When I ran a natural health practice, I was introduced to the health benefits of dark chocolate and started to explore the topic more since I love chocolate. Discovered that there are hundreds of studies on dark chocolate showing that it:
When I dug in further, I discovered the extensive interest in natural health community for raw chocolate. The idea of any raw food is to protect the enzymes and nutrients. While the studies have mostly or entirely been done on cooked chocolate (so I don't take away its value), most of us notice that raw has a more powerful kick to it. So from experience, it does seem like you get more nutrients this way. And while it's more expensive, a little goes a long way -- so you can get the taste and benefits without consuming too much fat (even though it has a healthy form of fat in moderation).
ORGANIC, FAIR TRADE, Criollo
Most of the chocolate grown in the world is of a very low grade, grown on mass production farms with few nutrients in the soil. The trees are some of the most heavily sprayed of any crops. And guess what: most involves slave labor. Yep -- now you can go spit out that chocolate in your mouth.
When you buy organic chocolate, you avoid the heavy sprays, which get stored in the fat content of chocolate (and therefore can't just be washed off). You generally get a product with more nutrients because of the way it's grown. You may also get a higher quality, better tasting bean.
When you buy fair trade, you have 3rd party certification that farmers are paid a little better for their crop and there is no slave labor involved. (In some cases, raw chocolatiers work directly with their farms and pay them even better.) Without the fair trade label, you have no way of knowing, and odds are good that you're supporting slavery. Yikes.
Even amidst raw chocolate companies (who all seem to use organic and fair trade beans), most will use lower grade beans. 95% of the world's beans are forastero; the rest are criollo, or a natural hybrid of the two called Trinitario. Criollo are the highest grade, much like getting the best wines for grape or premium coffee beans. They cost 10 to 20 times as much as your basic beans. This can be one reason for the variety of prices among raw chocolate companies. These beans give the subtle layers of flavor that connoisseurs look for.
Below, some of the many options from an industry darling and consumer favorite, Gnosis Chocolate:
Buy Raw Chocolate
Every raw chocolate is a unique experience, unlike the sameness of so many cooked bars. Some raw chocolate is good. Some my family has spat out. It is often softer than cooked chocolate. Some uses the best beans, some does not. Prices typically range from 10 to 18 cents per gram, or $3 to $5 per ounce. This is about 2 to 4 times the cost of organic cooked chocolate.
Although I've enjoyed many, my favorite basic raw chocolate is ChocoNat. They use organic, fair trade criollo beans, fresh from the farms they work directly with. Their chocolate has a more traditional "snap" than most raw chocolate and boasts incredible flavors.
(For a wide variety of flavors and exceptional transparency in what they offer, I like Gnosis Chocolate.)
For transparency, once I tried ChocoNat and studied it, I became an affiliate and earn a little something for endorsing it. If interested to purchase as a customer, your cost is around 17 cents a gram, but you must use this code:
Discount Code: 1074301
That will give you 20% OFF all prices on their retail site. This still means a 500 gram box costs around $86, but this is the cost of premium. I have seen another artisan chocolate (not raw, organic, or fair trade) selling for 2-4 times as much as ChocoNat. So when you're looking for the best in chocolate, I encourage you to try out ChocoNat.
You can also be a member and purchase for just 15 cents a gram, saving about $11/box. As of this writing, there is no cost to becoming a member.
BECOME A CHOCONAT MEMBER
A couple of ChocoNat's other products: