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Raw chocolate is chocolate which is produced in a raw or minimally-processed form. It is made from unroasted (sun-dried) cacao beans and cold pressed cacao butter. A variety of crystalline and liquid sweeteners may be used, including: coconut sugar, coconut nectar, xylitol, agave nectar, maple syrup, and stevia. Cane sugar and other highly processed sugars are not used. Dairy products are not added to raw chocolate, therefore it is usually vegan. Soy is also usually avoided – soy lecithin is often used in processed chocolate. It is also naturally gluten-free.
It represents a fast-growing segment of the chocolate industry. Raw chocolate has been on the rise in popularity according to the Global Organic Chocolate Market. Starting back in 2017 and continuing on through 2020, it is predicted that the global organic chocolate market will rise 2.38%. Organic chocolate is normally made in small batches. Producing chocolate in small batches allows the chocolate to have more unique qualities which greatly benefits manufacture because they can then price it high. Some of raw chocolates popularity comes from the health benefits it acquires. Raw forms of chocolate contain Vitamins, Antioxidants, and Minerals like Copper, Manganese, Sulfur, Zinc and Niacin. Unlike non-organic and processed chocolates, it does not have chemicals, Pesticides, fillers, and Preservatives.
The low-heat or "cold" production process (which avoids roasting) may help to preserve vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals which are naturally present in raw cocoa. Many, if not most, marketers produce chocolate that is certified organic or fairly-traded. Raw chocolate has been promoted on major networks such as Fox News, and appeared on series 13 of popular UK show Dragons' Den. Among the (recognized) brands of raw chocolate are RAW Chocolate, Rawflect, Xocai, Gnosis, and Sacred Chocolate.
The cacao tree, also known as Theobroma cacao, is where chocolate is first formed. The chocolate that is harvested from this tree is called the Cocoa bean. These beans are seeds found inside the pods of the cacao tree. The pods have a hard shell that is brightly colored and grows in clusters on the branches of the tree. Pods start as clusters of non-scented, small white flowers; this is a type of flowering cycle is called cocoa Cauliflory. These flowers are grown on the cushioning of the tree, or aged branches.
It takes around 4 to 5 months for the cacao pods to fully develop into a 20cm long pod. After several weeks, they ripen into a orange and red coloring. The cacao seeds themselves are small, brown, pebble like beans that are produced inside the cacao pods. On average 20 to 60 seeds are in each pod, and there are 20 to 30 pods produced a year. This plant grows in lowland tropical rain forest environments where shade, humidity, and regular rainfall occur. Places that fit these conditions include West Africa, the Amazon River basin of South America,and Mexico. These trees have a life span around 100 years.
The harvesting of cacao pods consists of removing ripe pods from the trunk of the cacao tree to extract the beans from inside. The cacao pods are harvested manually once or twice a year. The harvesters will get the pods down by using a blade. Pods high up in the tree however, require a special type of tool. This tool consist of a long pole with a handle on one end, and a hook on the other. They will push, pull, or twist the tool depending on the positioning of the fruit, to cut the pods down without damaging the branches.
It is important not to damage the flower cushioning of the tree; this is what produces flowering for future harvests. Harvesters recommend to open the cacao pod with a wooden club, so the beans inside are not damaged. After the extraction, the beans will begin a fermentation process, and set to dry before reaching the market.
There are six main steps in the processing cycle for chocolate. Fermentation, drying and bagging, Winnowing, roasting, grinding, and pressing. Fermentation takes place where the pulp of the cacao bean is turned into a liquid and removed. This leaves only the true chocolate part of the bean left. Drying and bagging is the next phase of the process where the wet cacao beans are set out in the sun to dry. They are then packed and sent out to factories for close inspection. Winnowing is where the dried beans are split by air that separates the shell from the nib. Roasting occurs when the beans are cooked in an oven around 105 to 120 degrees Celsius.
After this process the beans are much dark and richer. Grinding takes place when the beans are liquefied. This is the base for all chocolate products. The last step of the process cycle is pressing. This is when the beans are mechanically pressed down to extract more of the Cocoa butter. After this process the raw chocolate bars are formed and ready for markets.
History of raw chocolate use dates back three to four millennia and even traces have been found in artifacts that go back to 1400 B.C.E. These artifacts were found in topical regions where cacao trees still grow today. The first recipe cacao beans were used for was created by the Aztecs; this was called xocoatl. This was a drink that was first used in the 1600's by the leader of Aztec when welcoming Hernán Cortés, a spanish explorer. The chocolate drinks were known to be very bitter, so people started to put honey in it as a sweetener. After this discovery of sweetened chocolate, it took off in Spain. The drink was considered a delicacy for the rich, but later in the 1700's it became more common. This is where the idea of raw chocolate came from. The latin term Theobroma cacao is translated to "Food of the Gods". The Aztecs and Maya placed cacao beans at very high value, and where known to have divine properties. They were valued as money and would use them to get Resources they needed. One bean could buy a tamale, where as one hundred beans could buy a chicken. They would also use these beans at events such as births, weddings, and deaths. In the 1800's as chocolate grew in popularity, powdered chocolate was discovered by a Dutch chemist. Later in the 18th century milk chocolate was produced. 
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Raw chocolate.|
- Markets, Research and. "Global Organic Chocolate Market 2017-2021 - Growing Popularity of Artisanal Organic Chocolate - Research and Markets". www.prnewswire.com. Retrieved 2018-11-02.
- "Cacao, Theobroma cacao, plant facts - Eden Project". www.edenproject.com. Retrieved 2018-11-02.
- "A Step-by-Step Explanation of Cacao Harvesting & Processing". Perfect Daily Grind. 2018-02-06. Retrieved 2018-11-02.
- www.iconinc.com.au, Icon.Inc -. "Harvesting and Processing Cocoa Beans". www.cadbury.com.au. Retrieved 2018-11-02.
- Inc., Foods Alive. "Organic Raw Chocolate: History, Benefits & Chocolate Making Process". Foods Alive Inc. Retrieved 2018-11-06.
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