Unroasted & Uncommonly Delicious
We make unroasted dark chocolate from scratch, with traceable, high quality, and transparently traded single origin cacao, crafted into something uncommonly delicious.
Cacao beans are the seeds of the cacao fruit, harvested and prepared by producers at origin. Every bean has a flavor profile shaped by the soil and climate it grows in, as well as the care each producer takes in cultivating and processing it. This fruity flavor is often roasted away in favor of that classic chocolatey note. We love this fruit-forward flavor, and we make our chocolate without roasting so you can enjoy it too.
CHOCOLATE STARTS WITH A FRUIT.
Cacao beans are fruit seeds. Theobroma cacao is a fruit tree that bears heavy, football-shaped pods, full of lemony, sweet pulp and about forty to sixty seeds. These seeds are harvested by hand and referred to as “wet cacao” since they’re coated in the pulp. This pulp is about ninety percent water and ten percent sugar, making it the perfect food for microbes, which leads to the first step in the post-harvest process: fermentation!
FERMENTATION BRINGS OUT THE FLAVOR
The wet cacao is fermented in wooden boxes covered with banana leaves for four to seven days depending on the origin and the producer. While it’s the pulp that is fermented, and not the cacao seeds themselves, the seeds are subjected to the effects of fermentation like high temperatures and the creation of ethanol and acetic acid, deactivating the germ and developing flavor and aroma precursors. What this means is that it tastes a whole lot better than before.
When you eat chocolate, you’re almost always eating cacao beans that have been through the fermentation process. This is why we don’t refer to our chocolate as raw: reactions during the fermentation process generate heat, bringing the temperature of the pile up to around 120°F. Without this process, cacao won’t properly develop the flavors and aromas that are so vital to the chocolate experience. At Raaka, our focus is on the flavors of the fermentation profile.
DRYING THE BEANS
Once fermentation is complete, the cacao beans are dried either in the sun or in solar drying tunnels for up to a week. This process reduces the moisture content of the beans to 7%, preventing them from molding. The beans are raked periodically to ensure an even dry. Once drying is complete, the beans are sorted and packed into burlap sacks, then shipped to us.
RECEIVING AND SORTING THE BEANS
After a very long journey across the ocean (and often, oceans), the beans arrive at our factory in Red Hook, Brooklyn. When we’re ready to work with them, we bring them into our bean room to begin our process.
Every recipe we make is inspired by the unique flavors of whatever bean we’re working with. Some cacao beans are very, very fruity, so we’ll use them for our fruit-forward bars; others have hints of earthiness, like Kokoa Kamili’s, so we’ll use them for bars like our seasonal Ginger Snap, and our classic Bourbon Cask Aged. Every bean has a different flavor profile, and so we craft different bars with them, often coming up with novel methods to enhance their flavors like steaming them over ginger or aging them in bourbon casks.
And now, we conche! What is does it mean to conche? Basically, we’re stirring and aerating the chocolate for an extended period of time to evaporate volatile oils and excess acetic acid and allow the flavors to saturate the cacao butter more completely, bringing out delicious depth in every batch. Our conche looks like a giant dunk tank and sounds like the loudest laundry dryer you’ve ever heard. We conche every batch for up to eighteen very loud hours and every moment spent shouting over the noise is entirely worth it.
TEMPER AND POUR
What would a good bar of chocolate be without a beautiful sheen and a satisfying, crisp snap? This is what tempering does. Without getting heavy into the details, tempering is the process of making the crystalline structure of chocolate’s fat molecules stable and uniform. It takes some heating, cooling, and reheating. We have a nice machine for this, but it needs a human to operate. Once the chocolate is in temper, a chocolate maker will pour the chocolate into molds and place the molds on a rack to cool.
DEMOLD AND WRAP
At this point it’s tempting to eat all these freshly made bars, but we’d rather share them. So we demold and finally wrap our chocolate using a wrapping machine from Switzerland specifically made for the job. For the first four years of business, we hand wrapped every chocolate bar. This was quite tiring. The machine is better at it.
SHARE AND ENJOY!
Now the chocolate is ready to ship and share. Things are going well for us when our one-person fulfillment team is lost in a sea of packages. Luckily for us, they find their way through so you can find Raaka at a store near you. Or you can buy from us directly.