Posts Tagged ‘chocolate’

Photo: Kate Evans, CIFOR, Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Note the contrast between forest and agricultural landscapes near Rio Branco in Brazil. Learn how you can have the products you love without damaging the environment.

We all love chocolate, but it’s important to be mindful in our interconnected world to think about the potential consequences of producing the foods we love. I have written before about how you can avoid buying chocolate that relies on child labor (click here). Today we turn to the environmental radio show Living on Earth to learn about saving the rain forest and other critical ecosystems from the wrong kind of cultivation.

Host Steve Curwood talks to Anke Schulmeister of the World Wildlife Fund about the European Union’s decision to stop importing a half-dozen agricultural products from newly deforested areas.

“STEVE CURWOOD: When someone takes a bite of a hamburger or tofu or has a cup of coffee or chocolate bar, it’s hard to know if those foods added to the destruction of tropical forests that are so key for biodiversity and climate stability. …

The EU is moving to ban the importation of certain agricultural products from any newly deforested areas. And they are starting with soy, beef, palm oil, wood, cocoa and coffee.

“The EU laws would compel purveyors to prove their products didn’t come from any newly deforested land. The proposed laws are projected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by some 32 million tons a year and help the EU meet its goal of net zero emissions by 2050. It requires final approval by the European Parliament as well as each of the 27 EU member states. … How will people be able to understand that the cocoa that was used to make [chocolate] came, in fact, from a place that’s not being deforested, at least in contravention of this proposed set of regulations? …

“ANKE SCHULMEISTER: What this law is trying to do is that there is no choice for a consumer on whether the product is made with deforestation or not; it’s just simply you’re making sure that no matter which chocolate you buy, it is going to be free from deforestation. And to achieve that, there are measures in this legislation proposed that will ask a company to check down the whole supply chain. [No] environmental impact … neither human rights violation taking place. …

“For example, in Brazil, deforestation is still legal in certain aspects. … What the EU at the moment is proposing is to say, even if the Brazilian law allows that, we in the EU do not want to buy this. …

“CURWOOD: So beef is part of this, which of course, at the end of the day means leather. So let’s say an American shoemaker, who has a contract with somebody in China is now selling that label in the European Union, once this rule goes into effect, what kind of challenge would they would they face?

“SCHULMEISTER: This is a very good question, because that goes really much into the depth of it. So normally, what the commission has proposed is that you would need to know where it was produced no matter whether it came by China, or else. So if this American shoemaker would like to actually sell in Europe, he would need to get from his Chinese supplier information that tells him where he actually bought the leather. And then in the end where the cow was fed that produced that leather.

“CURWOOD: Sounds very complicated.

“SCHULMEISTER: Yes and no. Because let’s put it like this: we’re asking something rather simple in stating, is there still land where there’s forest or has this forest been converted to something else? And for this, there’s a lot of satellite data these days available. So you know, it’s very clear, very regularly updated. What is making it a bit more complicated is that there is a need for more transparency about your supply chains. …

“CURWOOD: What are the numbers? What kind of reductions in emissions, carbon emissions, do you think these rules, this legislation, will create? …

“SCHULMEISTER: If there’s no law, there will still be about 248,000 hectares a year of deforestation, and about 110 million tons of C02 emitted until 2030 per year. … We think that European Commission is on the right track. But you know, what our plea would be now to the European member states and the parliament is that, you know, to close some of the gaps which we see. One is that for example, other ecosystems — savannas or grasslands — are not included from the beginning.

“We [call] savannas ‘the inverted forests,’ meaning that their roots store nearly as much carbon as actually forests do, you know. On the landscape that they are they have such a dense root system, you know, that they really store a lot of carbon in there and that is then if it’s converted to agricultural land lost. [Also] it is not very strong on human rights violations or actually ensuring that there are no human rights violations. [Further] it is not addressing the finance sector. …

“And what for us is important is that this law applies the same to all companies so that we do not make a differentiation between sourcing from a high-risk region–so where there’s a high risk of deforestation–or a so-called low risk region. … And even if a company is sourcing from a high-risk region, there can be companies who have a good traceability and a good transparency.”

More at Living on Earth, here.

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Photo: Aloha Feels Chocolate.
Many boutique candy companies are determined to do more than the giants about child labor. “There are over 27 million slaves in the world today. Of them, over 9 million are children,” says slavefreechocolate.org.

I’m sure you know I’m not going to focus on the dark side of anything, so as we dig out from Halloween chocolate created by name brands that have failed to end child labor, let’s start by mentioning companies that are more careful about sourcing.

I, too, buy the mini Trick-or-Treat bars available in the supermarket. But I also have a friend who loves getting chocolate on her birthday, and that is when I really focus on ethical brands. There’s a long list here. Taza is one I know. It’s headquartered in Somerville, Massachusetts.

The problem with chocolate seems to be that even companies seeking Fair Trade labels are often bamboozled by chocolate growers or aggregators on the ground. No doubt, it’s hard to get to the bottom of things unless you work directly with a grower.

