Fair Trade: Love A Better Chocolate

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Fair trade symbols are not just icons that mean “this item will cost more.” They are like bright neon lights that highlight industries where labor is very poorly compensated. I mean, very poorly.  According to the Fair Trade Foundation, farmers of cacao beans (the beans that give us chocolate) usually see about 6% of the final cost of a candy bar.  That’s like 12 cents. Would you clean the yard and do the laundry and bake dinner for 12 cents? Hell no.

But when we grab the cheap stuff off the shelves, that’s the kind of love we are supporting — which is a shame, because farming cocoa beans is very high science! One misstep can ruin an entire batch (which happens to take 3-5 years to grow in the first place). First, farmers machete down hundreds of pods from cacao trees and harvest all the wet beans inside (about 30 in each pod). They have only 10 days to finish this before all the seeds spoil. Afterwards, the beans must be fermented at specific temperatures and dried very carefully to preserve the flavors chocolate makers want. And if you need a place in mind to picture where this all happens — it’s not in a science lab.

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Cacao drying square in front of church, Plaza de Secado, Chuao, Venezuela. Photo by Electrolito

As you can see in the photo, the amount this process produces is small. In fact, one tree’s crop for an entire year only produces 450 gms of chocolate. That’s just less than one pound! In order for chocolate industries to meet their demands, thousands of farmers have to be involved. For a process so integral to their business, you would think this sort of intense science labor would pay more than fairly. But it doesn’t.

Luckily there are brands that work very closely with their farmers to compensate them accordingly. If Valentine’s Day has left you longing for a few more chocolates, look for brands sporting a fair trade label. Yes, they will be a dollar or two more, but now you know why. Plus, these brands often use better ingredients and more parts of the bean to add natural flavor to the chocolate — unlike major brands who just add sugar and fat.

For a good starter brand, try Theo chocolate. Made in Seattle, these $4 bars come in dozens of delicious and innovative flavors that satiate both the conscious and the belly. And according to research from the Cleveland Clinic, a quality bar of dark chocolate is packed with antioxidants and can lower your cholesterol, eliminate toxins and restore damage to the body. So everyone wins! You can snag them at Whole Foods, Theo Chocolates and Amazon.

Have a favorite fair trade chocolate that you love? Share them in the comments below!

 

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