Enjoy a Raw Chocolate Easter
Time to unwrap….
Well, the weather’s turning just enough to let us think about ditching the coats, but with Easter approaching, unwrapping can relate to only one thing…chocolate! We will definitely be joining the party for the weekend by indulging in delicious raw chocolates.
So, what is raw chocolate?
Well, beans from the Theobroma cacao tree are the starting point. The key difference between your typical Easter Egg chocolate and raw chocolate is that the beans used to make raw chocolate are heated at low temperatures (up to 42°C - often simply in the sunshine) thereby retaining the ‘cacao’ label, whereas those used in commercial chocolate bars are usually roasted at 130-400°C, then being identified as the ingredient ‘cocoa’ that goes in to the chocolate.
Raw chocolate usually contains a small handful of ingredients (raw cacao powder, perhaps cocoa butter and coconut blossom sugar, for example) whereas commercial chocolate often contain, milk, soya, processed fats, sweeteners, artificial flavourings and preservatives - with cocoa often ending up a long way down the ingredient list.
Why does this matter?
Raw cacao beans contain more than 300 compounds, many of which are nutrients beneficial to health. However, these compounds are typically heat-sensitive and so roasting and processing them to produce cocoa destroys their beneficial properties, whereas the low temperature drying or heating approach used for raw cacao preserves the good stuff for when we come to eat it.
Raw cacao has essential minerals, like magnesium and iron, which support energy production, relaxation, and sleep amongst others, but also contains so-called ‘phytonutrients’ (nutrients in plants), that usually help to protect the plant from disease or attack, but also confer benefits to us when we eat them.
The key compounds that offer health benefits are a group of nutrients called flavonols.
Flavanols have a bitter taste and they are responsible for the bitterness of pure cacao and dark chocolate. So yes, the bitterness is good for you! In commercial chocolates, that bitterness is often washed away through processing.
So why should we indulge?
Flavonols help our bodies to create anti-oxidants which help protect us against the damaging effects of ‘free radicals’, molecules that the body creates naturally. It’s a bit like thinking of the body rusting if we (and these anti-oxidants) don’t mop up the free radicals to protect ourselves - Vitamin C can act in a similar way.
In particular, flavonols have been shown to provide protective effects for our heart and blood vessels, brain health and cognition and immunity and result in decreased inflammation.
Do you still need convincing??
Raw chocolate doesn’t have to be bitter - we stock ‘mylk’ buttons - a hit with kids and parents alike, champagne and salted almond truffles, and chocolate covered gingers, as well as the darker chocolate and cacao nibs.
Owing to the short ingredient list and minimal processing, raw chocolates are often suitable for those who follow dairy, soy or gluten-free diets - though do be sure to check the particular product you’d choose, as we haven’t tried them all (yet)!
Finally, most of the chocolate companies we work with also place a high focus on ethical supply sources and sustainable packaging…this is part of who they are, so they don’t make a song and dance about it.
‘Theobroma cacao’ is known as the ‘food of the Gods’ - I can understand why!
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