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Is Chocolate Raw?

Chocolate Is Fermented Food

A lot of people have been asking if Nanea Chocolate is “Raw.” My answer, “There is no such thing as Raw chocolate,” leads to only more questions, hence this simple page. The white pulp that surrounds the beans in the pod is most definitely raw and a deliciously refreshing treat. The beans eaten straight from the pod are raw but rather bitter and astringent, the health benefits from choking down some wet viable cacao seeds are yet to be investigated. Raw food is all food below 48 degrees Celsius (118 degrees Fahrenheit), as defined by Wikipedia. The fermentation process in cacao generates temperatures as high as 125 degrees Fahrenheit.

A lot of foods are fermented, so can you eat fermented food and still be a raw foodist? That all depends on who you ask. In actuality the cacao seeds are not fermented, it’s the white mucilaginous pulp that surrounds the beans that is fermented. The pulp disappears completely, leaving only the dead-heated seeds. The seeds are then dried and become known as ‘beans,’ ready for the chocolate factory. Poor fermentation can have serious consequences. If fermentation stops completely, the beans will be ‘slaty’ and unable to produce quality chocolate. Short fermentation prevents flavor precursors from developing and results in bitterness and astringency. Too much fermentation develops undesirable flavor characteristics, or ‘off-flavors’ when the beans are roasted. A pure criollo only requires a three-day ferment reaching 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) for only about an hour after each days oxygenation or turning of the beans. Cacao beans can have flavor development if not fermented, but usually, these beans are roasted to bring out some flavor. The unfermented, unroasted beans usually have an off-sour taste that when made into chocolate are quite bad.

Cacao beans are roasted to bring out the flavor and kill Salmonella.

Keith Warriner, a food microbiologist at the University of Guelph in Canada, explained the concerns associated with Salmonella in chocolate products. “Because chocolate is high in fat it protects Salmonella from environmental stress and stomach acid,” said Dr. Warriner. “So in effect, if chocolate does become contaminated, Salmonella survives longer and only needs to be present in low numbers to survive passage through the stomach.”

Chocolate is a not uncommon vector for Salmonella. In 2006, both Cadbury and Hershey brand chocolate products were associated with separate Salmonella contamination. Cadbury recalled over 1 million chocolate bars in the UK after more than 40 consumers were sickened, and three were hospitalized due to Salmonella contamination from poor plant sanitation. A few months later, Hershey Canada recalled candy products due to possible Salmonella contamination, and though there were no reported illnesses, some of this recalled Hershey product re-entered the marketplace two years later.

As for “Raw” cacao powder, the Broma process uses less heat and pressure than the hydraulic press. Cocoa liquor pressing is definitely not “Raw.” The chocolate used in this process generally comes from moldy beans that are roasted at a high temperature. The liquid cocoa liquor is stored in large storage tanks where it is kept at a temperature of about 70°C to ensure that the liquor remains liquid. From there, the liquor is pumped to the liquor conditioning tanks mounted on each press, where the product is prepared to achieve optimum conditions when it is pressed into cocoa butter and cocoa cake.The liquor is heated to the required temperature in the tank, while high-speed stirring gear ensures quick heat transfer and homogenization of the product as well as reducing the viscosity. This gives the product a relatively thin-fluid consistency and improves its flow and pressing properties. Industrial presses use as much as 6000 psi, requiring over a hundred tons of hydraulic pressure pushing on a press cylinder. “Raw” foodists should also be suspect of dutch processed chocolate. Dutched chocolate is chocolate that has been treated with an alkalizing agent to modify its color and give it a milder flavor. Dutched chocolate forms the basis for much of modern chocolate and is used in ice cream, hot cocoa, and baking.The Dutch process accomplishes several things: Lowers acidity, increases solubility, enhances color, and lowers the flavor. The Dutch process destroys flavonols (antioxidants). In conclusion, if “Raw” chocolate tastes like chocolate, chances are it’s not “Raw.” Most of us eat chocolate because it tastes good, it makes us feel good and satisfied, so the preoccupation with “Raw” should be left to our taste buds, not a label.

