Chocolate is a subjective artform.
Seriously. As a full time chocolatier with national distribution in the US i have found that people like what they like and to tell people that a particular varietal or a higher cocoa content chocolate is better than the hershey bar they love is pretentious.
That said there ARE better chocolates and couvertures out there than the hydronated palm kernal oil dilutants they pass off as chocolate. And lets not even get too deep into the slave labor trade that makes hershey, mars, guittard, cadbury,and others so succesful at production.
Chocolate is a luxury eaten at the expense of underpaid and overworked "farmers" who generally die young from the use of chemical fertilizers , herbicides, and pesticides whose use is banned in most countries.
eat with your taste buds and your conscience, its up to you to change the world.
"Life may be sweeter for this....."
May 29, 2005
Let's REALLY get real. Chocolate is a science, not an artform. In fact, I'm surprised that anybody would try to argue that a Hershey bar is art.
Every step of the way, chocolate production relies on very specific and repeatable processes - fermentation, drying, Maillard reaction, particle size reduction, fat crystalisation - the list goes on.
In the chocolate industry, "art" is the euphemism for either "I can't achieve consistency", or "I'm not going to tell you how it's done".
As Tyler Durden might say, "You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake".
February 14, 2006
I would argue that there are chocolate companies that tend to be more ethical than others. While the Chef is correct in his assessment of a lot of chocolate being produced with slave labour, he fails to consider companies that engage in fair trade. There are also many companies that forgo the use of dangerous pesticides containing lead, as opposed to companies in Africa. As a rule of thumb, cocoa grown in the western hemisphere comes from plantations that are plagued with fewer abuses, if any in certain cases. In the case of Amedei's Chuao plantation, workers there are now paid much much more than they were with Valrhona. Domori isn't known to abuse workers, as they are passionate about all factors of cocoa production, which includes the workers.
I have a point. If you are concerned with labour practices (as I am), do not purchase cocoa that originates from Africa. Also, larger companies like Hershey and Callebaut do tend to be more abusive entities, so do not buy their chocolate if you are concerned. However, companies like Amedei, do not really deal with African cocoa (the exception being Madagascar), so you are safe purchasing their chocolate. Also, smaller companies like Amedei and Domori tend to avoid and eschew the use of dangerous fertilizers and pesticides because of the tougher laws in South America and being that it is generally considered low class to spray a criollo crop with poison...lol
So just watch what you buy.
May 29, 2005
Chef, that is true. People like what they like. I know people who think "Black Magic" or "Ganong" are wonderful whereas you couldn't pay me to eat that garbage.
Eshra, you make a good point about the slave labour practices. Kids should be getting an education so they will have a future, but poverty prevents that. If they can't work, and they can't go to school because of money...then what. Both circumstances are terrible but producing income is better than begging and starving. I have four kids so I am very sensitive to abusive situations such as slave labour and we ourselves are as generous as possible to giving financial support to humanitarian orgs such as Samaritan's Purse, etc..
Now, because I am in the preliminary planning for my own shop, who are some of these companies that you and Chef recommend. I live in Canada so any of your American contacts would work for me. I am all for supporting Fair Trade organizations.
August 6, 2006
"The Cocoa Industry in West Africa: A history of exploitation" is an interesting report by Anti-Slavery International, dated 2004.
This report provides an in-depth analysis of how cocoa is produced and how child and slave labour enter its chain of production. It relates the history of cocoa and explores how this commodity fits within a global market. Drawing on a wide ran ge of sources, it concludes with recommendations for consumers, the chocolate industry and governments on actions needed to address this serious problem.
I recommend reading this report (71-pages) since this is a complicated problem where most of us have limited knowledge. You'll learn a lot about how cocoa beans are traded and the industry behind.
[url="http://www.antislavery.org/homepage/resources/cocoa%20report%202004.pdf"]Read the report - 1,4 MB PDF-file![/url]
"Porcelana: The Holy Grail of Pure Criollos" (Maricel E. Presilla)
August 6, 2006
The Chef! I've seen your outdated link before. I once supported the effort to get responses from chocolate makers. It was based on a report on BBC. Today I call it an effort based on "media hype" rather than facts. Read the report "The Cocoa Industry in West Africa: A history of exploitation" and you'll understand the diffence between a report based on facts and an effort based on "media hype".
