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Interview With A Chocolate Lover

 This interview is being conducted for the purpose of chocolate research, and to gain a deeper understanding of how chocolate affects people’s lives.  Many people enjoy the delicious, sweet substance, yet not all are aware of the history.  The interviewee will be asked a series of questions about how chocolate affects her life.  She enjoys chocolate on a daily basis, and so this interview will be beneficial to everyone. First, she will be asked about her favorite kind of chocolate, and why she chose it.  Secondly, how chocolate has affected her life, either health wise, or pleasure.  Lastly, we will discuss how chocolate has progressed, or stayed the same over the years. For example, does chocolate taste the same now, as it did hundreds of years ago?  Is chocolate as healthy now as it was in the time of the Mayans or Aztecs? The interview will give everyone a new perspective on almost every aspect of chocolate.  Without further ado, let’s begin our interview with a chocolate lover.

The interviewee was born and bred in Southeast Michigan, and is now twenty-one years old.  Her obsession with chocolate began when she was very young.  She recalls, “eating chocolate as young as two years old when my father would feed me spoonful’s of chocolate ice cream.” I laughed, responding, “Yes, chocolate ice cream is very good.  Do you still enjoy chocolate ice cream?” She replied, “Of course! Only, now I eat organic, dairy free chocolate ice cream.” At this point, it was a perfect time to move the interview toward our first question.  Obviously the interviewee has enjoyed chocolate her whole life, and it would be interesting to know what is her favorite kind of chocolate.

She replied, “My favorite chocolate comes the Endangered Speciesbrand, and my favorite flavor is Dark Chocolate, With Forest Mint.” It sounded delicious. I asked, “Why is that your favorite brand of chocolate?” Interviewee: “Well, the ingredients are healthier than something you would find in a Nestle brand for example.  This brand is a NON GMO product, Kosher, certified gluten free, and certified vegan. It also contains around 70% cocoa.”  It was refreshing to know that the interviewee had a respect for healthy, organic chocolate.  I was able to research the product, and gathered the ingredient information.  It contains, “BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE (CHOCOLATE LIQUOR, CANE SUGAR, COCOA BUTTER, SOY LECITHIN, VANILLA), NATURAL MINT FLAVOR” (  It also contains 5g’s of fiber, 12 g’s of sugar, and 3 g’s of protein.  The total calories per bar is 210.  The fact that the interviewee was aware of the health benefits of cacao surprised me.  Cacao is the purest form of chocolate, and to give the reader some perspective, we will explore its origins.

The following information has been qouted from my last blog post, Eat More Organic Chocolate!: “Christopher Columbus was said to have brought some back with him, after his fourth trip to the New World, but Europe was not quite ready to acknowledge its significance.  Actually, “It was his fellow explorer, the Spanish Conquistador Don Hernán Cortés, who first realized their commercial value. He brought cocoa beans back to Spain in 1528 and very gradually, the custom of drinking the chocolate spread across Europe, reaching England in the 1650s” (Cadbury).  Cacao, the ancient chocolate of the world, had just started its long journey to modern popularity.” (Wydo)

In fact, “By 1682, a British report detailed cocoa exports from Jamaica to Boston. By inference, cocoa exports into the colonies can be assumed to be used for local chocolate production, marking the beginning of chocolate production in the American colonies” (History of Chocolate: Chocolate in the American ColoniesSnyder).  It became so popular in North America, that even John Adams and his wife would have some with their morning breakfast.  Snyder records, ‘“John and Abigail Adams were very fond of chocolate. In 1779, John Adams, while in Spain, wrote, “Ladies drink chocolate in the Spanish fashion. Each lady took a cup of hot chocolate and drank it, and then cakes and bread and butter were served; then each lady took another cup of cold water, and here ended the repast.” Abigail Adams, writing to John Quincy Adams in 1785, described drinking chocolate for breakfast while in London.””

Cacao has a deep and rich history.  The interviewee was read the information to give a better perspective.  In response, she said, “Wow, I thought I knew a lot about Cacao, but apparently not.  I did not know that Abigail Adams drank chocolate for breakfast in London. That is very interesting.  It seems like chocolate was a delicacy in those days.  People of high class consumed it.  They made it popular.”  Next, I wanted to move the interview towards my next question. I asked, “How has chocolate affected your life in all areas? Do you consume it for health, pleasure, or perhaps both?

