It’s almost Valentine’s and aside from flowers being gifted out, chocolates will also be part of the gifts as we all love chocolates no matter the season with Briton’s for example consuming about three bars of chocolate each week per year; and this year won’t be any different. But how are these delicious, creamy, mouth-watery chocolates made and where do they come from? Well, the Fairtrade System plays an important role in the creation of the chocolates that we all love.
Currently, the Fairtrade System works with millions of farmers in 74 different countries around the world in order to create and bring to us some of the most delicious treats known to man; which in this case is chocolate. Although, as a chocolate person, do you prefer a magnificent milk chocolate or a delicious dark chocolate bar? And how do you determine what type of chocolate person you are?
Cocoa from Bolivia: El Celibo
During the production of chocolates, every bar produced requires very specific environmental conditions; which is why, with a total of 6 million growers, farmers and processors across Africa, Asia and Latin America, Bolivia has become a great place for production. With Bolivia being one of the world’s poorest country sitting alongside Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Chile, and Peru, this country has a history of cultivating cocoa which started in the 1960s.
El Ceibo, established in 1977, works with different co-operatives across Bolivia and reaches out to different male and female farmers from different ethnic groups which results in the majority of the additional money earnt from their own fair-trade cocoa being used to fund technical agricultural support — a programme that replaces cocoa plants and deforestation.
The History of Chocolate
São Tomé, located on the west coast of Africa is often referred to as ‘Chocolate Island’. Despite its small population of 200,000 people, many of its residents’ income comes from cocoa and the island’s signature bean — criollo bean — which has been farmed there since the 1700s.
However, chocolate has more history than you might think. Traidcraft Shop, KEYWORD provided the following graphic:
Fair Trade Facts: Chocolates
The Main Differences Between Traditional and Raw Chocolate
Raw chocolate usually contains fewer ingredients such as cocoa powder, cocoa butter, coconut blossom sugar, and raw fruit or seeds compared to the traditional chocolate which can contain milk, soya, sugars, sweeteners, soya, and a host of artificial flavourings and preservatives. While Traidcraft’s fair trade vegan chocolate may not be raw chocolate, it has kept its recipe as natural as possible — fair trade, organic, and free from GMOs, cheap emulsifiers, cheap oils, artificial colours or preservatives.
Also, cocoa beans used for raw chocolate are never heated above 42 degrees while in commercial chocolate, the cocoa beans are roasted at a temperature between 130 to 400 degrees. And, when drying cocoa beans for raw chocolate, some cocoa growers just leave their beans outdoors to dry naturally in the sunlight.
The Main Differences between Cocoa and Cacao
Though the words “cocoa” and “cacao” are often used interchangeably, both cocoa and cacao are technically the same plants. Cocoa is the term used for cacao that has been fermented, dried, and roasted at high temperature and then pressed until all the oils are separated and the solids that remain can be turned into a dry powder known as cocoa powder. Cacao powder is made in a very similar way, but at a far lower temperature.
Where is Cocoa Originally Grown?
The Theobroma Cacao which is native to Central America has been used throughout time for nutritional and medicinal benefits. The scientific name for the tree translates as ‘food of the gods’. These trees produce pods which contain 20-40 cacao beans; and it’s these beans that gets turned into chocolate. Theobroma Cacao trees grow successfully in a narrow band — that extends up to 20 degrees north and south of the equator — known as the Cocoa Belt or the Chocolate Belt.
Was Chocolate Worth More than Gold?
Back in the Mayan period, cocoa beans were worth more than gold and were even used as currency! The Mayans maintained the value of cocoa beans by restricting the harvesting of the beans.
Have Cocoa Farmers Ever Tasted Chocolate?
The majority of cocoa farmers have never actually tasted chocolate in their lives. If the chocolates were created in these typically warm countries, they would melt; so the beans were shipped almost instantly. In 2017, Traidcraft hosted Linda, a cocoa farmer from the co-operative Kuapa Kokoo who grows fair trade cocoa for the Divine Chocolate Company. She reminded us that any chocolate left lying around in Ghana would just melt anyway.