Were you as scared of the little green-haired orange-skinned Oompa-Loompas in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory as I was? And I’m talking about the original 1971 Gene Wilder classic, not the 2005 Tim Burton remake, which was even scarier. Well, you don’t have to be scared anymore, nor have a Golden Ticket to visit the Raaka Chocolate Factory in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
My girlfriend and I had the opportunity to attend a cookies and chocolate Tea Party in conjunction with One Girl Cookies to celebrate their new Earl Gray Bundt Cakes and Truffles. Absolutely delicious! They will be accompanying our Thanksgiving dessert table this year, unless we eat them all first, which has a high probability given my massive sweet tooth and lack of self-control.
In addition to these tasty morsels, we were treated to samples of all the chocolates made by Raaka at their factory. My favorite was their Mint & Nibs, a blended mint, coconut, and Congolese cacao with toasted nibs to add an addictive crunch. What, you don’t know what a ‘nib‘ is? Well, chocolate nibs are the center of the cacao bean and the base of all chocolate. After the outer shells of the individual beans have been removed, the nibs are roasted and ground.
How did I find this out, you might ask? Nate Hodge, one of the founders, gave us a personal tour of the factory! In it we experienced the entire production process from the prospective of a cacao bean (without being eaten in the end). It was very interesting, and I didn’t turn into a giant blueberry or fall into the chocolate river either!
You too can take a tour of their deliciously smelling factory as they offer tours and classes. If you’ve got a sweet tooth or even if you don’t, you’ll have a fun time checking out the Raaka Chocolate Factory!
– Michael Riegelman
About Raaka Chocolate Factory:
Ryan Cheney was introduced to chocolate making at a yoga school on a beautiful island in Thailand, where he was excited by the flavors of unroasted cocoa beans. Inspired by companies with social missions, he founded Raaka to explore low-temperature chocolate making and create a more equitable global society in which communities have opportunity to improve their quality of life.
After spending a year learning bean-to-bar chocolate making, Ryan teamed up with Nate Hodge, a musician and gastronomist with a lust for exotic flavors and groundbreaking processes. For several months, Nate and Ryan enjoyed the sound of micro-batch chocolate grinders churning around the clock in their Bushwick apartment as they developed a new approach to chocolate making. Fueled by a desire to turn ethically sourced cacao beans into innovative and vibrant chocolate with minimal interference (from artificial ingredients and traditional roasting), they moved to their first factory outpost in Red Hook this past year.
Raaka’s unique low temperature process preserves the wild flavor profiles innate to each origin, offering a rare and delicious chocolate experience that brings you closer to the bean. Additionally, Ryan and Nate foster direct trade relationships with their cacao farmers, and source from the CIAAB co-op in Bolivia, the Oko Caribe co-op in the Dominican Republic, Akesson’s Farm in Madagascar, and Maya Mountain Cacao in Belize. Raaka pays it’s cacao farmers a minimum of $500 per metric ton above market price for their beans, the equivalent of a 20% raise by today’s standards. Dedicated to creating a more equitable society through their passion for chocolate making, Ryan and Nate also donate their cocoa husk to Edible Schoolyard NYC, an after-school gardening program at P.S. 216 in Brooklyn where the husk is used as mulch and fertilizer for growing vegetables.
All their bars are wrapped in paper designed by our earth-conscious friend Elissa Barbieri at Loop. Loop’s paper is printed with soy inks on FSC-certified, 100% post consumer recycled, chlorine-free paper that was processed with sustainable wind-generated energy.