"Porcelana: The Holy Grail of Pure Criollos" (Maricel E. Presilla)
January 16, 2006
You seem to have started two hares running with this post! I don't have enough knowledge about the chocolate industry other than to say I agree with you that there must be a more ethical way of producing chocolate and rewarding producers. A recent discussion between Oz Choc and Seneca was interesting and touched on similar themes.
However, I can't agree that the manufacturing process is both a science and an art form - subjective or otherwise. My dictionary gives various definitions of the word "art". One of them is skill and in this sense I suppose the statement is true. But I suspect that the word in the statement is meant to connote art in its grander meaning and I don't agree. It is merely a readily repeatable production process the result of which produces a temporary effect on the taste buds more or less agreeable according to the variations in that process. It may be well balanced, it may be provocative but it doesn't mean that it's art. As much as I may like a particular chocolate or coffee or wine it doesn't produce an effect beyond the sense of taste in the way that a piece of music or poetry might do beyond the sense of hearing. To see the word art used in connection with someone who produces chocolate or any other food endows the person with a mystique which is surely not warranted. The sense of taste seems to me the least connected with the intellect.
Science - yes. Skill -yes.
Art - No. Be it Hershey or Amadei!
October 20, 2005
I'm in agreement with this last post from The Chef.
For me, the beauty/appeal/love of chocolate is not in a bar of fine dark/milk but rather in using that chocolate bar (or couverture chocolate more to the point) to create a combination of flavours in the form of a praline/bon bon.
This "creation of flavours" is a form of art I think - in much the same way cooking is an art.
Eshra wrote: If you are concerned with labour practices, do not purchase cocoa that originates from Africa.
This is an overly simplistic piece of advice which risks causing damage to businesses that are doing the right thing.
For example, as a result of the fact that I buy and process organically grown, fairly traded cocoa, I have been approached by a man who grew up on a cocoa plantation in Ghana. He now lives in Australia, but wants to do what he can to help cocoa growers back home. He is willing and able to source fairly traded beans from Ghana. Sadly, the only thing stopping him is that I don't have the capacity to buy any beans from Ghana at this stage.
My point is that if somebody with money creates a demand for a certain product (in this case, fair trade cocoa from Africa), supply will follow.
The Chef wrote: organic/fair trade has come a long way but it has a way to go in terms of quality. Not that there arent quality beans to be had, but its just that the entire manufacturing process is so delicate.
This is the kind of propaganda that I expect to see disseminated by the exploiters, not the people who actually SELL organic fair trade products!
What does "delicate" processing mean? And why would "delicate processing" cause an inherent handicap for people who don't use synthetic chemicals?? It just doesn't make sense!
(By the way, Chef, do you also think that apostrophes are more art than science? "Creative grammar" and all that?)
August 1, 2006
June 5, 2005
The point about boycotts being potentially harmful to the most vulnerable people is a really interesting one.
Generally speaking, company policies don't move towards greater "benevolence" (be that higher wages, less environmental damage, or whatever) unless they are forced to - either by law, or by consumer pressure.
Corporations law requires company directors to work in the best interests of their shareholders. This is generally interpreted to mean that the company is obliged to obtain the largest amount of profit possible, which in turn usually means cutting costs wherever possible.
Paying more money for raw inputs like cocoa is obviously damaging to a corporation's profits, and therefore can be viewed as technically illegal - unless customers demand that the corporation must pay more for cocoa, and punish the company financially (via a boycott) until such a time as their demands are met. If the boycott is of a sufficiently large scale, the corporation will be forced into implementing the consumers' demands - and quickly.
Of course, the trick is organising a sufficiently large-scale boycott.
For as long as the majority of consumers either don't care at all, or console themselves by saying "If I boycott XXXX chocolate, then the poorest cocoa farmers will suffer even more", then a boycott won't be successful, and the exploitation by corporations will continue unchecked.
In relation to chocolate, possibly the best solution on an individual basis is to buy from the ethical manufacturers who are already out there, and to let the exploiters know that you've moved away from their brand, and why.
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