Ryan Cheney has two aims for his Clinton Hill company, Raaka Chocolate: making chocolate in an unusual way and improving quality of life through business. For the former, he produces what he calls "virgin chocolate" from unroasted cocoa beans. "I find beans that are good before the roast and change them as little as possible," he says, "to maintain the integrity of the flavor." He adds that while cocoa beans can have wildly varying flavor profiles, the roasting and heavy processing most chocolate goes through can mask those nuances. His virgin chocolate, on the other hand, can give "access to delicious flavors from the cocoa bean you've never before tasted."
As a way to achieve the latter goal, he eventually hopes to build a direct trade relationship with a single community of growers; for now he's focused on practicing ethical sourcing as "a way of improving the quality of life of workers around the world." To that end, Cheney puts his money where his mouth is and pays a $500 premium per ton of beans that goes back to the farmers.
Raaka currently produces five flavors: 70% dark with sea salt, blueberry with lavender, chili, vanilla rooibos, and a so-new-it's-not-even-on-the-website-yet single-origin 81% dark chocolate from the Dominican Republic. "Oolong tea comes through as a flavor," Cheney says of the new bar, "even though we don't add anything to it."
They're releasing another new flavor this week, a bourbon bar made from cocoa nibs and cocoa butter that have been aged in oak bourbon casks from Tuthilltown Spirits. "It gives the chocolate caramel-y, vanilla-y, green apple-y notes," Cheney says. To celebrate, Raaka is having a release party at Smith Street bourbon bar Char No. 4 this Wednesday night, October 26, at 6:00.
For more information, visit RaakaChocolate.com.
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