"Raw" chocolate is a big trend at the moment with increasing numbers of brands coming into the market offering "raw" chocolate bars or other products incorporating "raw chocolate" or "raw caoao powder". This interesting article on this hot topic was published yesterday by the chocolate journalist:
Click here to read the article: "The Raw Chocolate Nonense" by the chocolatejournalist.com
From my point of view, as a chocolatier for nearly 14 years and having visited cocoa plantations in both Grenada & Madagascar, this is a trend that is worrying as it infers to consumers that the chocolate has not been processed in any way, or at least below a temperature of 47 or 42 degrees (the highest amount allowed for to be defined as a "raw" food appears to vary depending on who you talk to).
However, the first stage of processing wet cocoa beans to enable them to be processed into chocolate is that they are fermented to both stop germination & develop the flavours crucial to the taste of chocolate - fermentation alone takes the beans to well over 50 degrees....this is something not understood by many people, even food producers who are not chocolate specialists!
Then the beans have to be dried to reduce their water content - ideally in the sun, (but this process can be speeded up mechanically), and that is another process fraught with danger with regard to temperature.
So, by the time cocoa beans are dried ready to be roasted (either normally at c120 degrees) or at lower temperatures (by those raw producers who at least acknowledge that they are roasted) or not roasted at all (certainly not something i would recommend then eating!), they have been exposed to much higher temperatures than the technical definition of raw would allow.
By the way, "cacao powder" is another word for cocoa powder. "Cacao" is sometimes used interchangeably with "cocao" as the botanical name for the cocoa tree is "theobroma cacao". Some chocolate folk call them "cacao beans" rather than "cocoa beans" before being processed into chocolate - it's a slightly different word for describing the same thing.
After the beans have been roasted (at whatever temperature), they are then shelled, chopped into smaller pieces (= cocoa nibs) & then ground to form a paste known as cocoa liqour. This paste is then pressed to extract the cocoa butter & what is left is cocoa powder. Cocoa powder & cocoa butter is then conched with sugar to create a smooth liquid which has to then be tempered before moulding into bars. All these chopping, grinding, pressing, conching & tempering processes involve heat & processing....it is therefore not raw in the sense that is intended in terms of the product being made with minimal processing/handling - not in any way!
Further, there is no way I would ever want to eat a dried cocoa bean that has been processed into "raw" chocolate without being roasted...it's not a great eating experience & it's frankly dangerous from a health point of view!
Finally, the data to support a lot of the health claims around "raw" chocolate is sketchy - we suggest that eating fine quality proper chocolate, as we work with, is something to enjoy, has a load of benefits that have been researched & documented and none of the potential health issues that are highlighted in the attached article....