Maybe Valentine’s day is a lot-a-bit commercialised, but that doesn’t have to take away from the beautiful jester’s lovers do for one another on this special day. From romantic picnics to candle-lite dinners for two. However, you decide to spend this Valentine’s day there is almost a guaranteed exchange of chocolate. This Valentine’s day we can try and make the most ethical chocolate choices. Scroll to the bottom for my favourite Raw Chocolate Brownie Recipe and for a list of local Fair Trade Chocolate available in your country.
Chocolate and the Environment
Chocolate production is an energy-intensive process, taking about 18 500 calories of energy to produce 1kg of chocolate*. We also have food miles to think about. Cocoa beans do not grow in Canada or Australia but grow best 15-20 degrees north or south of the equator, generally in West Africa, Central and South America and parts of Asia. Just like coffee, it is hard to imagine a life without chocolate.
*1L bottle of water takes 715 calories of energy to produce.
Chocolate and Child Slave Labour, The Uncomfortable Truth
The chocolate industry does well to stay out of the spotlight, but for years organisations such as the International Labor Rights Forum have been advocating for a stop to child labour. On the Ivory Coast it is estimated that more than 100 000 children work in hazardous conditions, many of them slave labourers brought in from neighbouring Mali. We have all heard about child slave labour, but sometimes when you see it, it really hits home. The documentary Dark Side of Chocolate by Miki Mistrati and U. Roberto Romano gives some good insight into child labour practices on the Ivory Coast.
Chocolate Producers Dodging Their Ethical Obligations
Back in 2001, The Cocoa Protocol was signed by Hershey’s, Nestle, Kraft and Cargill voluntarily as a commitment to become child labour free by 2005. As you can guess this was never backed up – the deadline was pushed to 2008 and now with the lowered standard of a 50% decrease in child labour. Their business model puts constant growth as a goal above the social impacts of production. So how and why would companies such as Hershey’s allow room to address the issues of child trafficking and labour?
Hershey’s in the Headlines – A Step In The Right Direction?
The Raise the Bar campaign (Global Exchange, Green America and International Labor Rights Forum) threatened to run an ad during the 2012 Super Bowl, exposing Hershey’s dirty secrets. Things took a turning point when Hershey announced a commitment to fully switch their Bliss line of chocolate to independently certified cocoa. They also offered a donation of $10 million to help educate West African farmers about trade and child labor issues. Hershey has also upped their commitment to 100 percent certified cocoa by 2020 – Hershey’s has chosen Rainforest Alliance as their certifying body.
Until all chocolate companies get their act together we as the consumer are responsible for making the choices to ensure we are not supporting child labour, or the exploitation of farmers. Simple choices we can make can change the world. Let’s try and choose certified Fair Trade (or Rainforest Alliance) chocolate and cocoa products this Valentines. See my list of Canadian Fair Trade Chocolate or Australian Fair Trade Chocolate.
The Good Guide has a complete list of Canadian Companies that sell Fair Trade chocolate.
- Cocoa Farm-Farm by Nature-Organic cocoa grown by the only cocoa plantation in Australia.
- Cocolo-Organic Trader-Made in Switzerland and Australian owned. This sister and brother team uses organic Fair Trade cocoa.
- Pana Chocolate-Raw, organic chocolate handmade in Melbourne, Australia.
- Chocolatier Australia-Their chocolates are produced in a factory in Heidelberg, Melbourne. Some of their chocolates are certified Fair .Trade
For a complete list of Chocolates available in Australia check out the Shop Ethical guide.
Raw Chocolate Brownie with Caramel Icing
This brownie recipe is so good that nobody will be able to tell its 100% raw. It makes a great, healthy alternative to store-bought chocolate, or baked goods which can contain refined grains empty of nutrients. The optional, but highly recommended raw caramel icing is reliant on that pinch of salt for that caramel flavour. Best served cold, but it will be hard to not eat the brownie straight from the bowl.
- 1 cup walnuts raw
- 1 cup almonds raw
- 1 cup dates pitted
- 1/4 cup cacao powder unprocessed / Fair Trade
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- pinch sea salt
- 1/4 cup water
Caramel Icing (optional)
- 1/2 cup cashew butter (see below for homemade recipe)
- 1/2 cup dates pitted
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- pinch sea salt
First season a small baking dish (about 12 x 12) with coconut oil or line with parchment paper. Process the walnuts and almonds in a food processor until they are roughly chopped. Do not process into a fine flour.
Add the dates, cacao, vanilla and sea salt. Process until ingredients are well mixed, then add ¼ cup of water, or enough to make the mixture stick together. The mixture should look well blended with no large chunks of nuts. Add more water if needed, 1 tablespoon at a time.
Once blended press the mixture into the prepared baking dish and let the brownie sit in the fridge for at least one hour.
If you want to make the optional, but highly recommended, caramel icing place all of the icing ingredients into the food processor and mix until well combined. Once well blended, remove the brownie from the fridge and layer the icing on top of the brownie mixture before placing back in the fridge to set.
Once set, cut into 3-inch squares, or 16 serves and enjoy!
How to make cashew butter: Soak the cashews in water for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. Drain the cashews and place in a high-quality food processor or Vitamix (I use a Vitamix). Blend until a smooth butter forms, scraping down the sides as needed. I find that I need to make double the recipe (1 cup of cashews) for the blade to efficiently blend all the cashews. Save remaining cashew butter and eat as you would any nut butter.
Nut variation: Try pecans instead of walnuts or almonds.
Flavour variation: Add 1 tsp of cinnamon to the mixture.
Nutrition Information based on one square with caramel icing.
Website:The Good Guide
Website:Centre for Sustainable Systems
Website:CSIS Sustainable Cocoa Farming
Book:Ethical Eating-Angela Crocombe
Website:Eco Friendly Food – Food Guidelines for a Sustainable Environment