The interviewee replied, “I love chocolate for many different reasons. Chocolate is not just something I eat or drink for pleasure, but something I consume for my health as well. There are many ways to consume chocolate.  You can eat it from a chocolate bar, drink it hot chocolate, enjoy some chocolate ice cream, sprinkle it on desserts, and so much more.  Chocolate is just fun to prepare. You can enjoy it so many different ways.  As I mentioned before, I only eat organic chocolate that has a high percentage of Cacao in it.  The reason for that is because cacao has numerous health benefits.  Raw cacao contains, magnesium, Iron, Flavonoids, and PEA.”

Luke: “Where did you get this information from?” Interviewee: “From a Women’s Health article. I’ll go ahead and read you some of the article now. The article reads, ‘“Raw cacao is one of the best food sources of magnesium – a mineral that many of you lack from your diet. Magnesium is essential for energy production, for a healthy brain and nervous system, for our muscles and for strong bones and teeth. Magnesium may also support a healthy blood pressure. Cacao is a source of iron, which builds the blood and helps to transport oxygen around our body, as well as potassium, copper, zinc, manganese and selenium. Cacao can also be high in flavonoids, which have antioxidant activity. Raw cacao and flavonoid-rich chocolate have been linked with heart health benefits including increasing the good form of cholesterol (HDL) in our blood, lowering blood pressure and even improving vascular function in patients with congestive heart failure. These effects are thought to be primarily due to the antioxidants contained in the cacao.In addition, cacao contains a compound called phenylethylamine (PEA for short!). PEA is thought to elevate mood and support energy, and is said to be one of the reasons that many people love chocolate! Raw cacao is also very low in sugar, and of course does not contain any milk, so is suitable for those who are milk-sensitive or following a low-sugar diet”’ (Menato).  Luke: “Yes, chocolate is very good for you! I did not know all of that information.  I actually wrote a blog post for this class, and I quoted an article written by James Howe.  I’ll read you part of the article. It reads, ‘In the mid-1990s, with funding from the Mars Company, Hollenberg set out to prove that what protected the Kuna from heart disease was chocolate. As the research has progressed since then, he and other researchers have zeroed in on a “flavanol” in chocolate called epicatechin, which, he says, may protect against diabetes and cancer as well as high blood pressure, strokes, and heart attacks.”’ Interviewee: “I’m glad I eat and drink plenty of chocolate! That research really makes me grateful for Cacao.  It truly does impact your health in a positive way.”

At his point in the interview, it was my intention to steer the conversation towards social issues surrounding chocolate, and it’s production.  The interviewee has a history of being very passionate about human rights, so this topic was perfect for our conversation.  First, I wanted to gauge her familiarity with the subject.  After doing research, I was astounded from what I found.

In America chocolate isn’t given a second thought. Everywhere you turn there is chocolate. From candy to desserts there is no shortage. Most often, Americans do not give a second thought to were products we use and eat come from and the effects those products have on other societies in order to produce it for our enjoyment.  Luke:“Do you mind if at this point in the interview, we discuss the effects chocolate has on society?” Interviewee: “Of course not! I love being able to talk about these things because it brings awareness to the subject.” Luke: “Let me start off by reading from an interesting news posting from the BBC. It quotes, ‘African cocoa farms are still employing hundreds of thousands of children, the BBC has discovered, 10 years after the world’s leading chocolate companies promised to tackle child labor. Ivory Coast is the world’s biggest cocoa producer with as many as 800,000 children working in the industry, often in dangerous jobs’ Humphrey Hawksley reports from Ivory Coast. Most Americans today do not know this. It’s so important that people today are educated’” (BBC News).

Luke: “Another interesting article I found from reads, “Child labor in West African cocoa farming first became a cause célèbre around the turn of the century when a number of pieces of investigative journalism focused the world’s attention on the plight of children who had been trafficked to Ivory Coast to farm cocoa, often from other former French colonies such as Mali and Burkina Faso, and held as slave laborers. In a documentary that aired on the BBC, filmmakers interviewed young boys in Ivory Coast who said they’d been beaten and forced to work long hours without pay. One who said he’d been working on a cocoa farm for five years was asked what he thought about people enjoying chocolate in other parts of the world. “They are enjoying something that I suffered to make,” the boy answered. “They are eating my flesh.”” (”

Interviewee: “Wow.  I knew that chocolate production has posed these kinds of risk’s to kids in Africa, but I was not aware of all these facts.  It honestly breaks my heart.” Luke: “It breaks my heart too because there’s not much we can do except boycott these companies who buy their chocolate from West Africa.  However, almost everyone buys their chocolate from there.  According to the same article, around 70 percent of the worlds cacao is grown there.  This means that they produce around 60 percent of the global market in chocolate.”