In a February article from the Guardian, we learn that several young men who were once child slaves in Africa were hoping for a hearing in US courts. After all, big companies like Cargill, Mars, and Hershey are based here.

Oliver Balch writes, “Eight children who claim they were used as slave labour on cocoa plantations in Ivory Coast have launched legal action against the world’s biggest chocolate companies. They accuse the corporations of aiding and abetting the illegal enslavement of ‘thousands’ of children on cocoa farms in their supply chains.

“Nestlé, Cargill, Barry Callebaut, Mars, Olam, Hershey and Mondelēz have been named as defendants in a lawsuit filed in Washington DC by the human rights firm International Rights Advocates (IRA), on behalf of eight former child slaves who say they were forced to work without pay on cocoa plantations in the west African country.

“The plaintiffs, all of whom are originally from Mali and are now young adults, are seeking damages for forced labour and further compensation for unjust enrichment, negligent supervision and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

“It is the first time that a class action of this kind has been filed against the cocoa industry in a US court. Citing research by the US state department, the International Labour Organization and Unicef, among others, the court documents allege that the plaintiffs’ experience of child slavery is mirrored by that of thousands of other minors.

“Ivory Coast produces about 45% of the global supply of cocoa, a core ingredient in chocolate. The production of cocoa in west Africa has long been linked to human rights abuses, structural poverty, low pay and child labour.

“A central allegation of the lawsuit is that the defendants, despite not owning the cocoa farms in question, ‘knowingly profited’ from the illegal work of children. According to the submissions, the defendants’ contracted suppliers were able to provide lower prices than if they had employed adult workers with proper protective equipment.

“The lawsuit also accuses the companies – whose industry body is the World Cocoa Foundation – of actively misleading the public in the voluntary 2001 Harkin-Engel Protocol, characterized by the complainants as promising to phase out some child labour (‘the worst forms,’ in the protocol’s words). …

“In the legal claim, all eight plaintiffs describe being recruited in Mali through trickery and deception, before being trafficked across the border to cocoa farms in Ivory Coast. There, they were forced to work – often for several years or more – with no pay, no travel documents and no clear idea of where they were or how to get back to their families.” More at the Guardian, here.

Alas, at the Washington Post, here, you can read that the former child slaves were not granted standing by the courts, although the plaintiffs sued confidently “under the Alien Tort Statute, a 1789 law that allows federal district courts to hear ‘any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.’ ”

Robert Barnes and Peter Whoriskey reported in June, “The Supreme Court on Thursday said U.S. chocolate companies cannot be sued for child slavery on the African farms from which they buy most of their cocoa. But the court stopped short of saying such a lawsuit could never go forward.

“The court’s splintered decision was written by Justice Clarence Thomas. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. dissented from the decision, saying it was premature to dismiss the suit.”

Alito, for goodness sake! This is why I don’t like blanket assumptions about what Supreme Court justices are thinking. You can say what position they are likely to take, but you can’t really know. And besides, it’s too depressing to assume you know.

Anyway, we’re back to Square One with chocolate and child labor.

Except that informed consumers can do their part: start asking themselves the right questions and paying a few more cents to be sure no children are harmed. After all, more chocolate-buying holidays are fast approaching.

Photo: jbdodane/Alamy
A sign warns against child labor in cocoa production in Ghana.

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Photo: Ellen Albanese for The Boston Globe

For the latest in ridiculous luxury, make sure you get a box of chocolates from the milk of only one cow.

At the Boston Globe, Ellen Albanese has the story:   “You may have heard of single-malt scotch (which must be made from malted barley and distilled at a single distillery), but how about single-cow-origin chocolates?

“At Milk House Chocolates at Thorncrest Farm, Kimberly Thorn crafts certain flavors of chocolates with the milk from individual cows. Karissma, for example, provides the milk for the cabernet sauvignon truffles, while Daydream owns the sea salt caramels. Thorn says that when a pail of milk is delivered to the creamery, she can tell by the smell which cow it’s from.

“Thorn says she discovered the technique by accident. She had been making chocolates with combined milk from the farm’s cows, but one day she forgot to bring home the milk to make the candies. She went back to the barn and milked one cow. The chocolates made from that milk, she said, ‘came out so much better than anything I had ever made before.’…

“Single-cow-origin flavors have become so successful that Thorncrest breeds cows for specific milk/chocolate flavors. The other element is what they eat, said Thorn’s husband, Clint, who oversees genetics and feeding. The farm uses six different types of hay, as well as natural products that influence flavor.” More at the Boston Globe  and at the Hartford Courant.

KerryCan? You make amazing chocolates. Have you ever heard of the one-cow angle?

Photo: Patrick Raycraft/ Hartford Courant
Thorncrest Farm in Goshen, Connecticut, makes chocolates with milk from one cow at a time.


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In Ethiopia, you can eat the plate, in the UK the coffee cup.

