Unicorns Eat Raw Chocolate...

In a world of processed food made by mega corporations and laced with all kinds of additives and preservatives, people are grasping at alternatives - especially alternatives that contain powerful anti-oxidants reputed to fight off all that ails us. One alternative is "raw chocolate" aka "super food". Raw chocolate can be defined as being made from cocoa beans that may or may not have been fermented (the debate is out on the heat generated by fermentation and/or drying), but at the very least have not been roasted or heat applied to them whatsoever beyond 120 degrees F (48 degrees C).

In the debate of raw chocolate, there is one significant and deadly issue that nobody but our regulatory health agencies (US Food and Drug Administration, and the Canada Food Inspection Agency) are addressing. That issue deals with the contamination of cocoa beans with Salmonella and Ecoli - both lethal pathogens that kill people every year.

Let's look at the reality of cocoa beans for a moment: Cocoa beans are an agricultural product of a third world country. They are harvested by dirt poor farmers in the jungle, fermented on the ground in the open (teaser image on the blog homepage), and then commonly dried on the ground in the open (left). Birds are flying over and pooping on them, chickens, dogs, and people are walking through them (Do you see a sanitizing station for buddy's feet in the photo? I didn't think so.), cockroaches, rats, and other pests are rummaging through it at night, and runoff ground water regularly seeps into them while drying. Workers who harvest the cocoa beans routinely suck on the seeds to enjoy the pulp, and then spit the seeds back into the fermentation piles. These are true accounts and common occurrences witnessed not only by my growers, but also many customers I've spoken with over the years!

If you aren't going to drink the water from the well next to the beans, or eat a truffle we drop on our floor (which is sterilized every night), why the heck would you eat the unsanitized seed of a fruit that has been laying in the open, on the ground of a third world country "rotting" for as long as a month?

In the 7 years I have been in this industry, I have been violently ill twice from handling raw cocoa beans that come from very reputable growers with whom I do business. The worst part is that I didn't even have to eat any. It was simple cross contamination. I touched the beans, and then at some point touched my face or mouth.

So... if you want to play Russian roulette with your health and eventually spend two violently ill days on the toilet with Salmonella, or a week in the hospital with Ecoli, or even dead, be my guest. Anti-oxidants don't cure "dead". But it certainly won't be as a result of eating our chocolate.

Now, I haven't talked about the unicorns yet. I'm sure you've been waiting patiently for them. I know I would be. Raw chocolate, and unicorns share something in common: Neither exist. Let me explain:

Have you ever had raw toast? No. Have you ever had raw coffee? Mmmm.... probably not. They don't exist either. Toast isn't toast until the bread is toasted. It can never be "just bread" again. Coffee doesn't get its flavour until it's roasted. Cocoa beans don't taste ANYTHING like chocolate until they are roasted too. In fact before they are roasted, cocoa beans taste so horrible that not even the indigenous people and/or pests eat them! I mean think about that for a second: Many people who grow cocoa are practically starving, and THEY won't even eat the cocoa beans!

Here's what happens: In order for the chocolate flavour to manifest itself, significant heat needs to be applied to them. This is simple chemistry, and is called a Maillard reaction. When this happens the proteins in the beans change, and the chocolate flavour develops.

If someone sells you what they claim is raw chocolate and it tastes like chocolate THEY ARE LYING!!! PERIOD. People lie. Chemistry does not.

Personally (and I work with metric tons of the stuff), I would rather stick a fork in my eye than eat unroasted cocoa. If you want to eat healthy, stop lying to yourself about the health benefits of chocolate. It's candy. Period. The unicorns have known this for years. I just wish I could figure out how they get into my shop....

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Posted by Brad Churchill

Brad Churchill is the owner and creator of all things "Choklatey". With over 30 years of business experience, 11 years of chocolate experience and many thousands of hours of research behind him, Brad Churchill brings to the table a very unique and pragmatic view of the emergent artisan chocolate industry. It is Mr. Churchill's hope that he can impart his experience upon budding chocolate entrepreneurs and help them balance their passion for this industry with the hard hitting reality and challenges of owning their own business. These articles are just the beginning....


Your article on wholesome ingredients really resonated with me. For years I have been encouraging my friends and family to eat better. It's good to see that someone is taking that initiative in the confectionary industry too!

Dave Mortenson

First of all Brad, I LOVE this new site! Wow. I've always liked your truffles. The freshness definitely shines through. I have to admit though, I'm still partial to your bars. They are hands down the best chocolate bars I have ever eaten.

Andrea Cross

You should host some events relating to making chocolates and candy with natural ingredients. I attended your wine and chocolate pairing evening, and it was a hit. Oh... and I had a good laugh about the "Charlotte" comment! LOL

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