Luke: “Another source reports, “Holding a single large pod in one hand, each child has to strike the pod with a machete and pry it open with the tip of the blade to expose the cocoa beans. Every strike of the machete has the potential to slice a child’s flesh. The majority of children have scars on their hands, arms, legs or shoulders from the machetes. In addition to the hazards of using machetes, children are also exposed to agricultural chemicals on cocoa farms in Western Africa. Tropical regions such as Ghana and the Ivory Coast consistently deal with prolific insect populations and choose to spray the pods with large amounts of industrial chemicals. In Ghana, children as young as 10 spray the pods with these toxins without wearing protective clothing (foodispower).” Interviewee: “That is devastating.  It really makes me rethink who I will be buying my chocolate from!”

Luke: “I hope I haven’t turned you off from chocolate altogether! The reason I bring up these issues is because we as Americans need to be more aware.  It is all about bringing awareness to the issues at hand, and doing everything we can do to help.  For example, when you go to buy your chocolate, buy brands that are committed to eco-friendly production.  This way, you know that no child is suffering in an effort to produce it.  Another thing you can do is not buy from brands that are known for importing from West Africa.  Choose another brand.  It’s all about taking small steps toward a better tomorrow.  Anyway, I was so glad you accepted my invitation for this interview. You have really brought a fun atmosphere.  I have enjoyed getting to know you and your favorite chocolate better!” Interviewee: “Thank you so much Luke.  I had fun as well. Let’s raise our chocolate bars to a great interview!”


Works Cited


  2. History of Chocolate: Chocolate in the American Colonies.” History of Chocolate: Chocolate in the American Colonies: The Colonial Williamsburg Official History & Citizenship Site,
  3. Menato, Francesca. “Cacao Powder Benefits | Why It’s Better Than Chocolate.” Women’s Health UK,
  4. “Chocolate and Cardiovascular Health: The Kuna Case Reconsidered.” Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture, vol. 12, no. 1, 2012, pp. 43–52., doi:10.1525/gfc.2012.12.1.43.
  5. “Inside Big Chocolate’s Child Labor Problem.” Fortune, Fortune,
  6. “Ivory Coast Cacao Farms Child Labour: Little Change.” Http://


Once  there  was a tree…” – Silverstein

This was the tree –



And she loved a little boy from the village

And every day a boy would come

And he would harvest the fruit –

And the village would make them into drink and play king of the world

He would climb up her trunk and gather her pods

And gather for the village

And they would play hide and seek for the pods under the forest canopy

And when the village was tired they would energize in those calories

And the boy loved the tree

And the tree was happy

and the Maize grew nearby –


The fruit was combined with the Maize by the village, (Presilla, 2001).

Pre Columbian corn bears only a passing resemblance to the modern version, being much smaller of ear and bearing only a fraction of the fruit that modern hybrids do, (Piperno, 2011).

One  day the boy came to the tree.

On behalf of the village

And the tree said, “Come Boy, come and climb up my trunk and play in my forest floor and be happy”

“My village is too civilized to climb and play,” said the boy.

“I want to buy things and have fun.

I want some beans -which by now are used as money, (Coe, S. D., & Coe. M. D., 2007).Can you give me some money-beans?”

“Take my pods, Boy, and use them in the village as money and you will be happy.”


The boy used Cacao beans as small coin currency; later Cortez noted this in his journals, (Coe, S. D., & Coe. M. D., 2007). And so the boy climbed up the tree and gathered the pods

And his was how the boy got the fruit to the village.

Beasts of burdern

And the tree was happy

And the village ground the fruit and consumed it (Presilla, 2001).

And this is how the village consumed it, with this metate, a round stone that is used to grind cacao or corn against a flat three legged rock (Presilla 2001).



And the ground maize and cacao was mixed with water then poured back and forth into a container to make a frothy beverage, (Presilla 2001).


And this made the tree happy and the village was healthy, wealthy and wise.

And the Maize became God


And the beans used as currency

One  day the boy came back to the tree

On behalf of the village

And the tree said, “Come Boy, come and climb up my trunk and play in my forest floor and be happy.”

“I am too busy to climb trees,” said the boy

“I want the villages to keep me warm and my tummy filled. Can you give me food? I want a wife and I want children, and so I need to feed them.”

“Use my beans”, said the tree, “and the earth’s maize and the bee’s honey.” “Tell the villagers: Mayans and the Aztecs ‘mix the cacao with ground corn and water as a meal, sweeten with honey’. You may cut off my pods and create the meals, (Presilla 2001). Then you will be happy.

There is no need to cook, you may gather them from the forest floor and you can carry them on foot.  They are easy to transport, and provide abundant readily digestible and generally nutritious calories. Eat with the villagers, (Presilla 2001).

