Fermentation is a key step in the chocolate making process, as it’s necessary for forming the flavor precursors we associate with chocolate. Temperatures during fermentation regularly hit 122°F/50°C and sometimes even higher, rendering most properly-fermented cacao no longer “raw.” Fermentation is one of the least well-known steps in chocolate making, however, so many “raw chocolates” are actually unroasted chocolates, such as Raaka Chocolate.After cacao is harvested, fermented and dried, it’s sent to chocolate makers for cleaning, roasting, peeling, and grinding. Even if cacao was very carefully monitored during fermentation to ensure it never went over the temperature threshold, there are two more steps in flavor development which require high heat: roasting and grinding.
Roasting cacao is done at a variety of temperatures, but most cacao is roasted between 275-400°F/135-205°C. During the roasting process, the flavor precursors formed during fermentation are transformed into the fudgey, fruity, and nutty flavors associated with chocolate. Which flavors develop depends upon cacao origin, varietal, and roasting time and temperature, but roasting below 118°F/48°C won’t allow those flavors to fully develop, leaving the beans with the strong earthy undertone which characterizes “raw” chocolate.