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Peppermint Lavender. (Image: LunaVida Chocolates)

Healthy, raw, vegan...chocolate? It exists, thanks to this Bellingham company

Healthy, Raw, and Vegan.

All words we expect to see on heath and organic foods, but on chocolate? That's a little more rare, but not for Bellingham's LunaVida Chocolates.

These mini organic squares of chocolate love you right back, and are handmade from LunaVida's kitchen to yours.

But how does a raw food diet and chocolate go together?

Enter Lisa Tenney, LMT, Doula, and Raw Chocolatier, creating her vision of the world inside the city limits of Bellingham, WA. She is the mastermind and sweet creator behind LunaVida Chocolates, and is one very busy woman. Besides handcrafting each of her chocolates, she runs a massage therapy practice and birthing doula services out of the same space inside the Tending Moon Center, located on Cornwall Avenue in the heart of Bellingham.

The birthing of LunaVida began simply as a way for Tenney to satisfy her own sweet tooth while maintaining her integrity to health. Many of the chocolate bars lining market shelves contain processed food ingredients and additives, not to mention dairy.

"I believe what we eat and where it comes from is of the utmost importance to our health and wellbeing," she said.

Tenney wanted a better alternative. The quest for chocolate which fit into her vegan and raw food diet began.

A raw food diet is defined as plant-based, commonly vegan, consisting of fresh or dried fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Raw and unprocessed foods are a central focus keeping with the belief that foods maintain their highest level of nutrients in the natural state. A food is considered raw if it has never been heated over 104-118 degrees Fahrenheit. Likewise, if any ingredient has been refined, pasteurized, or tainted with pesticides it is no longer considered a raw food.

At LunaVida the chocolates are created at 115 degrees or below. Once blended, they are cooled down to 82 degrees where they take on a lovely shine and smooth texture.

A vegetarian since the age of nine and vegan at the age of 13, Tenney has spent most of her life advocating for the welfare of animals and for the environment. She feels it vitally important to source all of her ingredients for the highest quality in taste as well as ethics. She searches for sustainable growers and producers for all ingredients going into her chocolate treats, ensuring they are organic and fair-trade. Even in the packaging, she strives for it to be low-waste, recyclable, and compostable whenever possible.

The primary ingredient serving as the canvas for these artistic creations is (somewhat obviously) - chocolate. Or more specifically, cacao - a raw superfood in and of itself. Not to be confused with cocoa, which is a refined and processed version of chocolate.

We are all familiar with chocolate's association as an aphrodisiac. But really it is the cacao - the raw food - which holds that sensual property! Other health attributes of this raw chocolate superfood are being high in antioxidants, promoting healthy skin, heart health, improving brain function, enhancing mood, and may even aid in weight loss.

Tenney acts as part chemist and part alchemist in her kitchen as she turns the raw cacao and other organic ingredients into sweet, chocolaty goodness. Go to her website and you will find many chocolate flavors to choose from. These are not your standard mixed assortment candies, but rather inspired by the flavors Tenney likes best. Some of her favorites include "Spicy Mango", "Coconut", "Pecan and Caramel" and even a seasonal variety of "Pumpkin Spice and "Candy Cane Crunch". And you better believe there are going to be some Valentine's Day specials!

"Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life" says the popular quote from Confucius. Lisa Tenney has done just that - pairing her work with what she loves, and it tastes heavenly!

Her chocolates, crafted from the heart, can be ordered through her website, Etsy store, or locally in Bellingham at the Tending Moon Center.