It’s not easy when a chocolate company tweets one and ask if one will try out their products. Ok so, sez one, one supposes if one must…. The very nice people from Magic Mayan Chocolates in Kilfenora, Co.Clare sent me on some samples to try out. Now, I have to tell, you, the idea of raw chocolate didn’t really appeal to me at first. What’s that you say? what’s raw chocolate? According to an article in the Ecologist (by Hannah Corr, 27th September 2011) the process for making chocolate is fairly simple: heat cacao beans, grind into a liqueur, add fat and sweeten. However, subtle alterations at any of these stages can result in wildly different chocolate bars. The fundamental difference between your commercial chocolate bar (such as Cadbury’s or Green & Blacks) and raw chocolate is this: the cacao in raw chocolate is never heated above 45°C, unlike commercial chocolate which is roasted at 130°C, meaning all the anti-oxidants, enzymes and nutrients remain intact. So how does it taste? The first one I tried were the Tutti Frutti Pralines: The appearance of these is really good – I loved the mayan images imprinted into the chocolates. The only thing was that the white chocolate looked a bit like “bloom“, which it wasn’t (the food science bit – blooming is what happens to chocolate if its warmed and then cooled during storage, not good). And so to taste….yuummmyy!!…..lovely bite, the chocolate cracked (a sign of good quality), and the praline centres were smooth, flavoursome and truly delicious. I had happily decided to try these sitting on my own at the kitchen table (my laboratory, I mean, controlled conditions etc), so had no disturbances and better still didn’t have to share! The centres were creamy and were really fruity – cherries, mango, strawberry & raspberry along with vanilla, lime and liquorice – excellent natural flavours. They reminded me of Belgian pralines which traditionally have soft centres. What a great start. And so to the Crazy Caramel Bar. I wasn’t so crazy about this I’m afraid. It might have got a bit battered in the post, but I think the packaging doesn’t look great. I suppose they are going for the “eco” look, the paper is recycled – and it looks it! It’s certainly an unusual and interesting looking bar – the caramel is laid in a layer on top of the chocolate, and again inlaid with mayan printing. However, the caramel layer detached from the chocolate when I broke the bar. I decided to bring this one with me to my class of Food & Business Management students in St. Angela’s College in Sligo (where I lecture in European Food Legislation by the way, exciting!!) to see what they thought, and here’s the feedback: bitty, not creamy, biscuit like, gritty, not smooth, caramel separates from chocolate, texture of caramel too hard, flavour not bad, doesn’t melt in the mouth. There’s a way to go in developing this bar further to increase the acceptability. The raw foodians may be happy with it but if you’re going to try to convert the mass population, then there is some work to be done. Raw chocolate may be high in nutrients, but it needs to taste good too. The raw chocolate market is a niche one. As with any niche market, it takes even more hard work than usual to make sales, promote your product and convert people from the mainstream. I really admire the Magic Mayan chocolatiers – well done and keep it up!! I’ll be buying the pralines if I see them in shops – hope to see them in Leitrim or Sligo soon!!
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