Tuesday 5 February 2019

Fair trade chocolate – a complete guide

Chocolate is loved by many people across the nation. So much so that research has highlighted that Britain consumes 660,900 tonnes of chocolate a year! Broken down this staggering number calculates to 11kg per person per year and equals three bars of chocolate each week. These numbers showcase just how loved chocolate is, but do chocoholics know where it comes from and the history of delicious chocolate?

Fair trade chocolate
Fair trade is a system designed to make trade fair which makes a difference to the lives of people who grow the things we love. The fair trade system currently works with more than 1.66 million farmers across 73 different countries across the world to bring us many delicious treats, including beloved chocolate.

Buying fair trade chocolate helps make a difference to the lives of cocoa farmers and their families around the world. As life is tough for cocoa farmers, fair trade helps make cocoa farming more sustainable by guaranteeing minimum prices and providing a premium to invest in local communities, so farmers can provide a better future for themselves and their families.

If you get your chocolate fix by buying fair trade creamy milk chocolate, fair trade buttery white chocolate or fair trade dramatic dark chocolate, then you are helping to improve the lives of the hard working cocoa farmers who help bring you delicious chocolate.

Cocoa from Bolivia: El Ceibo
One of the world's favourite treats, chocolate requires cocoa beans. Behind every chocolate bar there are 6 million growers, farmers and cocoa processors across Africa, Asia and Latin America who depend on growing cocoa for their livelihoods. But growing it requires very specific environmental conditions.

Satisfying the specific environmental conditions required to grow cocoa, Bolivia is a great place for the production of cocoa. The nation which has an estimated population of 10.89 million people and sits alongside Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Chile and Peru is one of the world's poorest countries and has history of growing cocoa.

Since the 1960s the entire country has a history of cultivating cocoa. Although the hard working farmers have a reputation of growing cocoa, some farmers have also started to grow organic bananas, citrus fruits and vegetables too. Whilst cocoa is grown across the nation, most growers tend to be from the Alto Beni region.

Established in 1977, El Ceibo works with 50 co-operatives across Bolivia and supports around 1,106 men and 194 women farmers from different ethnic groups to ensure trade is fair. Additional money earnt from their fair trade cocoa is used to fund technical agricultural support which is a programme that replaces cocoa plants and deforestation.

History of chocolate
Whilst the chocolate bars and brands we know and love may be only a few years old – a few decades at most – chocolate has a lot more history than you might think. Did you know that back in 1847 Fry & Son's created 'Chocolat Delicieux a Manager which is thought to be the first chocolate bar to eat in solid form?

For more interesting facts about the history of chocolate take a look at the graphic below which was created by Traidcraft Shop -

Fair trade facts: Chocotastic edition

Where is cocoa grown?
The tree that cocoa grows on is called the Theobroma Cocao. The scientific name for the tree translates as 'food of the gods'. Native to Central America the trees produce pods which contain 20-40 cacao beans which eventually get turned into chocolate. Theobroma Cacao trees grow most successfully in a narrow band called the Cocoa Belt or the Chocolate Belt. This band extends up to 20 degrees north and south of the equator.

What is the difference between cocoa and cacao?
Technically they are the same thing. Often the words cocoa and cacao are used interchangeably, but generally cocoa is the term used for cacao that has been fermented, dried and roasted at high temperatures.

What are the differences between raw and traditional chocolate?
The key difference between the two is the amount of ingredients used to make them. Raw chocolate usually only contains just 3 or 4 ingredients – cocoa powder, cocoa butter, coconut blossom sugar and raw fruit or seeds. Whereas traditional chocolate can contain milk, soya, sugars, sweeteners plus a wide array of artificial flavourings and preservatives. 

Even though Traidcraft's fair trade chocolate is not raw chocolate they have kept their delicious recipe as natural as possible using fair trade and organic ingredients and are free from GMOs, cheap emulsifiers, cheap oils, artificial colours and preservatives.

Another significant difference between traditional chocolate and raw chocolate is the temperature used to heat the cocoa beans. Cocoa beans used to make raw chocolate are never heated above 42 degrees. In traditional, commercial chocolate the cocoa beans are roasted at a temperature between 130 and 400 degrees. When drying cocoa beans for raw chocolate, some cocoa growers just leave their beans outdoors to dry naturally in the sunlight!

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 tasted chocolate. Once harvested cocoa beans are shipped to factories in other countries to be transformed into magnificent chocolate. As cocoa beans are grown in typically warm countries it would be difficult to make chocolate there as it would melt.

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