You know, I was really beginning to think the day would never come that I’d enjoy a piece of dark chocolate. (I’ve been known to walk around Trader Joe’s and sneer at all the goodies they insist on ruining with dark chocolate—on principle alone, since I’m probably allergic anyway.)
…That is, Until I found Raaka: a small-batch craft chocolate company based in Red Hook, Brooklyn. (Think Mast Brothers, but allergy-friendly.) They don’t roast their cacao beans—which is apparently an unconventional move in the world of chocolate-making—in order to showcase the beans’ natural flavors, and all of their chocolate is dark (which is to say that it’s above 60% cacao). It didn’t sound good, but boy, was I wrong.
First things first, though. According to their FAQ, Raaka is pretty allergy-friendly:
We take allergies very seriously at Raaka. None of our products contain gluten, dairy, soy, or nuts. Additionally, we ensure that no nuts ever enter our factory. However, we are not certified nut-free: we cannot guarantee that all our suppliers also maintain a nut-free environment. Please shop responsibly.
Very, very, very few companies can guarantee nut-free suppliers—but I find Raaka’s policy pretty promising. The fact that they don’t allow any nuts into their facility is especially reassuring, so I’ve categorized them as truly nut-free. Still, as they said: please shop responsibly.
I especially like the Coconut Milk bar, which is pretty creamy at only 60% cacao. I was skeptical when I read (on the wrapper) about the alleged “tasting notes” of strawberry and caramel, but Raaka isn’t kidding. The strawberry flavor is subtle, but it’s definitely there. Honestly, I’ve spent my 19 years rabidly hating dark chocolate—but this bar was the first step in my conversion.
The Cabernet Sauvignon bar (67% cacao) is lovely, too. Apparently, they steam cacao nibs over simmering wine before grinding those nibs to make the bar. Again, the “tasting notes” of grape and oak are real (though I refuse to stop putting “tasting notes” in scare quotes—if only so I can continue to live with myself). The bar is part of a limited batch that Raaka’s subscribers singled out as one of their favorites from 2015. (Raaka offers a monthly subscription called First Nibs; for $24.95/month, they’ll ship you three chocolate bars—two new flavors, and one classic—on the 15th of each month. Perhaps if I were rich…)
I’ve also tried the Mint & Nibs (56% cacao) and the Pink Sea Salt (71% cacao)—but that’s where I stopped, because at $7 each, these chocolate bars have me well on my way to the poorhouse. Still, both were good. The Mint & Nibs is refreshingly light in comparison to the others, and the Pink Sea Salt is…well, salty. Nice.
Anyway, from what I’ve tasted, Raaka’s bars are consistently good, and I highly recommend you give them a try, even if you aren’t into dark chocolate. Find Raaka most reliably at Whole Foods—or at their factory, located (in Red Hook) at 64 Seabring Street. They also offer tours and classes, which I haven’t had a chance to try, but which are both at the top of my weekend to-do list.
(By the way: If you’re interested in reading more about Raaka’s mission and methods, check out this article from Edible Brooklyn.)