I know, "fable" probably isn't the right word for this title, but it rhymed, and rhyming has been a huge thing in my house lately with my daughter being a budding reader :). Now, for the post:
As a craft chocolate consumer and someone always searching for ɡo͝od (ethical) chocolate, I often ask myself how to determine whether or not a chocolate is ɡo͝od. So I start with the basic rule I've been taught in all of my nutrition classes - read the label. When I do this, I see phrases like fair-trade, certified organic, and direct trade. These terms are often used in the chocolate community and should mean a chocolate is "good" for the world, right? But are these labels and certifications really doing any good?
"In reality, fair trade has become a series of boxes that companies can check off, an expensive piece of paper in a long supply chain that often doesn't guarantee that the farmers make any more money, never mind a fair wage."
So in other words, the fair-trade label doesn't seem to be doing its job. So how about the other labels?
So this idea of working directly with farmers brings us to our final chocolate catchphrase: direct trade. Now, this one I really hope isn't just a trendy term that chocolate professionals and choco-nerds alike are throwing around because this is something I can get behind. Direct trade is something I can support.
The premise of direct trade is simple: chocolate makers have a direct relationship with cacao farmers. Through this direct relationship, as many middlemen as possible are removed from the supply chain, thus benefiting the cacao farmer (higher prices paid for their beans, training on pre- and post-harvest processing techniques, improvements to their communities, etc.) and the chocolate maker as well (improved product quality, beans that meet their specifications for flavor, etc).
Direct trade usually means more money paid to the cacao farmer than with fair-trade, so direct trade is really fair-er trade for those hard-working men and women on the cacao farms.
So, the final answer about determining the value of all of these labels is: use your bean! (pun intended) Do your research to find out if a chocolate maker can back up their claims of direct trade. Here's a list of questions that can help you select ɡo͝od chocolate makers:
Please, use these questions as you select the chocolate you purchase so you can support ɡo͝od chocolate makers and the farmers they work with directly. And another big request - please share this post so we can help others learn how to make ɡo͝od chocolate choices. Thanks!
My next conundrum: Is a chocolate bar "bad" if I can buy it in a big box store?