Stephanie Strom writes at the NY Times, “Diners at KFC restaurants throughout Britain soon will be able to have their coffee — and eat the cup, too.

“KFC, one of the chains operated by Yum Brands, is going to test an edible cup made from a wafer coated in sugar paper and lined with a heat-resistant white chocolate. …

“The new cup addresses several of the trends bedeviling the food business today, including consumer concerns about the environmental impact of packaging, as well as their desire for simplicity.

“ ‘This type of edible packaging is definitely aligned with the global consumer mind-set in terms of sustainability and simplifying their life,’ said Shilpa Rosenberry, senior director of global consumer strategy at Daymon Worldwide, a consulting firm that works with many food companies. ….

“Ms. Rosenberry said she had even seen examples of retail packaging that could be turned into furniture, and boxes that could be repurposed for practical uses. …

“The new Scoff-ee Cup to be used at KFC, first reported by USA Today, was made in partnership with the Robin Collective, which calls itself a ‘purveyor of curious events and experimental food.’

“The chocolate lining will melt and soften the crisp wafer in the same way that a biscotti softens when dipped in coffee.” For those of us who drink our coffee fast, while it is still hot, that should work. The cup will soften but not too much. Family members who leave a half-filled cup around all morning would end up with a puddle, I suppose. It’s almost worth a trip to England to test it out.

More here.

Photo: KFC
KFC is introducing edible coffee cups at outlets in Britain, and will start serving Seattle’s Best.

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KerryCan is a frequent commenter on Suzanne’s Mom’s Blog and, as I keep learning, a woman of varied talents. She has been a college English professor, she blogs regularly, and she pursues numerous traditional crafts in a deep way

But what you need to know now is that she make chocolates and sells them at Etsy in time for Valentine’s Day.

Here’s what KerryCan says on her blog about a day in the life of a chocolatier, “I don’t make candy to make a living. I make candy because I like to make candy, just as I like to quilt and I like to weave. But, unlike quilting and weaving, candy piles up fast and that can cause its own dilemmas. I sell candy so I can justify making more, to experiment and try new things, without having to eat it all myself. …

“Almost every candy I make is a multi-stage process so, when I’m making a lot of candies, my days will be organized around the steps. Some days will be focused on making the ‘innards,’ as I think of them, and other days will focus on enrobing, or dipping, the candy innards in chocolate. When I make the innards, I work in small batches, and usually produce 50 to 200 candies at a time. …

“Making any of the innards depends on paying careful attention to temperature, so using a candy thermometer is essential. And, since I’ve never met a candy thermometer that I felt I could really, really trust, I also use the old tried-and-true cold-water test. …

“Once the candy is cooked and has cooled, I have to cut it. … The next step is the critical one that makes me a chocolatier—tempering chocolate. … Anyone who wants to make really good candy learns to temper chocolate. … Tempering chocolate means melting quality, real chocolate and then cooling it in a controlled way to bring about a transformation of the chocolate. …

“I spend a lot of time tempering chocolate by hand. I may temper 3 pounds at a time. I melt the chocolate to specific temperatures, depending on whether it’s dark, milk, or white chocolate, and then bring those temperatures down again. It takes about 30 minutes of constant stirring to temper chocolate, and it can’t be rushed.” More here.

I think you could learn to make chocolate yourself just from KerryCan’s one post. She concludes, “I weigh out the candies, then I put them in little candy paper cups. I arrange them in the glossy white box and make sure they look pretty. I label the box. I seal the box with my little ‘KerryCan’ sticker. I move on to the next box. The boxes pile up in a most satisfying way.”

The chocolates and other candies may be found at Etsy, here.

Photo: KerryCan

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I went to Manchester, New Hampshire, today for an event designed to bring bankers together with community and economic development people.

The panelists were pretty interesting. A woman from the NH Small Business Development Center talked about what it takes to put together a financing package and what sorts of entrepreneurs are a good investment. For example, people like Richard Tango-Lowy, who do their homework.

Tango-Lowy kept his IT job while he researched everything about fine chocolate, traveling extensively in France and Italy. Almost as soon as he opened Dancing Lion Chocolate, he was successful. He got a great review in the Boston Globe. He has no cash-flow problems. His only problem is keeping up with demand.

“The entrepreneur’s Mayan-style drinking chocolate, made with milk or water, is served in large painted bowls,” writes Kathleen Pierce in the Globe. “This driven chocolatier and Manchester resident is more than a little obsessed with cacao. He works with chocolate maker Alan McClure of Patric Chocolate in Columbia, Mo., to create a house-blend derived from Madagascar beans.

“Like a vintner, Tango-Lowy selects the chocolates that go into his tasting squares, bars, and candies, paying close attention to flavor profiles and how a particular bean enhances the moment. ‘I think about how long will it linger in your mouth. There are ones that hit the fragrant front and each piece evolves as you eat it,’ he says.

“When you discover that Tango-Lowy is a physicist, his approach to chocolate begins to make sense.” Read more.

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