Then you will be happy.  Then the Gods too will be happy.


But  time went by

And the village was conquered, (Coe, S. D., & Coe. M. D., 2007) and the Gods were lost.

And the conquistadores cut off her pods and branches and carried them overseas to feed new villages, (Coe, S. D., & Coe. M. D., 2007).

And the tree was moved away from the village, (Coe, S. D., & Coe. M. D., 2007).

And the tree was sad.

One  day a similar boy came

And the tree shook with joy

And she said, “Come Come Boy, come and climb up my trunk and play in my forest floor and be happy”

“My village is too civilized to climb trees”, said the new boy

And the tree was moved again.

And different boys came to visit

Yet these boys were almost the same

The beans traveled long distances, then boys played “beast of burden” and picked and hulled the beans.

And  time went by

And the Empire was established, (Coe, S. D., & Coe. M. D., 2007).

And the pods were transported to yet more villages, (Coe, S. D., & Coe. M. D., 2007).

And the tree was yet more sad.

One  day many boys came.

And the tree shook with joy.

And she said, “Come Boy, come and climb up my trunk and play in my forest floor and be happy.

“I am far from home, said the new boys. We do not speak the language.  We cannot sleep.

We know no one here.



We are too tired and sad,” said the boys.

And so the tree created shade for the weary pickers to rest and hide.

Over the next couple centuries, cacao and corn became important crops.  The Europeans brought horses and mules for transport, but also diseases that wiped out hundreds of thousands.  Cacao was exported to southern Europe where it became an important commodity, first as a spice and medicine. Later, when quantities increased and price went down it became a popular drink for the aristocracy. Still later it became a treat for virtually everyone on the socio-economic spectrum, (Coe, S. D., & Coe. M. D., 2007).

Maize saw a slightly different trajectory as it proved easily adaptable to the European climate and became a very important source of food grown by and for the southern European peasants (Piperno, 2011). Cacao trees proved to be more difficult to export and only flourished a few degrees north or south of the equator, (Coe, S. D., & Coe. M. D., 2007).

Since maize proved to adapt well to modern agricultural methods the planting harvesting and milling of corn became steadily more mechanized over the decades and centuries (Piperno, 2011). Cacao proved more resistant to modernization, and the native North and South Americans proved resistant to slavery, (Coe, S. D., & Coe. M. D., 2007).  At first the Europeans solved this problem by transporting millions of African slaves to the Americas to harvest cacao and sugar, (Coe, S. D., & Coe. M. D., 2007).  Eventually, the economics were such that exporting the growing of both sugar and cacao to Africa was easier and more socially acceptable than transporting Africans to the Americas, (Coe, S. D., & Coe. M. D., 2007).

The Europeans were able to hybridize the cacao tree to produce a more disease resistant albeit less flavorful bean, first growing these new hybrids in the Caribbean then later on in Africa where most cacao is grown to this day, (Presilla, 2001).

The “Trinitario” and Forestor category of cacao tree and beans are considered inferior in flavor to the criolla , but offered disease resistance that was essential to large scale production, (Presilla, 2001). The plantations were large, at least by historical standards, often in the many hectares of cultivation, (Presilla, 2001). The science of transportation, disease control and processing changed dramatically, but some things stayed the same:

Yet the boys still harvest.





The nature of how and where cacao best grows meant that the best way to harvest remained to be nimble young men and boys doing so by hand

And the corn grew thick.


By this time selective breeding and hybridization meant that corn was producing much higher yields with better disease resistance and was grown on increasingly larger plots. The total number of acres under cultivation and productivity of the corn crop exploded (Piperno, 2011).

Most importantly, perhaps, was that sugar had now become an important crop in the Americas and it too was grown and harvested by African slaves.sugar

While not native to Mesoamerica or the Caribbean, being instead from Asia, sugar cane grew very well in the new world. The British government, especially, subsidized the sugar industry quite extensively and the sugar industry became one of the cornerstones of the slave trade and the British ascendency (Mintz, 1985)

And the God changed.

Catholic god

The Spanish exported their God to the “conquered”. To this day the catholic religion of the early Spanish missionaries is the primary religion in most of South American and Mexico.

