This has to have been one of the the most decadent reviews of my life to date. I had the very important and oh so very difficult task of reviewing healthy raw chocolates available in the UK. I must have done something very good in my previous life to be blessed with this review.
So here I was, just me and about a ton of raw chocolate from various brands. How was I ever to get through the lot? Well it just so happened there was an intruder lurking in the wings, my partner in crime ‘Cheeky’, ready and able to help me plough our way through this mountain of raw chocolate.
Firstly, a little history on raw chocolate. Traditionally the average bar of chocolate on the market is made with cacao beans from the cacao pod fruit that have been chemically treated, roasted and ground at such high pressures and temperatures 130-400°c that most of the good antioxidants, enzymes and nutrients are destroyed. Also most bars are full of sugar, dairy and some sort of fillers or products like soy lecithin to make them creamy. Some bars even use vegetable fat instead of real cacao butter, in certain countries they can not legally be called chocolate, ‘vegelate’ being a more appropriate name!
What I was looking for were raw cacao bars that avoided dairy, used low glycaemic index sweeteners like Xylitol or Coconut blossom nectar, basically kept the ingredients simple and ultimately retained the health benefits of raw cacao beans. Cacao beans contain a variety of vitamins, minerals (including iron, sulfur, chromium, anandamide, theobromine, manganese, zinc, copper, phosphorus and large amounts of magnesium) fibre, essential fatty acids and amino acids, flavonoids and contains good hormones such as PEA (phenylethylamine), tryptophan and serotonin. By keeping the processing of Cacao down around 42°c these bars maintain their healthy benefits. All in all I was looking for chocolate bars that would suit my Paleo (caveman) lifestyle.
As for the benefits, apparently cacao is good for cardiovascular health, maintaining healthy blood flow and blood pressure with reduced risk of blood clots, heart attacks and strokes, it detoxifies the liver, and supports healthy functioning of the pancreas, builds strong nails and hair, promotes healthy skin and it apparently has anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties. It is also a good food for the brain boosting mood and allegedly raw cacao also has the highest antioxidant value of all natural foods in the world!
So who were the contenders in the race?
It seems to go without saying that the majority of these brands are organic, eco friendly, use recycled paper and are generally have a low impact on the environment.
IQ Superfood Chocolate www.iqchoc.com
The Cacao is ground and the bars made in Scotland. There is a lot of science behind the organic bars with the aid of the Rowett Institute, they have developed different bars with different health benefits. They are sweetened with Coconut nectar.
The 35gm IQ bars are thin and have a more refined shape than most bars which makes for quite a delightfully delicate texture. They tend to have snap to their bite and are less ‘melty’ than some of the other bars which means the flavours take longer to come through. The range of flavours are fantastic, but I would like to see some of the flavours pushed even further. ‘Cheeky’ seems to be addicted to the BeautyiQ with Orange & Sea Buckthorn.
Founded in 2006 Ombar make organic bars in Cambridge. There are about 2 billion colony forming units of ‘friendly bacteria’ in every organic Ombar. They are sweetened with coconut nectar.
The 35gm Ombar range of bars are just the right level of sweetness. They melt in the mouth easily and have a very smooth and creamy texture, it is almost as if they contain creamy milk which is amazing because they are dairy free. The very silky soft bite adds to the chocolatey characteristics of these bars.
The Raw Chocolate Co www.therawchocolatecompany.com
Founded in 2006 they create a range of 22gm & 44gm bars, snacks and even ingredients to make your own all just outside Brighton. All ingredients is raw or cold-pressed never above 42°c. As a company they are very aware of the environment. They are sweetened with either coconut nectar of xylitol.
The bars are all very smooth, have a hard and crisp bite and melt very slowly in the mouth thus releasing the flavours slowly. They tend to have what I can only describe as a watery cold taste which tends to be stronger in the two bars with xylitol which almost make your mouth water. The flavours tend to be subtle and are only mildly sweet, due to the high cacao content. Most of the bars have a bitter dark chocolate character running through the range except for the two caramel flavoured Vanoffee bars.
Based in Cambridge Rawr are devoted to making chocolate with the highest quality raw, organic ingredients they can find. They are sweetened with coconut nectar.
The Rawr bars are big and chunky at 60gms each which is one of the biggest bars. As well as the usual ingredients of cacao, cacao butter and sweetener they all have lucuma which acts as a sweetener but also gives the bars a gorgeous hint of maple syrup or slightly burnt caramel. All the bars tend to be smooth and creamy with what I describe as a buttery bite and the chocolate melts easily in the mouth like regular chocolate which means the flavours come out quickly. All the flavours are very rounded and have just the right sweetness. There was an ever so slight soft and tiny grain to the texture which I liked but ‘Cheeky’ was not so fond of, however the fantastic flavours made up for it for her.
