By MARINA RYBAK
“If there’s no chocolate in Heaven, I’m not going.”
Jane Seabrook, Furry Logic Laugh at Life
To experience the sensory pleasure of melting chocolate at first bite is to take an epicurean joyride with a divine taste. It may rival a thrill of a passionate kiss, but it is a love adventure beyond the earthly realms.
According to Mayan cultures the noble tree of cacao, scientifically known as Theobroma cacao (drink of the gods in Greek) is a god’s gift to mankind. Shrouded in myth, this heaven’s original with ancestral roots in the Amazon Rainforest leaped into the vortex of history millenniums ago, shaping the course of human experience, its cultures, conquests and commerce on the global scale.
The sacred edible, later known as chocolate started out as an ambrosia for the privileged, consumed in the ceremonial rites of passage. Exchanged as a currency, the cacao bean was money that grew on trees. Recognized for its healing properties and mood-enhancing qualities early on, a chocolate beverage was perceived to arouse and was enjoyed in great quantities before a sexual act. Even today cacao is used in the marriage rituals in South and Central America.
Whether It is a potent aphrodisiac or not, chocolate’s tempting role in the modern romance endures. And the art of chocolate making is expanding, focused on ethically creating a natural, heart-healthy, superior specimen.
It is no surprise that new “hipster chocolatiers” have emerged and are thriving in Brooklyn, a booming frontier of homegrown artistry, culinary sophistication and sustainability.
Located in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn, Raaka (“raw” in Finnish) is an award-winning chocolate maker, specializing in creating “virgin” chocolate made from unroasted cocoa beans. One of the first products to be certified by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce as “Brooklyn Made,” hand-crafted bean-to-bar raw chocolate is made with single-origin cacao and organic ingredients that are soy-free, gluten-free, nut-free and vegan.
Ryan Cheney founded Raaka as an artisanal, social enterprise with a responsible sourcing and green practices. Teaming up with Nate Hodge, a barsmith-extraordinaire, the company started making bars in 2010 to explore the complex and nuanced flavors of raw chocolate.
The packaging is designed by Elissa Barbieri of Loop, eco-conscious stationery and textile brand based in Philadelphia. Inspired by nature, intricate, delicately-drawn patterns are printed on recycled paper with soy inks and processed with wind-generated energy – hardly a throwaway.
A chocolate factory with its own retail shop, chocolate making classes, factory tours and exclusive First Nibs monthly membership is a chocolate lover paradise.
“Happiness is unroasted” at Raaka.