What makes cacao “raw"? Is it possible for cacao to be raw? The existence of raw cacao has been debated a lot, with questions surrounding the temperature during fermentation, potential safety issues from raw cacao and the numerous machines and processes that cacao undergoes to become chocolate.
The debate is not a new one. And I bet a lot of bars out there that claim to be raw might not actually be. How can you tell? If the only difference claimed between a raw and roasted bar is the roasting, then it’s probably questionable. Here, we take a closer look at raw cacao, what it means to Antidote, and to consumers and the complex and labor intensive process we have developed in order to offer raw chocolate and it all starts with the cacao pods.
What does raw mean for Antidote?
Simply put, we make the most raw cacao that we can. Cacao beans need to be processed much more than, say, raw broccoli or juice. However, the word “raw" at Antidote speaks to our process: strict temperature controlling and the least amount of processing possible. We do this to retain as much of the beans’ properties as possible. Ultimately, this three letter word signifies that less nutrients have been roasted away, and that is a key value for customers. As mentioned above, you’ll encounter a broad spectrum of “rawness” in the chocolate market. Many bars may not undergo the measures we take to ensure the quality of our raw cacao. The same is true for any roasted chocolate bar—the quality of beans, cacao percentage, quality of ingredients and freshness—these factors all impact the flavor and nutritional quality. And we like the flavor of roasted cacao as well – hence we use it in our 50/50 bars. Our milk chocolate uses roasted cacao. But raw cacao excites us also, it's delicate flavors and nutrients are so interesting. Our Raw 100% bars go through even less processing since no sugar is added, and less refining is needed.
We considered each of these questions working with raw cacao and creating a high quality and delicious raw chocolate. We have been working with internationally awarded cacao farmer, Vicente, who is a master in fermentation methods, to develop the Antidote Raw process, from the tree to the bar. It all starts with the cacao pods. We don't simply purchase beans and not roast them, we carefully choose the right pods specifically for our raw cacao. The processes that follow all occur in a clean environment to avoid contamination. The fermentation process is strictly temperature controlled as are the other machines the cacao mass and liquor go through. Macrobiologic testing of the final beans is standard to further ensure the safety. It’s a complex, highly sophisticated process that requires lots of care and attention to detail. Why do we do this? We want to ensure the safety of our cacao, and retain as many nutrients and raw properties as possible.
Why Raw Cacao
At the very beginning, during my nine months experimenting with raw and roasted bars, I constantly asked my friends to sample what I was developing. Some liked the bars made with raw cacao while others liked the roasted. I didn’t know what to do—and there was a moment when I asked myself what seemed like the unthinkable: why not combine them? Back in 2010 the world was divided on its preference towards raw or roasted bars, but I decided to create a blend of both, something that had never been done before. I was thrilled with the aroma and taste. Antidote is a gourmet chocolate, but it feels like a food. It’s nutrient dense and a good source of energy. You can eat a bar and feel invigorated. The flavor of the raw + roasted blend is more subtle, it makes you feel better, and it’s still gratifying even after you’ve eaten the last bit. For us, the love for raw started with the taste, and with our mantra of “health through pleasure” which led to combining raw and roasted cacao in one bar. Antidote stands for delicious and potent. We offer a range of chocolate bars now, from a raw 100% bar to raw + roasted bars, to a low sugar milk chocolate—but always low sugar, nutritious and potent.
Try tasting raw bars. Try roasted ones too and taste the difference. But think about how it makes you feel too! You can taste the potency and feel the energy from Antidote. Many of our customers tell us that they can eat as much as they want and feel great five, ten or thirty minutes after.
Why Raw is Potent
The flavors of raw cacao are wonderfully subtle. As with all foods, when you roast them more flavors develop. Choosing raw cacao is choosing more earthy, even green and subtle flavors. The flavor transformation of roasting is called the “Maillard reaction”, and as with any food such as coffee or nuts, the roasting enhances the flavor, but when you eat raw you get more nutrients and antioxidants. We have two fully raw bars with 100% cacao and no sugar, and we launched them mostly for fun—it was a cool idea and natural evolution for Antidote. They became big sellers and with the rising popularity of no sugar products, a lot of other bean-to-bar makers have launched 100% cacao bars recently. But we are still one of the very few raw 100% bars in the world.
Raw chocolate is still being debated by some food critics and the media. And in addition to the broad spectrum of "rawness," the flavors can vary a lot, which speaks to how challenging it is to work with raw cacao. But the health and wellness trend of raw and superfoods is widespread and gaining importance. And there are many critics who do acknowledge the importance, benefits and flavor of raw cacao, and the health benefits of raw cacao and chocolate have been demonstrated scientifically. We are excited to have developed our unique process with farmer Vicente for our raw requirements; we've managed to offer a potent and delicious Antidote.