Is your cacao raw?

If you asked some in the industry, the answer would be yes! Our cacao is processed with the same methods used by other manufacturers who label their cacao as ‘raw.’ However, when it comes to cacao, that terminology is often technically inaccurate. The truth is much more nuanced and as a brand striving for transparency, we’re going to give you the long answer.

Almost all cacao undergoes at least two heating processes: fermentation and roasting.

Fermentation is a natural process that happens when the cacao pod is split open and the beans are exposed to oxygen. It usually lasts for 48-72 hours and—depending on conditions—may raise the temperature of the beans to as high as 140 degrees. This step is important for the digestibility of cacao and the bioavailability of its nutrients. It also adds complex and delicious flavors to the beans.

After arriving at the processing facility, the cacao beans are cleaned and whole roasted. This step is ubiquitous to nearly all cacao produced at scale to some degree, despite what a label might say. It is considered critical for both food safety and palatability, as truly raw cacao tastes little like chocolate as we know it! Roasting also helps to dehydrate the bean, which can otherwise carry a higher level of moisture than is safe for food storage. Cacao can be roasted for a long period of time to develop particular toasted flavors, or for a shorter amount of time. Ours is roasted for about 25 minutes and falls into the latter category.

From here, the (safe and flavorful!) cacao beans are either crushed into Cacao Nibs, or ground and pressed to create cacao Powder and cacao butter.

What about alkalization? This process is used to reduce acidity and mellow the sharper flavors of cacao, which is why some bakers prefer it in their recipes. It also makes the cacao powder easier to blend into liquids, hence its use in hot chocolate mixes. Alkalization has been shown to greatly reduce the flavanol and antioxidant content of cacao, which is why we never use this processing step on ours!

If this leaves you with more questions than answers, you’re not alone. The world of cacao is complex, and its processing mostly happens behind the scenes. Without any official regulations around the term ‘raw,’ it’s long been used in the cacao industry to refer to a natural, minimally processed, unadulterated product—but not in the true sense of the word as it relates to temperature.