In the confectionary world, crafting complex flavors that go beyond the sweetness of sugar can be tough.
Raaka Chocolate lets Mother Nature do the heavy lifting.
The Brooklyn-based chocolate company, founded by Ryan Cheney and Nate Hodge in 2010, skips the traditional chocolate-making step of roasting cacao beans, in order to preserve their intrinsic flavor profiles. The team then complements these natural, unroasted flavors with innovative processes and ingredient pairings.
Their 82 percent Bourbon Cask Aged chocolate, for example, is made from Belizean cacao nibs aged in Berkshire Mountain Distillers bourbon casks for four weeks. The resulting flavors—deep, dark, and smoky, with a subtle hint of caramel—earned the bar a Good Food Award in 2013.
The 68 percent Ghost Pepper, another genius creation made from Dominican Republic beans, arose from the auspicious marriage of sweet and heat. In this case, the heat comes from one of the world’s hottest peppers—which might also be one of the world’s most mischievous. The first bite of chocolate is deceivingly mild. But let it slowly melt in your mouth, and you’ll feel layers of heat build and blossom, tickling your tongue and creeping into the back of your throat, where it’ll leave a pleasant tingle even after it’s gone.
For chocolate lovers that lean towards the lighter side of the cacao spectrum, try the sweet and mellow Coconut Milk (Dominican Republic, 60 percent), an ideal complement to the feisty Ghost Pepper. Raaka puts a dairy-free twist on conventional milk chocolate by using shredded coconut in the bar. The coconut lends a rich texture and creamy flavor alongside the chocolate’s natural berry notes.
In addition to individual bars, Raaka offers a unique monthly subscription service called First Nibs, a riff on “first dibs.” For $24.95 per month, subscribers receive a trio of bars: one from the existing line, and two from new, limited micro-batches, freshly concocted by head chocolate maker Nate Hodge every month.
Raaka then brings back subscriber favorites in its seasonal Best of First Nibs line, which so far boasts flavors including Ghost Pepper, Earl Grey (Bolivia and Madagascar, 67 percent), and this summer’s featured flavor, Raspberry Lemonade (Madagascar, 65 percent), a dark and fruity bar brightened with a sprinkling of lemon sugar.
Chocolate With a Conscience
Raaka supports sustainable agroforestry and sources its organic cacao beans from farmer-owned co-ops, such as Maya Mountain Cacao in Belize and Alto Beni Cacao Co. in Bolivia, which all receive $500 per metric ton above market price. Husks extracted from the beans during processing are donated to Edible Schoolyard NYC for composting. All of Raaka’s chocolate is certified kosher and organic, and is sold wrapped in 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper printed with soy ink.
Available in shops around the United States and online at raakachocolate.com.