The Catholic Church has a long and storied tradition of incorporating local customs and traditions into a sort of hybrid religion that eventually usurps local customs and becomes part of the “Catholic” tradition. Even modern Christians eat chocolate bunnies and other candy as spring religious activity even though the chocolate was appropriated from Mesoamerican traditions and the bunnies and eggs were part of a traditional pagan spring celebration  (Martin class lecture, spring 2018)

And the currency changed


Though Spain respected the concept of the cacao bean as currency, the Spanish quest for gold was never ending. The cacao bean’s use as a currency was complicated. In theory it closed power distance and allowed peasants to amass fortunes, in actuality the time energy and capital needed to harvest and process the beans actually increased social stratification. It was used for sustenance, rituals and currency, all at the same time.  This made for a very complicated place in society. Due to lack of viable small coins, however, the Spanish crown made the use of cacao beans official in the sixteenth century, (Martin & Sampeck, 2015),

And the food was transported.


The Spanish introduced horses but more importantly mules to the new world changing how lots of products were transported. Christopher Columbus brought donkeys to the new world in 1495 which would subsequently be instrumental in the conquistadors conquest of the Aztecs. Ten years after the conquest of the Aztecs brood animals were imported from Cuba to begin breeding in Mexico. Wherever there was a Spanish frontier mules were breed for both riding and pack animals (Babb, 2018).

And the ships were utilized.


The large Spanish ships were a far cry from the canoes previously used to transport corn or cacao. Yet the beans were still processed.

At first the Spanish used the same metate that was common in the new world. In fact it is one of the few tools used in the processing of cacao that the Europeans did not change (Presilla, 2001).



Being dryer corn could be milled in the same type of mills that had been used in Europe for centuries on other grains. Grist mills for wheat and other grains had been in operation for centuries when the new world grain corn was added to the mix (Carr, last viewed May, 2018).

So the was corn milled.


One  day the Empire came back to the tree

On behalf of the class distinction.

And the tree said, “Come people, come and climb up my trunk and play in my forest floor and be happy.”

“We are too refined to climb trees,” said the Bourgeois.

“I want the drink for our bone china from China, our crystal from Ireland and to show off in front of the proletarians. Can you give us style? I want to demonstrate we are more worthy to the Gods, more wealthy to our neighbors, and more refined than our workers.”

And the tree was sad.

And the Cacao drink was consumed by some more worthy.



In an excellent example of appropriation, the European aristocracy took the ground cacao from the Americas and served it in tea cups copied or sourced from china but keeping their own traditional rituals. They also served the beverage hot instead of cool or room temperature in keeping with traditional tea and coffee rituals (Martin, class lecture spring 2018).

And consumed by some.


At this point in history the transportation costs and rarity of cacao meant that it was very expensive and only really consumed by the wealthy aristocracy. The lower classes may have saved up money and bought cacao as medicine, but it was definitely not something that was available to them on a regular basis,(Coe, S. D., & Coe. M. D., 2007).


One  day the world came back to the tree

On behalf of the war

And the tree said, “Come people, come and climb up my trunk and play in my forest floor and be happy.”

“We are too busy to climb trees,” said the world.

“I want the calories to keep us warm and fill our tummies. Can you give me food? I want to take that country, exploit their land and I want more troops so I need to feed them.”

And the U.S. American industrial revolution was fueled by the cheap calories of the sugar, corn and chocolate trade.

And then, the industrial revolution came, and nothing would ever be the same.


And agricultural methods, food manufacturing, food consumption and distribution developed between 1850 and 1950 at were astonishing rates and on a scale never before seen.

Yet, the Cacao tree still looked like this –



And the cacao laborers still looked like this.


And the slave labor continued; And it is still a problem in the cacao and chocolate industry today.

And the tree was sad.

Yet the corn grew thick,


The contrast between the progress in the harvesting and processing of corn versus the harvesting and processing of cacao couldn’t be larger. While industrial methods are used in the later stages of processing, much of the work that goes into making cacao into chocolate hasn’t changed in centuries (Presilla, 2001).

Meanwhile the growing, processing and consumption of corn has become one of the most mechanized systems in all of agriculture. Corn production in the US and Europe has become so efficient that there are real concerns that the northern hemisphere is dumping corn as a commodity in South America and Africa at prices that are lower than the price of production in those countries (Hansen-Kuhn and Murphy, 2017).

“In God we Trust” is literally printed on the most important currency in the world. In the United States a “prosperity gospel” exists to such an extent that a large minority of US Christians believe that God rewards devotion with dollars. Capitalism as Religion is a common theme in the self help literature of both new age and Christian books. Marx’s fetishization of commodities may well be complete. In essence, the money and the God now look the same.

And food transportation industrialized.


Again, the contrast between large combine harvesters in the Midwest US vs young men carrying bags of cacao in Ghana or Côte d’Ivoire couldn’t be starker.

container ship

The ships just keep getting bigger. The theme seems to be mechanization and increased scale everyone, except if the labor is provided by those living in abject poverty.

