The Man Who Makes Our Chocolates Possible
Have you tried our chocolates yet? They just might be the supplement of your dreams — provided you dream of chocolate, of course.
Here’s an interview with the man who makes it all possible: master chocolatier and founder of FINE & RAW, Daniel Sklaar.
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Daniel didn’t exactly set out to transform the chocolate industry. He came to New York City after graduating from Cape Town University to pursue a career in finance.
The finance industry just wasn't as fulfilling as he had thought, at least not compared to more holistic pursuits, which he had developed a passion for. After two years, Daniel left the finance world behind, and went on a quest for better health.
That quest took him down some unexpected rabbit holes, notably down into the world of raw food. He immersed himself into learning more about organic farming, plant-based goods, alternative sugars, raw food diets, and more. Daniel recalls that, “Back then, this was from outer space — all these concepts.”
Eventually, Daniel moved back to NY and became a raw food chef. He continued to experiment with all kinds of raw food, finding a particular interest in raw chocolates.
People were trying his products and “flipping out,” he recounts today. “I had so much support from friends and family, it was just this tidal wave of momentum,” Daniel explains. The evolution into something more was only natural; here’s what happened next per Fine & Raw’s website:
He (Daniel) then started delivering chocolates on his bicycle to fine local purveyors. It was apparent that the chocolate flavor was so good it was borderline addictive. The company grew based on the premise of producing organic, unparalleled quality chocolate and a sheer love of the chocolate-making process.
Fine & Raw vs. Cooked & Blah
Did you know that most chocolate out there has been cooked? It’s true. Even some of the organic, healthier options have lost the value of their premium ingredients from too much heat.
Fine & Raw chocolate, on the other hand, is minimally processed using very low heat, which means its enzymes stay intact and it stays “raw.” This allows raw chocolate to retain its natural enzymatic activity. It’s rich in over a thousand beneficial enzymes, and these enzymes work with one’s body to process and digest the chocolate’s most beneficial ingredients. Pretty cool, right?
Raw chocolate is also actually a fermented food — in the same category as real yogurt, sourdough bread, and more. Ferments are known to be great for gut health because they provide plenty of good bacteria into the digestive tract. Fermented foods are yet another thing the average American is missing out on, which means you have yet another reason to try raw chocolate. “Most people are familiar with dark chocolate being healthy for you, and raw chocolate just takes it that step further,” Daniel says.
Chocolate = Superfood
Not that we needed an excuse to indulge in some chocolate, but if we did — raw chocolate is full of good stuff! No, seriously. In addition to all of the above, raw chocolate contains 40 times more antioxidants than blueberries.
Raw chocolate is rich in vitamins and minerals, too, including magnesium, zinc, iron, chromium (80% of Americans are deficient!), and B vitamins. It also contains healthy fats like oleic acid. Some parts of the cacao plant, like cacao nibs, are rich in fiber.
Another thing: raw chocolate contains a wide spectrum of chemical precursors known to benefit one’s mood. These include serotonin, PEA, anandamide precursors, and more:
Serotonin | Raw chocolate contains several of the brain’s most important neurotransmitters, including serotonin, tryptophan, tyrosine, and more. Keyword being ‘raw’ — studies say that “the concentration of these compounds increases during fermentation.”
PEA | Short for phenylethylamine, PEA is a small molecule with profound effects on one’s perception and mood. It may boost clarity, focus...oh, and feelings of love.
Anandamide precursors | Studies have shown raw chocolate contains substances that mimic the endocannabinoid anandamide — it may even contain small amounts of anandamide itself.
Theobromine | Derived from the Latin term for “food of the gods,” theobromine stimulates the cardiovascular system in much the same way that caffeine stimulates the nervous system. It’s pretty much just amazing for you.
From Bean to Bar
Comparable to sourcing hemp, sourcing chocolate the right way is absolutely critical. Fine & Raw takes a “bean to bar” approach — they know their beans, know their farms, and know their process. This allows them to be fully involved in every step of their product’s development.
While some chocolatiers might just buy bulk chocolate, melt it down, and start from there, not Daniel. “Transparency in chocolate is a big issue,” he says, which means selecting the right source is critical. “We scour the world looking for the best cocoa beans.”
With that type of foundation, everything else falls into place. “Once you’ve got ultra-high-quality ingredients, that’s 90% of the work done.”
Fine & Raw also adheres to a traditional, Epicurean method of making chocolate. Even the bean sourcing is done old-world style. According to Daniel, his brand’s approach is part “tree-hugging hippy” and part “indulgent European-style chocolate”...but based on what customers are saying, it’s definitely working.
Exploration & Adventure
What’s life like as a leading chocolate startup based near New York City?
“There’s a healthy amount of exploration and a good sense for adventure,” Daniel says, and these qualities are needed to ensure the success of any startup brand.
Daniel’s personal story has also played a role in how Fine & Raw has developed over time. “Being an immigrant, moving to a new country, exploring a new landscape, that’s what a startup is all about. Venturing out into the unknown, so to speak.”
Why Make Cannabis Edibles?
We also asked Daniel why Fine & Raw chose to partner with a cannabis brand like Toast Wellness. His motive is a personal one: “I’m a personal fan of edibles...of many kinds. [And] chocolate is such an amazing canvas for edibles.”
“[...] There’s an alchemy that happens with edibles. Chocolate really allows the other elements combined in the edible to shine through.”
Speaking from his experience, Daniel rightly points out that the chocolate-making process is part alchemy anyway. So why not amplify chocolate’s essence further with a little CBD?
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Ready to experience the magic of FINE & RAW x Toast for yourself? Simply click here.