Furthermore for all the misinformed folks out there who still eat “raw” chocolate and believe a diet of all “raw” foods is good for you, please read the following article taken from The Economist Magazine:

The American Association for the Advancement of Science
What’s cooking?
Feb 19th 2009 | CHICAGO
From The Economist print edition


YOU are what you eat, or so the saying goes. But Richard Wrangham, of Harvard University, believes that this is true in a more profound sense than the one implied by the old proverb. It is not just you who are what you eat, but the entire human species. And with Homo sapiens, what makes the species unique in Dr Wrangham’s opinion is that its food is so often cooked.

Cooking is a human universal. No society is without it. No one other than a few faddists tries to survive on raw food alone. And the consumption of a cooked meal in the evening, usually in the company of family and friends, is normal in every known society. Moreover, without cooking, the human brain (which consumes 20-25% of the body’s energy) could not keep running. Dr Wrangham thus believes that cooking and humanity are coeval.

In fact, as he outlined to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), in Chicago, he thinks that cooking and other forms of preparing food are humanity’s “killer app”: the evolutionary change that underpins all of the other and subsequent changes that have made people such unusual animals.

Humans became human, as it were, with the emergence 1.8m years ago of a species called Homo erectus. This had a skeleton much like modern man’s a big, brain-filled skull and a narrow pelvis and rib cage, which imply a small abdomen and thus a small gut. Hitherto, the explanation for this shift from the smaller skulls and wider pelvises of man’s apelike ancestors has been a shift from a vegetable-based diet to a meat-based one. Meat has more calories than plant matter, the theory went. A smaller gut could therefore support a larger brain.

Dr Wrangham disagrees. When you do the sums, he argues, raw meat is still insufficient to bridge the gap. He points out that even modern “raw foodists”, members of a town-dwelling, back-to-nature social movement, struggle to maintain their weight and they have access to animals and plants that have been bred for the table. Pre-agricultural man confined to raw food would have starved.


Start cooking, however, and things change radically. Cooking alters food in three important ways. It breaks starch molecules into more digestible fragments. It “denatures” protein molecules, so that their amino-acid chains unfold and digestive enzymes can attack them more easily. And heat physically softens food. That makes it easier to digest, so even though the stuff is no more calorific, the body uses fewer calories dealing with it.

In support of his thesis, Dr Wrangham, who is an anthropologist, has ransacked other fields and come up with an impressive array of material. Cooking increases the share of food digested in the stomach and small intestine, where it can be absorbed, from 50% to 95% according to work done on people fitted for medical reasons with collection bags at the ends of their small intestines. Previous studies had suggested raw food was digested equally well as cooked food because they looked at faeces as being the end product. These, however, have been exposed to the digestive mercies of bacteria in the large intestine, and any residual goodies have been removed from them that way.

Another telling experiment, conducted on rats, did not rely on cooking. Rather the experimenters ground up food pellets and then recompacted them to make them softer. Rats fed on the softer pellets weighed 30% more after 26 weeks than those fed the same weight of standard pellets. The difference was because of the lower cost of digestion. Indeed, Dr Wrangham suspects the main cause of the modern epidemic of obesity is not overeating (which the evidence suggests in America, at least is a myth) but the rise of processed foods. These are softer, because that is what people prefer. Indeed, the nerves from the taste buds meet in a part of the brain called the amygdala with nerves that convey information on the softness of food. It is only after these two qualities have been compared that the brain assesses how pleasant a mouthful actually is.

The archaeological evidence for ancient cookery is equivocal. Digs show that both modern humans and Neanderthals controlled fire in a way that almost certainly means they could cook, and did so at least 200,000 years ago. Since the last common ancestor of the two species lived more than 400,000 years ago (see following story) fire-control is probably at least as old as that, for they lived in different parts of the world, and so could not have copied each other.

Older alleged sites of human fires are more susceptible to other interpretations, but they do exist, including ones that go back to the beginning of Homo erectus. And traces of fire are easily wiped out, so the lack of direct evidence for them is no surprise. Instead, Dr Wrangham is relying on a compelling chain of logic. And in doing so he may have cast light not only on what made humanity, but on one of the threats it faces today.

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