General

Complete guide to fair trade chocolate

The Fairtrade System currently works with more than 1.65 million farmers across 74 different countries around the world to bring us some of the most delicious treats known to woman from coffee to chocolate. What is your guilty pleasure when it comes to chocolate? Do you opt for a magnificent milk chocolate or an indulgent dark chocolate bar?

Research has suggested that, each year, Britain consumes 660,900 tonnes of chocolate, which calculates to 11kg per person — or three bars each week. This highlights just how popular chocolate has become, but where does it come from?

Cocoa from Bolivia: El Celibo

The creation of chocolate requires very specific environmental conditions and Bolivia is a great place for production. However, there are six million growers, farmers and processors across Africa, Asia and Latin America to meet appetites for chocolate across the world.

Chocolate is the result of the efforts of hard workers from Bolivia one of the poorest countries.. The nation has an estimated population of 10.89 million people and sits alongside Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Chile, and Peru.
The entire country has a history of cultivating cocoa, which started in the 1960s. Most growers tend to be from the Alto Beni region. Although many farmers grow cocoa some have diversified into growing organic bananas, citrus fruits and vegetables. When people are poor and working hard, fair trade really can transform lives.

El Ceibo, which was established in 1977, works with 50 co-operatives across Bolivia and reaches out to around 1,106 men and 194 women farmers from different ethnic groups. As well as this, the majority of the additional money earnt from their own fair-trade cocoa is used to fund technical agricultural support, which is a programme that replaces cocoa plants and deforestation. I am pleased to see women are given greater life chances via fair trade.

Fair Trade

History of Chocolate

Located on the west coast of Africa, São Tomé is made up of two main islands, as well as several islets, and is often referred to as ‘Chocolate Island’. With a small population of 200,000 people, many residents’ incomes come from cocoa and the island’s signature bean — criollo bean — which has been farmed there since the 1700s.
However, chocolate has a lot more history than you might think. Traidcraft Shop have provided the following graphic:

Fair Trade

It’s great that we can eat chocolate and learn history too!

Fair Trade Facts: Chocolate Edition

What are the main differences between traditional and raw chocolate?

Raw chocolate usually contains fewer ingredients than traditional chocolate typically consisting of cocoa powder, cocoa butter, coconut blossom sugar, and raw fruit or seeds. Traditional chocolate 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.

Not only that, did you know that cocoa beans that are used for raw chocolate are never heated above 42 degrees? In 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! I am learning so much about chocolate and might have to have another bar!

What are the main differences between cocoa and cacao?

Cocoa and cacao are technically the same plant. Though the words cocoa and cacao are often used interchangeably, generally cocoa is the term used for cacao that’s been fermented, dried, and roasted at high temperatures. It’s then pressed until all the oils are separated and the solids that remain can be turned into a dry powder — 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 has been used throughout time for nutritional and medicinal benefits and is native to Central America. This scientific name for the tree actually translates as ‘food of the gods’. These trees produce pods which contain 20-40 cacao beans and it’s these beans that 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.

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. Beans are shipped almost instantly, as if chocolate was created in these typically warm countries, it would melt! Many cocoa farmers will have never tasted chocolate in their lives. In 2017, Traidcraft hosted Linda, a cocoa farmer from the co-operative Kuapa Kokoo (and who grows fair trade cocoa for the Divine Chocolate Company), and she reminded us that any chocolate left lying around in Ghana would just melt anyway!



Award-winning writer, blogger, social media consultant and charity campaigner. Social Media Manager for BritMums, the UK's largest parent blogging network Freelance clients include Firefly Communications and Save the Children UK. Works with brands on marketing projects. Examples include Visit Orlando, Give As You Live, Coca-Cola and Kodak. Cambridge Law graduate with many years experience working across three sectors in advice, media relations, events, training and project management. Available for hire at affordable rates.

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