Sorry Godiva. So long Jacques Torres. Au revoir Vosges. You’ve been replaced by a new choc on the block. Raw chocolate.
New Yorker and lifelong chocolate lover Vanessa Barg started Gnosis Chocolate from her mother’s kitchen in Harlem in 2008. The 25-year-old, who loves the outdoors and practices bellydancing and yoga in her free time, has an unusual pedigree for the premium chocolate aisle. After getting a degree in holistic health counseling from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, she attended a lecture given by Naked Chocolate author David Wolfe. Barg remembers the life-changing evening: “He explained how the cacao bean is a superfood because of its high levels of potent vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.” Barg figured if chocolate wasn’t the bad guy, it must be the stuff added to the traditional candybar that is. And so she went the raw route.
Unlike the buck or so you’ll pay for Hershey, a two-ounce bar of Gnosis will set you back about $9. But the sourcing and labor-intensive production justifies the gold bar pricing. And we should mention, it’s delicious—slightly more bitter than conventional chocolate, it has a rich, robust taste that is more satisfying than its sugar-packed, diluted-with-dairy cousins.
To make the bars, first Barg selects cacao beans from Bali, Peru, and Ecuador for nutritional quality, flavor, and raw integrity. She then carefully monitors every step of production, ensuring that the cacao pods and beans are never heated over 118 degrees Fahrenheit because this preserves its nutritional value, she says. To this raw chocolate she adds only sustainable, better-for-you sweeteners like palm or agave nectar.
Another reason the bars are healthier? Barg sneaks in some mineral-dense green-blue algae. To some bars she adds camu camu, which is jam-packed with vitamin C, or burdock root, which may help lower blood-sugar levels. “There are so many amazing herbs and ingredients that have been used in Ayurvedic medicine and in indigenous cultures for thousands of years that people don’t know about,” says Barg. She eschews milk, so the chocolates are vegan-friendly. “Even people with diabetes have told me that they can enjoy the chocolate without negative impact,” she adds.
Like Dan Barber or Mary Cleaver of The Cleaver Co., Barg doesn’t just want to feed you, she wants to shape the sourcing and production standards of the burgeoning raw-chocolate industry with RawIntegrityProject.com, a non-profit. “In order for us to know if the chocolate we’re eating is truly raw, we have to monitor all the steps back to the tree,” says Barg. She also donates 10 percent of all proceeds to the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation. This Thursday night you’ll find the philanthropically inclined chocolatier at V-Day chocolate and wine tasting to benefit the Global Giving Circle. Just another way Barg makes good chocolate.
Gnosis Chocolate’s Valentine’s Day Three-Flavor Passion Truffle sets start at $10.49 at www.gnosischocolate.com