Raaka calls their chocolate “virgin chocolate.” Unlike most chocolate makers, founder Ryan Cheney decided to explore chocolate made with unroasted beans. He along with Nate Hodges, the head chocolate maker, started making chocolate in their apartment in micro batches, molding and tempering bars by hand, which they first sold at farmers markets in 2010.
By keeping the processing minimal, and not roasting the beans, the Raaka chocolate bars deliver complex, bright flavors that most will find unfamiliar, and yet delicious. Raaka in Finnish means “wild and untamed,” and the name not only suits the style of chocolate, but also the constant experimentation with infusions, whether it be ghost pepper, maple, or bourbon cask aged beans.
Raaka Chocolate was one my favorite stops on my tour of chocolate makers in the north east. Not only were Pete (my tour guide), Ryan, and Nate super friendly, their enthusiasm for chocolate, and the camaraderie among the team were self evident. Ryan and Nate are clearly striving to build a values driven business, where ethical trade, energy efficiency, sustainable farming, and community building are as important as making good chocolate. Even their husks are donated to an edible school yard.
Ryan and Nate are clearly striving to build a values driven business, where ethical trade, energy efficiency, sustainable farming, and community building are as important as making good chocolate.
If you get the chance, visit and tour Raaka‘s new space. They recently took over a former metal working factory in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Learn about how they make their raw bean-to-bar chocolate, and sample all the bold intriguing flavors. The new space allowed them to increase production, and acquire new equipment.
Of particular note, and most exciting for the team was a brand new optical sorter. This machine is bananas! It uses cameras, sensors, and lasers to winnow the nibs from the shells. This process was especially tedious at Raaka before this machine, since the beans are not roasted.
If you do go, be sure to sample whatever Nate is cooking up at the time, and send us your pictures!
Raaka chocolate was first featured in Bar & Cocoa subscription box in November 2015.