Chocolate is older than the dickens and enjoys a historical pedigree like coffee and tea. Its up march in history is well documented. 2000 years ago wild cacao trees grew abundantly in the Amazon basin. Cacao beans were fermented into alcoholic beverages as far as 1400 BCE and the cultivation spread widely from there. Due to its many tasty and medicinal properties it obviously migrated fast and became a staple in many ancient civilisations. The Mayans and the Aztecs considered their chocolate beverages as nectars of the gods. They even used cacao beans as currency. It is said that the Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortes was offered a chocolate beverage by the Aztec emperor Montezuma. Cortes was only interested in gold but the cacao bean did get introduced to Europe in the 1600s and fast became a novelty favourite of the elite taste makers. But it was not until the 19th century that an enterprising candy maker came up with the process of making solid chocolate bars.
Cacao trees grow mostly in hot and humid tropical areas, more or less in a 10 degree band on either side of the equator. Due to market demand many tropical countries started cultivating cacao and thanks to the relative ease of growing and harvesting the beans several countries became primary producers. Indonesia became the third largest producer in the world after Ivory Coast and Ghana. In 2009 Indonesia exported 850.000 tonnes of raw beans. However, an unfortunate government decision in 2010 to put a hefty tax on raw bean exports caused a precipitous tumble so that by last year exports fell by to a bare 260.000 tonnes.
What may be gloom for overseas consumers turned into a boon for local chocolate producers. They now have the choicest beans to work with. Long time expats in Bali have undoubtedly noticed the increased availability of choice made-in-Indonesia chocolates over the last few years. The fine imports got some competition from local brands like Monggo, Pod, Krakakoa and newer arrivals on the shelves of your favourite supermarket. The tastes and flavours have expanded commensurately. In the last few years we have even been spoilt by the availability of raw and vegan chocolates. Bali can now also boast its place among the raw and vegan chocolate producers.
The big difference between the ordinary processed chocolate we are all familiar with and raw chocolate is that processed chocolate is made with roasted cocoa, sugar, milk, artificial flavouring and other ingredients. Raw chocolate comes from fermented and dried beans that skip the roasting process in order to retain the health benefits and unique flavour of raw fermented cacao. It uses pure cacao butter and coconut sugar to make silky and tasty chocolate and contains nearly four times the antioxidant content of regular processed dark chocolate, 20 times more than blueberries, and 119 times more than bananas.
The benefits of raw organic cacao are well documented. These are too numerous to mention here but for starters,
- It has the highest plant-based source of iron.
- It is full of magnesium for a healthy heart & brain.
- It has more calcium than cow’s milk.
- It contains anadamide, a natural mood elevator and anti-depressant.
- It is a natural blood thinner and prevents premature aging
Raw and Vegan in Bali – Recently a Bali producer who makes vegan/natural/organic/Bali-sourced chocolates with cool flavours and added superfoods, has come onto the market. Elevated Cacao, headed by a dynamic business couple, is a small enterprise located in Tegallalang outside Ubud and their London-trained chocolatier produces 7 out of the ordinary flavours with combinations of acai, goji, cranberries, organic pink salt, mint, moringa, spirulina and other healthy ingredients.
Their cacao beans and other ingredients are ethically sourced wherever possible. They work with local cacao bean growers in Jembrana and coconut sugar producers in Klungkung. Their production is still moderate but revving up as they recently obtained the permit to distribute their chocolate products in supermarkets and other food stores.
Elevated Cacao’s owners are Paul and Amanda. Paul learned the art of raw chocolate making in London and decided to transport his skills and passion to Bali. Being dedicated long time vegans Paul and Amanda quickly learned that producing tempered raw and vegan chocolate was virgin territory here. Consequently they set about creating the business of making vegan chocolate, using locally grown cacao beans and other necessary ingredients. Although cacao beans thrive in hot humid climates like Bali, the act of converting cacao beans to a smooth silky chocolate is another matter as humidity and water are anathema to making good chocolate that has a bit of shelf life and does not need to be refrigerated. They experimented a long time under less than ideal conditions and had to apply a lot creativity and traditional know-how to finally come up with a product they could be proud of. It was an uphill learning curve and involved a lot trial and error. But slowly and inexorably the experiments paid off and resulted in the chocolates marketed today.
Both Paul and Amanda are passionate raw and vegan chocolatiers and eager to share their skills with other vegans who would like to make raw chocolate – and avoid the pitfalls of Bali’s climate in the process. Elevated Cacao regularly puts on events to introduce gourmets to the many benefits of raw chocolate. Tea + Chocolate pairings are regularly held at Artteas in Ubud. A 2.5 hour masterclass Level 1 Raw Chocolatier is being offered in conjunction with Sayuri’s Healing Food in Ubud on 14 August. A level 2 Class is in the making. If you want to make your own raw vegan pralines you can sign up for the class at www.elevatedcacao.com. Elevated Cacao’s website treats you to a first class educational journey into the art of raw chocolate making. And you can order any of their unusual flavours there. They will also be teaching classes and selling chocolate at the Bali Vegan Festival in October. Oct 5-7.
Pictures courtesy of Elevated Cacao