Based in Holland, Love Chock create a range of 40 gm bars and snacks and is the bohemian of the brands. They are sweetened with coconut nectar. These bars are unique in their shape and make for a very different chocolate experience. They have a firm bite and almost a crunch to their firm texture, which tends to stay rather than melting quickly like some of the other bars. Most of the bars have quite a dark note to their flavour. The range of flavours is varied, but some are quite subtle and personally could do with turning up the flavour volume in places.
Raw Halo www.rawhalo.com
Based in London, Raw Hallo stone grind their cacao for over 24 hours until it is deliciously smooth, they are also commit to using less Sweetener than all other brands. They have a range of 33gm bars and packs of the separate ingredients too. The bars tend to be very smooth in texture, they are very thin and delicate in shape and are possibly the poshest looking bars of the group. Because they use less sweeteners they are less sweet than most bars.
Wonder Chocolate www.bigtreefarms.com
Big Tree Farms Chocolate bars are made in Indonesia where the ingredients are grown. The bars are sweetened with Coconut palm nectar and made with cold pressed Cacao. The Bars different once again differ from the others. They tend to have a hard bite and do not taste very dark in flavour.
Dark 72 -80%
Rawr 80% – A slight coffee flavour in there, slightly burnt.
Ombar 72% – It tastes like true dark chocolate, rich creamy and even bites like real chocolate.
IQ 72% – The IQ bar has a sweet and almost fruity flavour with a dry texture.
The Raw Chocolate Co. 72% – Very bitter almost burnt taste.
Raw Halo 76% – Very smooth, the bitter and sweet are beautifully balanced.
Wonder Chocolate 73% – It did not taste very dark and had a hard bite.
Rawr 68% – Not too dark, very rounded chocolate taste.
Ombar 60% – Creamy and tastes like rich milk chocolate cake icing.
Ombar – Tastes just like milk chocolate and melts as soon as it hits the tongue. Also come as chocolate buttons which are just truly fantastic and makes one feel five all over again!
IQ 48% has a dry texture and a caramel taste. Because it uses whole milk powder it tends to give a slighty condensed milk flavour.
Rawr- chocolatey, melty, not too bitter, yummy!
IQ Peppermint – This is refined and delicious, probably my favourite of the IQ range, yum!
The Raw Chocolate Co. – This is a bitter mint chocolate at 70% cacao, quite refreshing on the palate.
Rawr/Orange – Bold flavour which comes through strong and quickly as it melts
Ombar/Cranberry & Mandarin – This has a warm christmas orange flavour. The cranberries bring an acidic tart flavour whilst the mandarin has a smooth and sweet flavour. This tastes like the Green & Blacks ‘Mayan Gold’ bar.
IQ/Orange with Wild Raspberry – The Orange is subtle whilst the raspberry comes through strong.
The Raw Chocolate Co. – A subtle bitter orange bar.
Rawr – Gojis have a lovely crunchy texture. The Lucuma and carob combined make for a lovely caramel flavour.
Ombar – The Gojis are chewy and add a fantastic hint of sourness that hits the sides and rear of the mouth, mixed with the silky softness this bar is divine.
LoveChock / Goji & Orange – The Orange is subtle whilst the goji are lovely and chewy.
The Raw Chocolate co. / Goji & Orange – The orange and goji is subtly mixed with bitter chocolate at 69%.
Rawr / Lucuma Cacao – Caramel flavour with a hint of burnt flavour
IQ Coffee – This is one unique and very exquisite bar, perfect for after dinner.
Love Chock / Almond & Fig – What a gorgeous and unusual bar! Its crunchy, sweet and tastes like Amaretto and Marzipan.
Love Chock / Pineapple & Incaberry – Sweet and salty, this is fantastic. Love the pineapple chunks.
Love Chock / Mulberry & Vanilla – Great mixture, great rounded flavour. One of my go to ‘feel good’ chocolates.
The Raw Chocolate Co. / Vanoffe – A totally unique flavour, no cacao but lots of cacao butter, lucuma and vanilla coming together to create a gorgeous caramel flavour. Reminds me of caramac!
Raw Halo /Mylk & Crispies – What a gorgeous smell, and gorgeous crunchy texture.
Wonder Chocolate / Sea Salt & Sweet Nibs – Dark and very, very salty!
It really was an amazing review, despite these raw chocolates all sharing very similar ingredients they all have such different textures and flavours, presumably down to the techniques used, origins and type of cacao, the ingredient amounts etc. They certainly are all amazing bars and I would take raw chocolate bars over mass produced, over heated, chemical treated bars any day. If I had to choose my favourites of the lot… it is bit like being asked which is your favourite child!!! But OK, my favourites are probably Rawr mint, Ombar dark 72%, Ombar chocolate buttons, and of course ‘Cheeky’s’ favourite is the IQ BeautyiQ Orange and Sea Buckthorn…
What an experience this review was. If only we could sit down and do it all again… Nom Nom!