Monday, January 25, 2016

Raaka Chocolate Tour - Updated

Did you know you can take a tour of Raaka Chocolate in Red Hook?


I first tried Raaka at the Bryant Park Winter Village and I was instantly infatuated. Unfortunately, the bars I purchased immediately afterward all had a bit of a burnt aftertaste to them, so I went on a bit of a Raaka hiatus. But when the opportunity to tour came about last spring, I decided that since my pal and I had already toured another chocolate factory, it was as good a time as ever to revisit Raaka.

Upon entering Raaka headquarters, the first thing you see is the "gift shop."

 

And then you see everything else.

 

 The tour started with the beans, of course.


We got to taste some roasted beans, which I don't recommend. Some of the folks in the group were acting like they liked them. I'm not sure if this was because they were vying for more free stuff or if they wanted to appear as though they had a palate distinguished enough to enjoy such a wretched taste, but it was NOT GOOD and wasn't really intended to be.

 

Give me chocolate in all of it's refined glory any day.

 

The most exciting part of the tour was when we got to go into a gloriously scented room containing giant tubs filled with melted chocolate. It immediately crossed my mind that it was a little strange to be in this room not wearing a hazmat suit: the chocolate wasn't covered and, although we were all donning hairnets, we were also talking/coughing/sneezing and just generally shedding skin particles in a confined space amidst the melted product.


To my further surprise, we were then each given a disposable spoon with which to retrieve our own sample from said tubs*(please see update below). Let me set the scene: we weren't wearing gloves and were given the go-ahead to dip our spoons into tubs of chocolate ultimately intended for retail for a taste. While I like to consider myself germ-conscious (germophobe seems a little severe), this seemed more than a little unsanitary. But, in my ongoing efforts not to be a dud, I dipped my spoon and had a taste of truly glorious, melted chocolate. However, my satisfaction was short-lived; when I turned around I noticed that a few of the other people on the tour had chocolate all over their hands. I initially thought there had been some sort of chocolate accident, but then I realized: it was because they'd dipped them so far into the chocolate in an effort to get the most chocolate onto their spoon.

a proper taste

So then I was done. Not necessarily with humanity (although almost), but definitely with Raaka for the day.


I wasn't able to bring myself to purchase anything on the way out, I didn't sign up for the chocolate-bar making tour others were interested in, and I easily resisted the urge to run out of the building wheeling this giant bin of chocolate bars. The mystique was gone and it had been replaced by skeeve.


Not sure that I'll ever think of Raaka in the same way I did when I was originally introduced. I've considered that this may just be a case of it not always being the best idea to peer behind the curtain, but I'm pretty confident it errs more on the side of blatant lack of hygiene.


What do you think? Am I nuts, or does this seem in clear violation of health codes?
 
*UPDATED 1/26/16: I'm happy to report that Raaka's Community Director contacted me via email with the following information:

I wanted to reach out about your recent blog post.

I greatly appreciate your feedback on our tour and the worries about hygiene. I completely agree with your concerns and take them very seriously.

The employee who gave that tour was corrected over the summer on his practices in the grinding room of letting people dip their own tasting spoons in to the machine. The public is no longer allowed to go anywhere near that close to open machinery and the tasting is handed out by a gloved employee. We fixed this practice with this employee in June. 

Regardless of what has changed, I sincerely do apologize for your experience and am saddened to hear we've lost a customer, though I understand your reasons and consider them extremely valid. I want to assure you that we have changed it and are assuredly vigilant about our factory hygiene.

Thank you so much for your feedback and your support of the food community.

--
Peter Gray | Community Director | Chocolate Maker
             Raaka Chocolate 
     Handmade Virgin Chocolate

8 comments:

  1. Frankly, you probably should shoot a link to this review over to the dept of health. NYC is really serious, and though sometimes I feel they are overly stern with their fines, in this case they probably would be totally justified.

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    1. Phew; they've changed their practices!

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  2. My reaction when I read your post was that you should contact them about this — then I saw the reply. At least they are taking steps to fix the problem. The part of the tour you showed us looked cool, anyway. When we toured the Theo Chocolate Factory in Seattle, we had to wear hair nets, and weren't allowed within touching distance of the equipment. (I described the tour here: http://bit.ly/1ZR906P) If you ever come to Seattle, be sure to include it on your to-do list.

    The first time I tasted cacao nibs, in Ecuador, I thought they tasted like dirt. Now I like them, but not as much as finished chocolate.

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    1. If I ever come to Seattle I think I'm going to AirBNB Mighty O, but maybe I can squeeze in Theo? My friend took that tour and loved it- even brought me the dark chocolate PB cups before they were available on the east coast!

      I can stomach the nibs, but right out of the shell? Dirt, yep, that about says it all.

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  3. Oh grim. I'm glad they fixed the problem, but it does leave a nasty taste in your mouth. Like the beans, really.

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  4. Didnt the kids get to partake of everything when touring Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory? They might have been heading that direction.

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  5. eek! I'm not sure that I've ever tried raaka chocolate and probably won't for a while. I think I have a friend who works for them though... but not leading tours!

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