when you hear the talk of raw. So, assuming that such temperatures are reached when making liquor, cocoa butter is already gone far above the threshold temperature of approximately 46°C or 116°F that many raw foodists claim is the maximum temperature food should be exposed to. Supposedly, beneficial enzymes are destroyed at any temperature higher than 116°F or 46°C.
Backing up in the process a bit further, everyone seems to conveniently fail to point out that cocoa beans, while roasting, or while drawing in a hot tropical sun on a concrete patio, or in a gas dryer, can easily exceed this threshold temperature.
I’ve seen other claims for cocoa butter that is made “by pressing the whole bean while retaining vital antioxidants. This cold pressing process uses only the heat from the friction caused when pressing the being which helps protect the antioxidants.”
This description makes it sound like whole beans are being pressed for the butter. First off, it’s not possible to press whole beans. The shell is still on them when they are whole. And once they have been roasted and winnowed, the usual process, or even just winnowed, you no longer have whole beans. There is not a machine out there that can give you a whole bean after winnowing-the bean naturally breaks into nibs after winnowing.
And if you dump nibs into a hydraulic press, which I guess is theoretically possible, you are still going to create heat from the pressure created, and get a very low yield of cocoa butter.
Another description for “raw chocolate butter”, from www.navitasnaturals.com states “Cacao butter is made by pressing ground, milled cacao nibs to make a cocoa paste.” This is a much more accurate description but doesn’t state at what temperature the milled cacao nibs have been subjected to.
Raw is still a vaguely defined term, especially with chocolate, and a Wild West attitude regarding the sale of such products is the norm. Until an officially recognized industry organization with serious scientific credentials steps up to do the real work of defining raw, it’s anyone’s guess if you’re really eating truly raw chocolate. Do you believe in raw products? If so, we’d love to hear from you, how you define raw, and how you choose what raw products to consume.