February 09, 2005

Ode to Chocolate All I really need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt!" Lucy Van Pelt, Peanuts Brooklyn Blackout Cake. M&Ms, Death by Chocolate. Chocolate covered pretzels. Fresh strawberries hand-dipped in dark chocolate. Peanut butter chocolate pie. Fudge Brownies with warm chocolate sauce. Hershey’s Kisses. Chocolate Coconut Bars. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Chocolate Streusel Bundt Cake. Triple Chocolate Brownies. Chocolate Chip Cookies. Chocolate Pecan Carmel Cheesecake. Chocolate Bread Pudding. No true chocolate lover can resist his or her ultimate temptation. We are a nation of chocophiles. Those that can’t appreciate our obsession may call us chocoholics. There’s no curing the legions that save room for dessert no matter what the time of day. In fact the nearest 12-step program which many in this condition subscribe to is to never be more than 12 steps away from chocolate. We love chocolate in all shapes, sizes and forms. American’s consume $14 billion annually worth of the sweet. That averages out to about 12 pounds of chocolate for each one of us. That figure seems low. Some research reports state that Americans eat 100 pounds of chocolate every second. Is that possible? Whether it is or not the statistic places us firmly in eighth place in world consumption— half the level of the world’s leading chocolate lovers, the Swiss. Many of us have personal stories that characterize what chocolate means to us. Our tastes varying from simple to sophisticated often as we mature and are able to educate ourselves through travel,...
Fair Trade Chocolate The last installment--read Part Two--Melts in Your Mouth and Part One--Ode to Chocolate. Small family farms made up of 5 to 6 million small farmers generate more than 85 per cent of the world's cocoa crop. Most families own 1 to 5 acres where 1,000 cacao trees can produce fruit anywhere from 75 to 100 years. Unfortunately about 1/3 of the crop is lost to disease and pests. Economic and political conditions of cacao producing countries along the equator (West Africa, Central and South America) can be volatile. As a result training and equipment can be lacking. Cocaopro, a unit of Mars, Inc., states, "the issues facing cocoa--the chocolate industry needs a stable supply of raw ingredients; environmental groups seek to preserve the natural habitats that cocoa creates; donor organizations aim to raise rural incomes; cocoa farmers need a dependable source of income, and governments look to support domestic agricultures--most efforts by these groups prior to 1998 were limited in scope, and not coordinated in any strategic or cohesive way." Since 1998 interested groups have come together around a solution--sustainable agriculture. Mars. Inc. also got together with the Smithsonian to organize the First International Workshop on Sustainable Cocoa Growing. The event brought together ornithologists, plant scientists, environmental advocates and chocolate industry scientists to discuss cocoa cultivation system that is biologically, environmentally and socially beneficial. Chocolate lovers can ease the guilt factor by supporting small family farms in these countries by buying fair trade chocolate. Fair-trade products aim to eliminate the...


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