It almost seems too good to be true but eating chocolate is beneficial to your health.
There is, however, one caveat: It needs to be prepared the right way.
That’s a challenge that Raaka Chocolate, New York City company, accepted and conquered, becoming one of the pioneers of a process that preserves all of chocolate’s key nutrients while keeping the taste. The result is an amazing treat that is good for you. (Check out https://raakachocolate.com for their product line. Their chocolate is also available in stores throughout America.)
The process takes place in Brooklyn, where Raaka's confectionary magic takes place.
Raaka is famous for its unroasted dark chocolate, which is made with the highest-quality cacao, a tropical fruit containing high levels of natural, and plant-based antioxidants called flavanols, which boost health.
A study published by the International Journal of Medical Sciences found diets rich in flavanols support healthy blood flow by improving the function of blood vessels and helping prevent cardiovascular disease and even some cancers.
It’s good for your mind too. Cacao has been linked to increased blood flow to the brain, which can boost memory and learning.
And a Danish Diet, Cancer, and Health study published in the journal Heart found people who regularly eat chocolate reduce their risk of heart rhythm disorders, with a 17 percent lower risk of atrial fibrillation for those who had one weekly serving of chocolate, and a 20 percent lower risk for those who ate two to six weekly servings.
But all chocolate is not the same.
“We make chocolate in a unique way and we're committed to having a positive impact on our cocoa bean suppliers by paying above fair trade prices and being transparent about what we pay,” says Ryan Cheney, the president and CEO of Raaka. Cheney first became interested in chocolate-making when he attended a class in producing raw chocolate at a Thailand yoga school.
Cheney points out that high levels of beneficial flavanols in cacao are greatly reduced in many mass-produced chocolate bars — as much as 50 percent – because of production techniques, including roasting.
So Raaka’s advantage is it keeps cacao beans unroasted, preserving their flavanols and super-nutrient qualities without compromising flavor.
Also important is the post-harvest process is the fermentation and drying of the cacao beans, which are actually fruit seeds.
When the sugary pulp of the fruit is consumed by microbes in a contained environment, the seeds go through changes that result in a more complex and delicious flavor.
Cheney and his business partner, musician and gastronomist Nate Hodge, founded Raaka, which means raw in Finnish, in 2010.
Among the company’s innovative products are Bourbon Cask Aged Chocolate, which has a bourbon-like edge to it without containing alcohol.
The company also makes one of its chocolates by steaming cocoa beans in Cabernet Sauvignon. Other bars have such exotic names as Pink Sea Salt, Green Tea Crunch, Rose Cardamom and Bananas Foster.
The company also manufactures bars without cane sugar, including 100% Cacao & Blueberry, 100% Cacao & Coconut Swirl, Yacón Root, Oat Milk, Triple Coconut, Coconut Sugar, Maple & Nibs, and Golden Milk.
“We make every bar from scratch with unroasted cacao beans, sourced from growers we trust and admire. It takes an entire village of individuals, literally stretching across cultures and continents, to make every delicious bar,” Cheney, whose beans are imported from small, independent growers in Peru, Tanzania and the Dominican Republic, tells questsin.
For example, there’s the La Cooperativa Agraria Cafetelera Pangoa, a bustling farmer-owned cooperative with over 700 members spread out across the Junín region of Peru.
Another cacao farm is located within Reserva Zorzal, a 1,019-acre bird sanctuary in the Duarte Province of the Dominican Republic, which works to fight climate change and deforestation through the preservation of a tiny songbird called Bicknell’s Thrush.
Once harvested, the beans all come to Raaka’s headquarters, located in a 4,000-square-foot, former metalworking factory in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, where they’re made into chocolate bars. The company also conducts tours for those interested in the fascinating, start-to-finish process.
It’s a complex operation. For instance, the Raaka Bourbon Cask Aged Organic Dark Chocolate Bar, which contains 82 percent cacao, is made by cracking Bolivian cacao beans into cacao nibs, then aging the nibs in empty Berkshire Mountain Distilling bourbon barrels for four weeks.
And while they’re not cheap – single bars cost $6 and gift subscriptions start at $75 — they contain none of the unwanted ingredients usually found in mass market chocolates, including high fructose corn syrup, trans fats and artificial flavors and colors.
Chocolate aficionados have been impressed.
Bryn Kirk, of the popular Chocolate University Online website, wrote of Raaka’s Bourbon Cask Aged bar, “There are so many flavors that fly around the mouth, your brain has a hard time keeping up! … I’m a chocolate lover that’s just been taken to a new level of chocolate pleasure!”
And reviews like those are music to Cheney’s ears, who sees chocolate as not only a delight, but a true friend of your health.