Forget the classical chocolate, meet a raw chocolatier

Tatiana Scutari

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Chocolate is not anymore just a guilty pleasure. We know so much about it’s healthy benefits that almost nothing can impress us. Except maybe the new concept of raw chocolate. Yes, it’s raw, made by hand, smooth, full of antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins. The concept is new but very popular all over the world. The main idea behind it is that raw chocolate makers have to ‘play’ with the temperature and not exceed 44˚C while cooking.

Viorica Vesa is a professional raw chocolatier and raw food chef from Dublin, who shared her experience with this latest superfood and its overwhelming popularity. She found her own way into raw chocolate in 2014, while training in raw food at one of Natasha’s Living Food courses. Raw vegan food – the diet Viorica follows – is the practice of eating only uncooked and unprocessed foods never heated above 44˚C. The diet may include only fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. In addition, you may also eat sea vegetables, fermented foods and sprouted grains.

A raw vegan chocolate cake by Viorica. Photo: personal achieve

Raw chocolatier by a mistake

Viorica discovered her passion for raw chocolate by mistake. She was looking for a healthy diet for herself and her little son Alex. ‘I read a lot about the concept of food combining and started to follow a vegetarian lifestyle together with my husband. After a while, I’ve discovered raw foods and the way it can heal serious diseases like diabetes. At that time, I watched this documentary – ‘Raw for 30 days’ and I was deeply impressed’, says Viorica. She also joined some vegetarian and raw vegan group on Meetup in Dublin and she discovered raw cuisine for the first time.

Raw chocolate is difficult to make, says Viorica, because cacao beans are no longer processed and roasted. They have to dry themselves and therefore they are ‘raw’. The taste, however, is the same. ‘After I’ve tried it for the first time, I went home with a desire to do my own. I bought cacao pasta and dehydrate it at 40 C because this was everything I knew at that time. I played with coconut oil and cacao butter and I did hundreds of experiments and I failed thousands of times. It took me a long time to find the right proportion of ingredients. One day, I took my last piece of cocoa butter and a spoonful of honey with cocoa powder and I told myself ‘this is it’.’ And she finally found the golden line between the sweet and the bitter parts. ‘It’s not simple to make. But I’ve finally found my way. The final chocolate tastes better and is full of antioxidants. It’s organic, eco, vegan and sugar-free. I don’t feel guilty when I eat it either’, says Viorica. ‘This chocolate, for example, has some fillings. When you taste it, you can’t feel the difference’.

One of Viorica’s chocolate with almond fillings made for winter time. Photo: personal archive

Raw food and positive vibes

It’s not only passion when it comes to raw chocolate for Viorica. Soon she opened a small business mainly in Dublin 8 area and she sells her products at Dublin Food Co-Op. She has a small stand every Saturday and during the week she makes the delivery to her customers. Originally from Romania, Viorica found out that she was able to make new friends and integrate into the new Irish culture because of this common love for chocolate. ‘I can say now I have my regular customers. I admit – women are the biggest majority. We love raw chocolate because it keeps the natural energy from the Earth. It’s free from dairy, eggs, soy, gluten, sugar or any of processed ingredients. Just pure cacao, without heating or destroying the nutrients, handmade decorated’.

The ‘raw chocolate nonsense”?

Viorica is not the single raw chocolatier in Ireland. A few companies now sell raw chocolate along with traditional. The market grew indeed in the past couple of years, due to a huge demand from vegetarian and vegan communities. Day after day, more and more people are turning towards processed chocolate. But it may be a ‘nonsense’ as some professional chocolatiers (supported by the scientific community) say it’s just a tip to sell more and attract new customers. Safety and quality issues are raised. ‘We have to look at this in more depth, including the level of components in each. The research is at a fairly early stage”, professor of biochemistry at Heriot-Watt University Martin Schweizer told BBC. A well known raw food advocate, doctor Douglas Graham agrees: ‘There is no raw chocolate being sold, anywhere”, he said. “Cacao beans must be heated to taste like chocolate. It’s definitely not a healthy food and cannot be considered a superfood. There is nothing about marketing chocolate that can be considered a positive except for possible bottom line profits that it may offer”, said professor Graham in a debate, cited by VegNews.

A ‘raw cake’ made with orange, banana, and lemon cashew nuts. Photo: personal achieve

And the debate continues. There are no numbers on vegetarians or vegans in Ireland, but the market is growing. According to the Vegan Society UK, there are now 150,000 vegans in Britain alone and the market for products such as raw chocolate and other products like imitation chicken fillets is now  £625 million, a 21 percent jump from 2009.

Flax and veggies crackers made out of cherry tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, carrots, zucchini, red onion, garlic, brown and golden flax seeds, dried basil, black pepper and pink Himalayan salt. Photo: personal achieve

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Tatiana Scutari