And the vast bulk of these commodities were processed.


An important piece to consider is that if small scale operations in the southern hemisphere, where labor is cheap, actually try to process cacao on a small scale, the trade agreements in place between the global south and global north have  draconian tarrifs, often in the 60-80% range. This contrasts to tariffs in the 15-20% range for unprocessed cacao beans (Sylla, 2014).

And the consumption is more sugar and artificial ingredients than cacao.


Marketing cacao and chocolate to the upper classes is still the primary focus. Small percentage of cocoa added for flavor to predominately sweet milky treats has always been the mainstay of industrial giants like Mars, Hersey et al, but even then, its seen as a small luxury that anyone can afford. More and more though, the second level of commodity fetishism is featuring in chocolate marketing. This is the concept whereby “sophisticated” consumers can engage in a sort of tourism by proxy and fantasize that they actually understand an area because they prefer the chocolate that originated there. This is a concept that has been known and exploited as regards wine for centuries, but is only now starting to find its way into the marketing of chocolate (Martin, 2015)

And the corn crop is consumed by machines.


A large percentage, 40%+, of the corn crop is not consumed by eating, but is actually turned into fuels that augment fossil fuels (Piperno, 2011).

Or animals


Another large percent of the corn crop goes into providing food indirectly by feeding the animals that provide us dairy and eggs, and also fattening the animals we consume as meat.

And during this time sugar production and the percentage of calories from sugar skyrocket.




And  now the consumers of both sugar and cacao came from every social class

And one day the Empire came back

And instead of cutting down the tree

They cut down the boy.

And the tree shakes with fear,

There is no more joy

And these people need your help –







Works cited

Perpino, D (last viewed 5/8/18)

Martin, C (last viewed 5/8/18)

Babb, D (last viewed 5/8/18)

Carr, K (last viewed 5/8/18)

Hansen-Kuhn, K and Murphy S (last viewed 5/8/18)

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. Thames and Hudson, 2013. Print.

Martin, Carla. “Mesoamerica and the Food of the Gods”. Harvard University, AAAS E-119. Cambridge, MA. Lecture.

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. Penguin, 1985. Print.

Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Ten Speed Press, 2009. Print.










In its origins, cacao relied heavily on the slave trade to fuel its ever-increasing demand (Martin, 2018). Despite the abolition of slavery in the mid 19th century, the modern day chocolate industry is still riddled with inherent ethical issues. In response to the persistent pervasiveness of injustices within the industry’s process, bean-to-bar brands have proliferated as a potential solution with a commitment to both the ethicality and culinary aspects of chocolate production; Taza Chocolate in Somerville, Massachusetts typifies one of these companies striving to produce delicious chocolate through ethical practices and a high degree of production transparency. Founded in 2005 by Alex Whitmore and Kathleen Fulton, Taza Chocolate produces “stone ground chocolate that is seriously good and fair for all” (Taza, 2017). Taza acts as an all-around ethical, socially-conscious and purpose-driven business.

Taza’s company culture is driven by its founder, who prior to opening his own company “apprenticed with Mexican molineros, learning their ancient chocolate-making secrets” (Taza, 2017). Taza offers an easy application process opening up more opportunities in making an effort to get natives from the countries that it sources its cacao from involved in its business processes.

Owner Alex Whitmore carving patterns into a stone for grinding chocolate

Taza, meaning “cup” in Spanish, is reminiscent of the way Aztecs ritualistically consumed chocolate in liquid form using specially designed cups or vessels for this purpose (Coe, 1996). A nod to its rich history is also found in its design and packaging displaying a cacao pod and its signature mold in the form of the Mexican millstone, a stone that is traditionally used to grind chocolate.

“Taza founder Alex Whitmore took his first bite of stone ground chocolate while traveling in Oaxaca, Mexico. He was so inspired by the rustic intensity that he decided to create a chocolate factory back home in Somerville, MA. Alex apprenticed under a molinero in Oaxaca to learn how to hand-carve granite mill stones to make a new kind of American chocolate that is simply crafted, but seriously good. In 2005, he officially launched Taza with his wife, Kathleen Fulton, who is the Taza Brand Manager and designed all of the packaging.

Taza is a pioneer in ethical cacao sourcing. We were the first U.S. chocolate maker to establish a third-party certified Direct Trade Cacao Certification program. We maintain direct relationships with our cacao farmers and pay a premium above the Fair Trade price for their cacao. We partner only with cacao producers who respect the rights of workers and the environment.” (Taza, 2017)




A traditional metate

Millions of hands spanning multiple continents are responsible for the production of the key ingredient in this beloved treat, but most consumers don’t have a sense of the complex intricacies of the supply chains involved in chocolate and the economic realities of the farmers who grow the crop.

