Chocolate is one of the world’s oldest and most popular sweet treats, but very few people know where it comes from or how it is processed. While the statement that “Chocolate = Salad” may at first glance seem ridiculous, many might be surprised that chocolate, like coffee, grows on trees. Technically, chocolate comes from fruit, (take that mom and dad!).
Chocolate comes from the fruit of the cacao tree, known as the cacao bean and is made up of three distinct parts;
- The Pod – the colourful hard outside shell. Each pod can hold up to 40-50 cacao beans.
- The Pulp – the fleshy white substance that surrounds the beans, which, oddly, tastes of mango and pineapple, and helps in the fermentation process.
- The Bean – what is used to make chocolate, prior to processing. The cacao bean has a very bitter flavour.
The cacao bean is removed from the cacao pod and left to ferment for roughly five days. After that, the bean must be left to dry before being ground up into “nibs”. The nibs are then roasted and ground more, this time with other ingredients such as sugar, powdered milk, and flavouring. The final step is pouring the chocolate into the desired mould.
The colour indicates how much cacao is in the chocolate. For example, dark chocolate has the most where white chocolate has none at all and is instead made from cacao butter, another product of the cacao bean.
Brief History of Chocolate
The first indication of chocolate being consumed dates far back to the time of the ancient Mayans and Aztecs when chocolate was made into a bitter drink, used as currency, and was a focal point in celebrations. These ancient civilizations believed that chocolate was the food of the gods. This ancient chocolate was not like what we know today, but instead was bitter and spicy.
Gradually, chocolate would make its way to Europe and quickly become a delicacy. It was not until 1828 that chocolate became mass-produced. Dutch chemist Coenraad Van Houten invented the cocoa press, a machine that separated cacao butter from the roasted cocoa bean. Van Houten also developed a cocoa powder that could be more easily mixed with water, which would come to be known as “Dutch cocoa”. Still, with these developments in chocolate production, it was not until 1847 that the first chocolate bar would be introduced.
For a more in-depth look at the history of chocolate, check out this amazing animated video,
Fair Trade & Ethically Sourced Chocolate
Around the world, more than 3 million tons of cacao beans are consumed in their different forms. Today, 70% of the world’s supply of cacao beans come from either Cote D’Voire, Ghana, or Nigeria in Africa. Unfortunately, many chocolate manufacturers, including well-known brands, produce their products in ways that are counterproductive to both labour laws and environmental sustainability.
As demonstrated in the chart above, the well-known brands are, in fact, near the bottom in regards to ethically sourcing their chocolate. While many have plans to better themselves in the future, transparency is a large contributor to their poor rating.
Over the past 20 years, the idea of “certified cocoa” has been established. The process of certifying chocolate aims to provide increased transparency and responsibility in cocoa supply chains. Certification guidelines set out economical, environmental and social standards that help farmers improve their farming practices. In short, chocolate that is marked with any of the logos found to the left, it is made without the use of slave or child labour, as well as manufactured in a way that does not contribute to deforestation.
Here are some chocolate companies that we recommend you check out. These produce, sell and market their products in unique and ethical ways.
As described in the video, Tony Chocolonely’s mission is to bring awareness to the inequalities of the chocolate industry with a vision of one day achieving 100% slave-free chocolate. To illustrate the inequality in the industry, their chocolate bar is in uneven parts. This clever product design is integral to their messaging and helps spark a conversion.
Founded in Ghana in 1990, Divine prides itself on being the “first farmer-owned Fairtrade Chocolate product aimed at the mass market in the UK”. Their chocolate can only be found in the UK and US, but it can be ordered online in Canada.
The chocolate in a Fairafric bar is completely made in Ghana from bean to bar, with an aim to increase Africa’s share of the value chain in the chocolate industry.
Toronto-based chocolate company, Chocosol, really focuses their branding on the ancient belief that chocolate is the “food of the gods”. The relatively new company has been producing organic, fair-trade chocolate since 2004.
The company AlterEco focuses more on the environmental impacts of the chocolate industry. Aside from chocolate bars, the brand also produces mouthwatering chocolate truffles!
With unique names and bright colourful packaging, Zazubean organic chocolate certainly stands out. Some of the unique flavours they offer include cinnamon chile, orange ginger, cherry hazelnut and pineapple coconut.
Focusing on a strong and stable supply chain, this Seattle-based company strives to ensure every employee receives fair pay. Theo makes much more than chocolate bars, with other treats including caramels, drinking chocolate and “cups.”
Last but not least, Giddy YoYo is a fair-trade company that manufactures chocolate and distributes other organic products such as body care and superfoods.
There are a number of unknown health benefits to eating this food of the gods. Chocolate, especially organic dark chocolate like the kinds mentioned above, contains tons of natural antioxidants, has the ability to boost iron and magnesium, and it acts as an antidepressant. So, next time you want to snack on something healthy, like a salad, instead, maybe try one of our organic chocolate recommendations!