With Valentine’s Day approaching, perhaps you’ll be getting one of the millions of boxes of chocolates that are given as gifts each year on this romantic day. And for the single ladies—feel free to treat yourself! We often hear about the health benefits of dark chocolate, and artisanal chocolatiers around the world are pushing the boundaries with flavors and sourcing of cacao beans, but raw and vegan chocolatiers are giving the sweet a new healthy twist. Here are four of our favorites.
Image credit: UliMana
The Raw Chocolatier’s Gregory Serber is no classically trained chocolatier or pastry chef. However, he’s been vegan for more than two decades, and started his own chocolate company just this year to share his superfood chocolates with others.
“I started to seek out the highest quality chocolate I could find in order to maximize the health benefits and enjoyment,” he says. “I started playing with raw chocolate recipes I discovered and distilled them into my own special, super delicious, super healthy recipe.” Each of Serber’s individually-wrapped truffles is $2.99, but considering the size and quality of the all-organic ingredients, it’s a worthy indulgence. “These are truly high-end, uncompromised ingredients,” he says. Each truffle is hand-rolled using cacao from Peru and the Dominican Republic, sweetened only with agave. Pistachio is one of the most popular flavors, the crunch of nuts and cacao nibs contrasting with the smooth coconut cacao ganache. Goji hazelnut, sea salt macadamia, goji coconut, and chia crunch are also available.
Sisters Laura and Louise Sharpe started producing their own raw, vegan chocolates from their desire to eat only pure, whole foods and eight years later Lulu’s Chocolate can be found at retailers nationwide. The bars and bonbons are made in small batches, and the brand even has a chocolate lounge in Sedona. The aim is to craft chocolate that’s as pure as possible, sweetened with low-glycemic coconut sugar and a little pure vanilla bean in each batch. “These two ingredients marry together perfectly as vanilla and cacao are known as mythological lovers,” Louise Sharpe says. Keeping chocolate in a raw state preserves the rich mineral profile, including anandamide, the bliss chemical. For Valentine’s Day try the Sensual Lovepack to taste all of the bars and four truffle flavors, along with edible lip and body balms. The lounge will also serve a special holiday truffle—Aphrodite’s Delight. “We are soaking cherries right now in this lovely aphrodisiac potion and will be making cherry cream, heart shaped truffles,” Sharpe says.
At UliMana, Tonya Bennert wants to let dessert be your medicine because her truffles are truly that good for you. When Bennert first tasted raw chocolate in 2005 while working for Larabar as a marketing coordinator, she was hooked and was inspired to get her certification in holistic health and wellness. “Raw chocolate contains a wealth of antioxidants and essential vitamins and minerals which contribute to improving physical and mental health, such as lowering blood pressure and helping to improve circulation by promoting dilation, strength and health of blood vessels,” Bennert says. She makes several different hand-rolled raw chocolate truffle flavors with fair trade cacao from Peru and Bali along with truffle butter and maca mana spreads. UliMana has been in Asheville for 10 years now, and Bennert credits the community for offering love and support over the past decade. “Asheville is a wonderful place for experimentation and most people who live here are open to try a plethora of interesting culinary flavors—especially those with health benefits.” New this Valentine’s Day is a “Love” truffle with the Ayurvedic shatavari herb, known to be an aphrodisiac as well as a digestive aid. The pretty, floral truffle is rolled in organic coconut shreds and rose petals.
Zimt Chocolates is the first certified organic chocolate company in Vancouver and completely vegan too. Emma Gemmer is mostly self-taught, learning from mentors in the industry who were willing to share their knowledge and experiences with her. She buys her cacao from two different farms in Ecuador and even had a chance to visit. “The farmers are, from what I could tell from spending an afternoon together, very kind, intelligent and peaceful people,” she says. “They don’t even need us to buy their cacao from them. They are totally self-sufficient and live off of the land. I consider it a huge favor that they are granting us, and am forever grateful for their generosity.” Smith makes raw chocolate to preserve the antioxidants in this superfood and sweetens her bars and truffles with coconut palm sugar, which was declared to be the world’s most sustainable sweetener by the World Bank’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Her salt of the earth and coconut crisp bars and double chocolate macaroons are some of Zimt’s best-selling treats.
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