Dark w/ Salt

by Raaka
Info Details
Country USA   
Type Semi-Dark   (70%; Batch #6)
Strain La Red   
Source Dominican Republic   (Los Pajones, María Trinidad Sánchez Province)
Flavor Crossover   
Style New School      
Ryan Cheney of Raaka understands that “raw chocolate” has a problem... with itself. Specifically, integrity; seeing how precious little “raw chocolate” is actually, well, raw. He should know. Ryan hangs in both the raw universe & the real chocolate world -- a rarity when most stay exclusively in one pocket or the other & rarely if ever crossover.

Upwards of a half-dozen steps in the chocolate processing chain exceed the maximum temperatures to satisfy raw criteria (rumored to be 118ºF or so, imprecise because rawnauts themselves seem to have a sliding scale on their temp gauges), starting from the moment a machete splits open a cacáo pod for fermentation to the final tempering stage on a marble slab top. Those with the integrity to monitor each & every step stand few & far between; maybe 2% or less of all chocolate advertised as “raw” is actually so. To do so requires excessive levels of attention.

Now really, with ADHT, behavioral meds, iPads,, FB updates & twit feeds, who can bother with all that?

Besides, as the old saw goes ‘if you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas’. (Very apt considering that almost all “raw chocolate” tastes flea-bitten.)

So Ryan drops the “raw” talk & opts for “virgin chocolate” instead. This neither violates the senses nor insults the intelligence. It plays instead on the imagination... of engaging in French kissing, a little fingering & maybe even some oral snacking too, but technically remaining immaculate as the fresh-driven first-snow blanketing the season; the creaminess of wedding whites; the initial plunge into the sea.

Virginal Chocolate: something Hannah Montana & Richard Branson fans should have no problem with.
Appearance   4.6 / 5
Color: brown la rouge
Surface: smooth front plate / salt-spangled back
Temper: glossy smudge-pot
Snap: got some guts for a “raw” bar
Aroma   7.2 / 10
typical unroasted profile (deep recesses of the back cupboard corner) but with a difference – onto green-cocoa hardens a sweet drop of maple syrup -> rubbing alcohol strips off some beautiful maple wood
Mouthfeel   10.4 / 15
Texture: soft crystal powder
Melt: crumbles then just collapses
Flavor   31.1 / 50
salted fruit-envelope (sweet apricot / sapote to souring grenadilla with cocoa dodging in & between)... think of a fruit-salad washed in a salt bath -> Margarita moment, stays on this long & strong until, alas, the fruit bowl shatters, leaving only evaporated sodium -> maple appears at the finishing edges... cocoa & green walnut husks in the aft-FX
Quality   14 / 20
Raaka valiently strives to buttress this un-roasted bar with salt & maple sugar, emphasizing the pink Himalayan salt, a sexy-sounding but fraught choice that shows way too much brine at the front. Nonetheless it fails to sustain that hopeful beginning as neither can stave off the inevitable that bedevils “raw chocolate”: a total collapse of the compound. In so hiding behind all this makeup, they produce a false promise only to reveal the obvious defects underpinning their use in yet another reminder that “raw”, “unroasted”, “virgin”, or whatever designer-label gets slapped on the face of it, amounts to premature delivery -- a still-born para-chocolate.

Lest anyone think the end leaves a grim choice in its wake -- whether to drop in an incinerator for a proper roast or, more in keeping with the coolness of "raw", deposit in a refrigerated morgue -- Raaka is on to something.

In this particular bar's case, Raaka tapped a cacáo affectionately known as La Red, so named after the Cooperativa Red Guaconejo in Los Pajones, María Trinidad Sánchez Province, D.R. The good members in this co-op, headed up by Hilario Rosario Quezada, husband a diverse cacáo mix practicing improved post-harvest methods in conjunction with their NGO partner Root Capital & Boston-area chocolate-makers Alex Whitmore & Larry Slotnick of Taza.

This bar represents some of the fruits of their labor as well as one of the few that can boast traceability (most of the supposed "raw" currently flooding the market is random slag piped in from Ecuador).

As such, Raaka joins the ranks of a vital movement within the raw community conducting Triple S (Superior Seed Selection) while bringing sorely-need integrity to the field. The group includes, among others, Fearless Jordan Schuster working thru Fazenda Monte Alegre, a single estate owned by Diego Badaró of Amma; Nat Bletter & David Elliot at Madre sourcing possible heirloom cultivars directly from CASFA in Xoconuzco Mexico; & Vanessa Barg of Gnosis who transacts P2P (Person-to-Person) with the likes of Mott Green (The Grenada Chocolate Company) & Ben Ripple (Big Tree Farms, Bali).

Their concerted efforts promise to elevate the image & reputation of the "raw" category from merely nutriceutical crudités into healthy gourmet in the spirit of former Exterminator Chili turned Nosmo King trailblazer Steven Frankel.

With just a few tweaks (a little more curing & oxidation, a little less salt & sugar, & maybe added vanilla for some foundation & stamina... Mesoamericans after all originally paired cacáo with it for a reason), & a bar like this will be able to pass for... well, chocolate. Given Ryan Cheney's serious intent & playful combinations, it's only a matter of time.

ING: cocoa mass, maple sugar, turbinado sugar, cacáo butter, salt; CBS (Cocoa Mass/Butter/Sugar ratio): ~11:13:10

Reviewed July 2011


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