The smell is seriously sexy, the texture can be silky smooth or chunky but whatever the size, shape or texture we cant get enough of the stuff! As a nation we are addicted to the stuff, with each of us consuming about 10kg a year – more than any other Europeans. The ancient Mayans and Aztec tribes of Mexico knew the healing properties of chocolate long ago and used Raw chocolate beans to cure many ills.
What is RAW chocolate?
The shift to organic, fair trade and higher cocoa varieties over the past five years may have lessened our favourite treat food’s impact on the world, its people, and our waistlines. But now there’s a new type of chocolate on the block and it looks set to further raise the bar for green and healthy confectionary.
Producers of this kind of chocolate are expecting interest in it to far exceed the hype around the goji berry last year.
They say what they’re offering tastes superior and will appeal to the rapidly growing number of people interested in living a more natural lifestyle.
This is raw chocolate: the bean, or nib of the bean, in its natural state – not cooked, over-processed or mixed with a vat of cheap filler ingredients. It’s also known as cacao and is being fused with coconut butter or agave syrup, as well as berries and nuts, to create confectionary. No vegetable fat, milk or sugar goes near it and, importantly, it isn’t heated above 42C, the point at which nutrients start to die.
“Cacao was never meant to be a candy bar loaded with rubbish – it is a powerful, healing, alchemical ingredient,” says Richard Turner, founder of the Raw Chocolate Shop.
Indeed, cacao is a very complex foodstuff with more than 300 chemically identifiable compounds. It is said to be significantly richer in antioxidant flavanols than green tea, red wine or acai, and contains protein, fats, calcium, iron, carotene, thiamine and riboflavine.
As with a lot of ‘superfoods’, it doesn’t come cheap at around £2.50 for 40g. But Kate Wood, director of Brighton-based Raw Living, argues: “the taste and experience is more intensely chocolaty, so you need less to satisfy you”.
The raw community is at the forefront of the move away from processed foods, and it is a member of that community, known as Shazzie, who is credited with bringing raw chocolate to the UK three years ago.
“The thing about raw chocolate is that it tastes amazing and it’s good for you”, says Shazzie, the 38-year-old author of Naked Chocolate and MD of a company called Detox Your World. “Every week there are news stories on the benefits of chocolate and they are right, but conventional chocolate has had the life and nutrients cooked out of it. Even dark chocolate has nowhere near the nutritional profile of raw cacao.”
The raw chocolate makers predict their wares will become huge in Britain this year. A few are in the process of acquiring larger premises for the increase in business they’ve had just in the last few months. And for the first time this year you will spot raw chocolate mini eggs and bunnies at health food shops, including Fresh & Wild.
“A couple of years ago we started buying about 100 kilos of cacao each month. Now we’re ordering five tonnes at a time and we need much more space to work in to keep up with demand,” explains Shazzie.
Producing the raw chocolate is far less energy intensive than making normal chocolate. The packaging used is also very minimal and the labels are made from recycled paper.
All of the raw chocolate companies are working with South American cooperatives, mostly in Peru or Ecuador, which are part of fair trade organisations. Shazzie supplies a handful of UK companies as well as making her own products. She works with the EcoAndino farmers, who are members of the Fair Trade Federation.
A number of raw chocolate companies also have accreditation from the Organic Farmers & Growers Association.