During the month of February there are huge sales of chocolate everywhere! Heart shaped chocolates, chocolate cake, chocolate ice cream, chocolate wine, chocolate chicken…and the list goes on and on. Chocolate is just one of those tasty treats that we all (or most of us) love. Not only that, but there have been studies about the mental and physical health benefits of chocolate. The only downside to the sweet treat is too much of it can cause weight gain, upset stomach or even breakouts…just to name a few.
When you think about it, the chocolate positives seem to outweigh the negatives, right? Unfortunately, no. There is a whole different side to chocolate that is often unseen. It is only in recent years that here in the U.S. the average consumer has gained exposure to the alternate life of chocolate. Not the chocolate that you see just sitting on store shelves ready for the taking, but everything that happens before it hits stores. Where chocolate comes from, how it’s produced, and why it’s so important to know these things are some of the bigger questions to ask.
Where is chocolate from?
A more accurate question is cacao, which is the main ingredient in chocolate products. Most cacao is produced along the equator, especially in Mexico, the northern region of South America, the Caribbean islands and in West Africa (the major exporter).
How is it made?
Cacao is developed from a cacao pod grown from cacao trees. When properly matured the pod is cut from the trees, fermented, dried, and roasted.
Why chocolate production is important?
The folks responsible for manual labor are often children and poor farmers. That’s right! Children, some who are a part of slavery or trafficking are harvesting these cacao beans for the world’s pleasure. Farmers also produce cacao and too often receive very little compensation and remain impoverished. Also, the working conditions are extremely difficult and handling machinery and tools can be extremely dangerous (especially for children).
What’s being done about it?
Here is where the growing interest in the production of cacao comes into play. You might have already heard of the phrase “fair trade.” Fair trade basically means that the product produced was done so by individuals that were provided with safe working environments, fair wages and other provisions.
More and more companies are joining the movement in bringing awareness to the chocolate that is fair trade.
I am a huge chocolate fan myself, and would still like to enjoy my chocolate, but not at the violation and expense of other’s human rights. The next time I make a chocolate purchase, I’ll make sure it is from a fair trade company. Check out more info below about fair trade companies and those raising awareness.
- Equal Exchange
- Fair Trade USA
- The Dark Side of Chocolate (trailer) – Documentary about the cacao trade
Peace, Love, & Coconuts