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by Nadia Ali
CHOCOLATE BARS, CHOCOLATE DRINKS and those seasonal chocolate Easter eggs, there is no end to the ways in which chocolate is consumed. It is one of the worlds top choices of confectionery and contrary to popular belief, it is not bad for you, it is the ingredients in the manufacturing process that are bad for you.
With more information coming to light about the manufacturing process of milk chocolate, organic chocolate which was once reserved for the connoisseurs of chocolate as a decadent indulgency is now making its way onto supermarket shelves. Consumers have now created a niche in the market that demands that the chocolate they eat is grown in an environmentally friendly way, offers cocoa farmers better trading conditions and is produced in accordance to USDA organic regulations.
This is a far cry from the conditions experienced by the first people ever to make chocolate nearly 4,000 years ago. The Mayan and Aztec Indians of the Amazon River Basin first made chocolate picked from the wild growing Cacao trees and made a frothy drink and later slabs of chocolate.
Today, organic chocolate is an international flavor that has captured the taste buds of people from all walks of life. In recent years the process of how we get our chocolate bar has uncovered unfair trading practices, the use of pesticides, deforestation and even child labor scams. This has inevitably changed the way in which consumers now buy chocolate, urging them to buy ethically produced products that do not harm the earth or people.
What Is It?
Organic chocolate is a really dark bitter chocolate made from organic cocoa solids, brown cane sugar, vanilla and soya lecithin, it contains all the natural antioxidants and minerals found in the cacao bean.
Where Is It Grown?
Most of the worlds organic chocolate is grown in areas such as Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Cameroon, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Fiji, Ghana, India, Madagascar, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Uganda, Vanuatu, and Venezuela.
How Is It Grown?
The Cacao tree (Theobroma cacao) which translates from Latin as meaning the Food of Gods, is grown on small plots. Some are grown under the shade of a canopy that encourages the migration of winter birds to seek shelter, but most are grown in an open environment. The cocoa beans are found within a pod that are an orange/brown color when ripe and shaped like a 30cm long irregular pear shaped fruit that grows out of the trunk.
How is it Processed?
Unlike non-chocolate which is manufactured from cocoa mass which is highly processed and mixed with refined sugar, milk, artificial flavors, fillers and vegetable oils, organic chocolate is made from raw cacao beans which have not been fermented, roasted, or processed with high heat thus preserving most of its natural antioxidants.
Organic and Health Properties
It meets organic certification standards ensuring only the highest quality of organic ingredients are used, of which none of the ingredients can be genetically modified.
Organic certification also ensures that no artificial hormones are present if milk powder is used. It also has proven health benefits with its content of magnesium that contributes to a healthier heart, assists circulation, regulates blood pressure and helps to unclogs arteries. It is packed with potent antioxidants called flavonoids that assist the brains functions, reduce inflammation and gives a boost of energy. The really good news is that the serotonin, dopamine, and phenylethylamine content genuinely makes you feel happy and alleviates depression!
Organic Chocolate Companies
According to Euromonitor International (a global market research company), organic chocolate sales totaled US$70.8million in 2006, which is actually a fraction of the $6 billion spent on chocolate. This figure is steadily growing as more consumers look for ethical and healthier alternatives in chocolate.
This has given rise to organic chocolate specific companies that produce chocolate which is USDA Certified Organic organic products that emphasize environmental quality, rainforest alliance, wildlife habitat conservation and fair trade agreements.
Besides providing organic chocolate, most, if not all of the companies that specifically manufacture organic chocolate go one step further in donating a share of their profits to benefit organizations that support environmental issues, conservation, endangered species and biodiversity.
Barry Callebaut All cocoa, sugar and dairy components in their organic chocolate are obtained from organic farmers and even wrapped in natural materials. The company, based in Zurich, Switzerland, makes bars.
Divine Chocolate Want to improve the livelihood of smallholder cocoa producers in West Africa. Their products include chocolate bars, bags, chocolate eggs and cocoa powder. The company originates in Ghana, Africa.
Endangered Species Chocolate Believe that all life is precious and deserving of our respect, kindness and care, and this Reverence for Life ethic is at the heart of their business practices. They make bars, bags and baking chocolate. The company is based in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Green and Blacks Believes in staying true to their original values of ethical trading and organic products and in the creation of chocolate bars, bags, baking, hot chocolate and ice cream. Originates from the United Kingdom.
Theo Chocolate Proud to be the only roaster of organic cocoa beans and the first roaster of Fair Trade certified cocoa beans in the United States. They make chocolate bars and milk chocolate. The company is based in Seattle.
Choosing organic chocolate is so much more than just igniting your taste buds to a richer, healthier blend of chocolate. It ignites your spirit to becoming an ethical consumer who makes a difference in the way cocoa is produced worldwide, from the planting of the seed to the finished product. Simply put, it is changing the world one chocolate organic bar at a time.
from the July-August 2008 issue