By Kate Malin
It took a rogue bag of cacao beans absorbing the tang of some BBQ sauce he was making for Raaka Chocolate co-founder and head chocolate maker Nate Hodge to realize that cacao beans would take on the flavors of their surroundings. Excited by the possibilities of the discovery, he quickly landed on bourbon as a natural complement to chocolate and set about aging some beans in Berkshire Mountain Distilling Bourbon Barrels at the Raaka factory in Brooklyn. The result of the experiment, Raaka’s Bourbon Cask Aged chocolate, is rich with flavors of caramel, vanilla, and hints of oak imparted from the barrels, and went on to win a Good Food Award in 2013 after its release.
Raaka’s unusual flavors are made more unique by their use of “virgin chocolate” to create all their bars. Unlike most chocolate makers, Raaka leaves their beans unroasted, which they believe allows the flavor of the bean to really come through. This nuanced approach to their craft is evident in the attention to quality and sustainability as they take the cacao from bean to bar. Raaka’s beans are purchased above market rate from farmers, their wrappers printed on recycled paper, and their leftover cacao husks donated to Edible Schoolyard NYC to use as mulch. An extra perk: cacao beans are rich in antioxidants, fiber, and naturally occurring chemicals (theobromine, phenylethylamine, and anandamide) that act as mood elevators, so pop a piece in your mouth, let it melt on your tongue, and savor.
Bourbon Cask Aged chocolate is available at raakachocolate.com and in stores across the country. Raaka Chocolate is part of the Good Food Awards, a project to honor food and drink producers making the sort of food we all want to eat – tasty, authentic and responsible, and a proud member of the Good Food Merchants Guild, national association uniting American craft food businesses to connect, convene and promote Good Food businesses of all sizes.
From her grassroots work at the Good Food Awards to her continued education at NYU’s Food Studies Master’s Program, Kate Malin brings an unparalleled passion for great food and good people.
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