By Connie Leinbach
Debbie Wells is happy that her raw chocolate bars are unique to the island.
One of the few manufacturers on Ocracoke, Wells creates healthful, raw chocolate she calls Graffiti Rose in small batches in her home.
“This is a handmade bar,” she said, as she cut and wrapped her latest batch of regular bars in their shiny pink wrappers. “I like the fact that it’s made here and stays here. They aren’t shipped anywhere.”
The texture and taste of her three types of bars—regular, espresso and white chocolate (only available in the winter months)—are different from commercially made chocolate.
That’s because all of the Graffiti Rose ingredients are subject to little to no heat.
Heating ingredients destroys nutrient, minerals and digestive enzymes that are present in the raw natural ingredients, Wells said.
“Mine is the only untempered bar I’ve ever seen,” she said.
She explained that with commercial bars, the chocolate is heated to a certain point, and then cooled. Then it’s heated again, which stabilizes the chocolate and makes it snappy and shiny as is typical in commercial bars.
“Mine are as close to the natural state as possible,” she said.
While she does not follow a totally-raw diet, she finds that some raw ingredients are easier to digest. For her, it’s nuts.
“With toasted nuts, I have a problem,” she said, “but with raw nuts, there’s no problem.”
Wells heats the cacao butter and coconut oil together to a melted state. Then she folds in the dry ingredients–cacao powder (the most important ingredient), sugar, nibs, coconut and almonds. After a little stirring, she divides the mixture among three square cake pans and refrigerates them until she is ready to package them.
She delivers the finished bars to four locations for sale: the Variety Store, Zillie’s Island Pantry, the Ocracoke gas station and the Community Store.
In about two hours of work, she produces 24 bars per batch. Doing all of the work herself keeps the retail price to below $6.
The retired founder of the Back Porch Restaurant, Wells brought a new cuisine to Ocracoke when she began running The (former) Pelican restaurant in 1979.
Her first job was as a server at the former Captain Ben’s (now Ocracoke Oyster Co.) and she noticed that island eateries served mostly fried foods.
“I saw all these city people coming here and saw there was a big thing missing—good food and a fine dining experience,” she said.
Now retired from the daily food industry, Wells can make her chocolate bars on her own time, and she covers her costs while making a modest profit.
“No one is getting rich with these,” she said.
Creating them was by happenstance when a visiting girlfriend from Chapel Hill and she experimented one night to make something raw and sweet, and Graffiti Rose was born.
A collage artist and painter, Wells was making a collage one day when these two words popped up.
“I really liked those two words and what they evoke,” she said about the product’s name.
While the taste of the bars is quite different from commercial chocolate, Wells is pleased with it and their sales.
“Every day when I taste them, I think, ‘Yeah. This is why I’m doing this,’” she said.