The chocolate supply chain begins with the cultivation of cacao pods. After cacao cultivation, the pods are harvested and the seeds and pulp are separated from the pod. The cacao seeds are fermented and dried before being sorted, bagged, and transported to chocolate manufacturers. The cacao beans undergo roasting, husking, grinding, and pressing before the product undergoes a process called “conching,” in which the final flavors develop (Martin, 2018). Differences in the execution of each step influence the ultimate taste and consistency of the chocolate product.


Today, approximately two million independent family farms in West Africa produce the vast majority of cacao. Each farm, between five to ten acres in size, collectively produce more than three million metric tons of cacao per year (Martin, 2018). While some of the farms grow crops like oil palm, maize, and plantains, to supplement their income, the average daily income of a typical Ghanaian cacao farmers is well under $2 per day.

The commercial process of purchasing cacao usually involves the farmers selling to intermediaries, who subsequently sell to exporters or additional  intermediaries. With each middle-man adding their own profit layers, the supply chain lengthens as well the opportunity for the corruption and exploitation of the growers and farmers.

In response to the social and economic injustices associated with the cacao supply chain, various organizations have been established with the common mission of improving ethical and corporate responsibility of global cacao practices. Many of these organizations have established criteria for certifications with the goal of enticing companies to comply with specified ethical requirements in exchange for public acknowledgement for doing so.

“Fair Trade,” a designation granted by the nonprofit of the same name, stands out as a recognizable stamp on many shelf-brands. Self-defined as an organization which “enables sustainable development and community empowerment by cultivating a more equitable global trade model that benefits farmers, workers, consumers, industry and the earth,” Fair Trade certifies transactions between U.S. companies and their international suppliers to guarantee farmers making Fair Trade certified goods receive fair wages, work in safe environments, and receive benefits to support their communities (“Fair Trade USA,” 2017).

Yet, while in theory Fair Trade seems to address many issues the cacao farmers face, critics of the certification point out there exists a lack of evidence of significant impact, a failure to monitor Fair Trade standards, and an increased allowance of non-Trade ingredients in Fair Trade products (Nolan, Sekulovic, & Rao 2014). So, while in theory certifications like Fair Trade offer the potential to improve the cacao-supply chain by ensuring those companies who subscribe to the certification meet certain criteria, the rigor and regulation of the criteria remains heavily debated.






In contrast to Fair Trade, an alternative type of product sourcing that is growing in popularity and reputation is that of Direct Trade. Different from the traditional supply chain process, ‘bean-to-bar’ companies offer this as a potential solution for the injustices in the cacao industry. By cutting out the middle-men and working directly with cacao farmers, these small chocolate companies commit themselves to the highest ethical standards and quality (Shute 2013). The goal is that this bean-to-bar “pipeline will make for more ethical, sustainable production in an industry with a long history of exploitation” (Shute, 2013).

While providing some oversight on ethical practices, Fair Trade’s supervisory capacity does little to create a relationship between the farmers and the ultimate producers or to eliminate extraneous intermediaries diluting profit from both parties. Additionally, achieving a Fair Trade certification costs between $8,000 and $10,000, whereas Direct Trade costs the chocolate bar producer nothing.

This direct connection, allows the buyer and farmer to communicate fair prices, ensuring that the cacao farmers receive fair wages, working conditions, and support (Zusman, 2016). Furthermore, the transparency associated with the bean-to-bar process motivates the companies to keep up to date on ethical practices, and encourages the cacao farmers to take extra care the cultivation of their beans.

Taza sources its cacao from its “Grower Partners” in the Dominican Republic, Bolivia, and Haiti. Taza provides a detailed profile for each of its cacao producers which features information including the country region, number of farmers, duration of partnership, tasting notes which contribute to the terroir of their chocolate, history of the region, and pictures of the farmers with Taza employees. The thorough information Taza provides truly puts faces to the names of the farmers and displays Taza’s direct and personal engagement with their cacao producers.






Alex Whitmore, an innovator of the bean-to-bar movement founded Taza with a commitment to “simply crafted, but seriously good chocolate,” and as “a pioneer in ethical cacao sourcing” (Organic Stone Ground Chocolate for Bold Flavor, 2017).

