Did you know that child slavery is a common practice on cocoa farms in Ivory Coast, the world’s biggest supplier of cocoa beans? Don’t feel too bad if you didn’t know – I didn’t either until a few days ago. But now I know and so do you. I’m a huge chocoholic but now there is no enjoying a non-fair trade bar of chocolate, knowing a child may have been forced to pick the beans. There’s no going back.
The U.S. State Department reported in a Human Rights report in the year 2000 that an estimated 15,000 children, mostly boys, between the ages of 9-12 were enslaved to work on cocoa, coffee and other plantations in Ivory Coast. 70% of the cocoa beans coming into the U.S. come from Ivory Coast. In the year 2001 the International Labor Organization (ILO) reported that trafficking of children is common in West Africa on these types of plantations. Picking cocoa beans is hard and dangerous work. It takes 400 beans to produce a pound of chocolate so these kids work long and hard to get enough cocoa for even a few bars. No wonder most chocolate bars are so cheap and fair trade chocolate is so expensive.
What is really crazy is that most if not all of the children who pick these beans have never, ever tasted chocolate in their lives.
So I hope you’re prepared to switch but, if you’re like me, you’re serious about your choccolate and not just anything will do. Some questions I’ve heard about substituting fair trade for conventional chocolate are:
I like milk chocolate and it’s all dark chocolate!
Equal Exchange also makes a milk chocolate bar. Theirs includes a bit of hazelnut. Equal Exchange chocolate is available at Whole Foods Markets.
I like Milk Duds. Is there a fair trade alternative?
I’m not sure I can help you there but if I come up with something I’ll get back to you. Same goes for Whoppers’ fans.
What small pieces of wrapped chocolate can I buy for my kids or so I don’t eat the whole bar?
Global Exchange sells yummy milk chocolate gold coins. I gave them out as Halloween candy last year! A bag of 17 pieces is $4.75.
What about hot cocoa?
Equal Exchange makes fabulous hot cocoa. I know my friend Lisa drinks a cup every night instead of dessert (she’s always been very healthy!).
I have yet to try a fair trade chocolate bar I didn’t like, although I don’t think I’ll seek out that bar I tried that had chili pepper in it. Much fair trade chocolate is organic and artisanal, meaning a lot more thought and work goes into producing it so the result tastes fabulous. Most grocery stores around Portland now carry at least one line of fair trade chocolate. Just look for the Transfair logo (above). If you can’t find it ask your grocery store manager to start carrying it. They do listen to their customers!
My personal favorite is the Nib Brittle bar from Theo. What’s your favorite fair trade chocolate?