Did you know that the Fairtrade System currently works with more than 1.65 million farmers across 74 different countries around the world? They work hard to bring us some of the most delicious treats known to man — with one of them being chocolate. There is a lot to consider when it comes to determining what type of chocolate person you are; do you opt for a magnificent milk chocolate or a delicious dark chocolate bar? Personally, I sway towards the milk chocolate and I have learnt more about how it is made when I visited Cadbury World.

Through extensive research, it has been calculated that, each year, Britain consumes 660,900 tonnes of chocolate, which calculates to 11kg per person — or three bars each week. I don’t think that I eat that much, personally but I know a few people who do. This highlights just how popular chocolate has become, but where does it come from?

Cocoa from Bolivia: El Celibo

The creation of chocolate requires very specific environmental conditions with every bar that is produced — which makes the country of Bolivia a great place for production. However, there are six million growers, farmers and processors across Africa, Asia and Latin America to meet the demands of the rest of the world as chocolate is just so popular.

Chocolate is the result of hard workers from one of the poorest countries in the world – Bolivia. The nation has an estimated population of 10.89 million people and sits alongside Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Chile, and Peru in South America.

The entire country has a history of cultivating cocoa, which started in the 1960s, but most growers tend to be from the Alto Beni region. Cocoa is a very popular crop, although some of the farmers have started to grow organic bananas, citrus fruits and vegetables too.

El Ceibo, which was established in 1977, works with 50 co-operatives across Bolivia and reaches out to around 1,106 men and 194 women farmers from different ethnic groups. As well as this, the majority of the additional money earnt from their own fair-trade cocoa is used to fund technical agricultural support, which is a programme that replaces cocoa plants and deforestation.

Chocolate producers

History of Chocolate

São Tomé is located on the west coast of Africa and is made up of two main islands, as well as several islets, and is often referred to as ‘Chocolate Island’. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? With a small population of 200,000 people, many residents’ incomes come from cocoa and the island’s signature bean — criollo bean — which has been farmed there since the 1700s.

You may not believe how much of a history that chocolate actually has. Traidcraft Shop, KEYWORD have provided the following graphic:

A Brief History of Chocolate

Fair Trade Facts: Chocolate Edition

What are the main differences between traditional and raw chocolate?

There has been a lot of people talking about eating ‘raw foods’ recently. Did you know that you can also get raw chocolate? It usually contains fewer ingredients than traditional chocolate — such as cocoa powder, cocoa butter, coconut blossom sugar, and raw fruit or seeds. It still has that great chocolatey taste though. Traditional chocolate can contain milk, soya, sugars, sweeteners, soya, and a host of artificial flavourings and preservatives. You can also now get vegan chocolate (although all dark chocolate is technically vegan.

While Traidcraft’s fair trade vegan chocolate may not be raw chocolate, it’s kept its recipe as natural as possible — fair trade, organic, and free from GMOs, cheap emulsifiers, cheap oils, artificial colours or preservatives.

Not only that, did you know that cocoa beans that are used for raw chocolate are never heated above 42 degrees? In commercial chocolate, the cocoa beans are roasted at a temperature between 130 and 400 degrees. That is such a huge difference, who knew that it was made so differently? When drying cocoa beans for raw chocolate, some cocoa growers just leave their beans outdoors to dry naturally in the sunlight!

What are the main differences between cocoa and cacao?

A lot of people rave about cacao, especially cacao nibs which are very popular with food bloggers. Cocoa and cacao are actually technically the same plant. Though the words cocoa and cacao are often used interchangeably, generally cocoa is the term used for cacao that’s been fermented, dried, and roasted at high temperatures. It’s then pressed until all the oils are separated and the solids that remain can be turned into a dry powder — cocoa powder. Cacao powder is made in a very similar way, but at a far lower temperature. A lot of people don’t realise that there are so many differences between the two.

Where is cocoa originally grown?

The Theobroma Cacao has been used throughout time for nutritional and medicinal benefits and is native to Central America. This scientific name for the tree actually translates as ‘food of the gods’. These trees produce pods which contain 20-40 cacao beans — and it’s these beans that eventually get turned into chocolate. Theobroma Cacao trees grow most successfully in a narrow band called the Cocoa Belt or the Chocolate Belt. This band extends up to 20 degrees north and south of the equator.

Was chocolate worth more than gold?

Back in the Mayan period, cocoa beans were worth more than gold and were even used as currency! I learnt a lot about this at Cadbury World when I visited. The Mayans maintained the value of cocoa beans by restricting the harvesting of the beans.

Have cocoa farmers ever tasted chocolate?

The majority of cocoa farmers have never tasted chocolate which sounds mad, doesn’t it? Imagine not being able to taste your own product. Chocolate isn’t a popular product in these hot countries. Beans are shipped almost instantly, as if chocolate was created in these typically warm countries, it would melt! Many cocoa farmers will have never tasted chocolate in their lives unless they end up in a different climate. In 2017, Traidcraft hosted Linda, a cocoa farmer from the co-operative Kuapa Kokoo (and who grows fair trade cocoa for the Divine Chocolate Company), and she reminded us that any chocolate left lying around in Ghana would just melt anyway!

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