The mission of Taza Chocolate is “To make and share stone ground chocolate that is seriously good and fair for all” (Taza, 2017). In the dual parts of their mission: “seriously good” and “fair for all”, Taza has become a leader in using the quality and ethicality of their products to empower and respect those often overlooked workers at the very front of the supply chain. Looking first at quality, Taza has seen success as a maker of “seriously good” chocolate (Taza, 2017). Their products are now available all over the country and internationally, in specialty, natural and gift stores. Fine restaurants have used Taza Chocolate in their kitchens and numerous major food publications have featured the company. But these are just outward indicators of what goes on behind the scenes. For one thing, their “seriously good” chocolate seeks to remain true to its cacao origins and acknowledge where it comes from through proper and authentic taste. While other chocolate makers may do as they please to conform to the tastes of the consumer masses, Taza Chocolate caters to the genuine recipes and processes of the geography and culture within which it was conceived.

In addition to publishing their Direct Trade Program Commitments, Taza provides access to their transparency report, cacao sourcing videos, and their sustainable organic sugar.  Seemingly, Taza exemplifies the archetype bean-to-bar company.

Taza chocolate products carry five certifications to ensure safe labor practices as well as organic ingredients, whose integrity is guaranteed by having their “five Direct Trade claims independently verified each year by Quality Certification Services, a USDA-accredited organic certifier based in Gainesville, Florida” (Taza, 2017).

“Taza is big on ethical cacao sourcing, and is the first U.S. chocolate maker to establish a third-party certified Direct Trade Cacao Certification program, meaning, you maintain direct relationships with your cacao farmers and pay a premium above the Fair Trade price for their cacao.” (Taza, 2017)

In its Transparency Report displayed below, Taza even discloses what it pays for its cacao beans. 


Bean-to-bar chocolate companies appear to be a viable potential solution, albeit slow and on a more micro level, to addressing the issues in the cacao-chocolate supply. Because currently the consumer base does not seem to possess a critical awareness of different certifications, the bean-to-bar companies must continue to pioneer more moral standards until enough customers catch up and until demand forces the bigger chocolate vendors to take a similar approach. Until then, tackling the exploitation embedded in the cacao-supply chain falls exclusively on the shoulders of the chocolatiers equally loyal to both chocolate and social responsibility.

Taza Chocolate is undoubtedly making large efforts to be a part of the solution rather than a part of the problem. Rather than allowing consumers to blindly focus on the end product of the chocolate itself, Taza encourages consumers to acknowledge the environment and culture from which the chocolate originates. Often forgotten farmers and food artisans are brought to the forefront instead of being relegated to the archives of unseen histories. Indeed, Taza gives growers “an alternative to producing low quality cacao for unsustainable wages” (Taza, 2017). Taza’s operations may still be in its nascent stages, but it is exciting to see even a small company lead the entire chocolate industry towards a more ethical and sustainable future.




Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1996. Print.

Fair Trade USA. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 May 2017.

Martin, Carla. “Modern Day Slavery.” Lecture, Chocolate Lecture, Cambridge, March 22, 2017.

Martin, Carla. “Alternative Trade and Virtuous Localization/Globalization.” Lecture, Chocolate Lecture, Cambridge, April 04, 2017.

Martin, Carla. “Slavery, Abolition, and Forced Labor.” Lecture, Chocolate Lecture, Cambridge, March 01, 2017.

Nolan, Markham, Dusan Sekulovic, and Sara Rao. “The Fair Trade Shell Game.” Vocativ. Vocativ, 16 Apr. 2014. Web. 03 May 2017.

“Organic Stone Ground Chocolate for Bold Flavor.” Taza Chocolate. N.p., 2015. Web. 08 May. 2018. <;.

Shute, Nancy. “Bean-To-Bar Chocolate Makers Dare To Bare How It’s Done.” NPR. NPR, 14 Feb. 2013. Web. 03 May 2017.

Taza Chocolate. “Sourcing for Impact in Haiti.” Vimeo. Taza Chocolate, 03 May 2017. Web. 03 May 2017. Video


Zusman, Michael C. “What It Really Takes to Make Artisan Chocolate.” Eater. N.p., 11 Feb. 2016. Web. 03 May 2017.


Taza Chocolate. (2018) Header Image

Taza, Chocolate. (2018). “Stone Ground Chocolate” (2018).  “Alex Whitmore” (2018).  “A traditional metate” (2018).  “Taza chocolate making process” (2018).  “Whitmore with farmers”

Youtube. (2012).  Taza on fair trade (2018).  “Rotary stone”

Taza, Chocolate. (2018). “Direct trade” (2006). Taza Chocolate “Bean to Bar”

The Tasty History of Chocolate


We’re all familiar with what chocolate is. Just walk into your local grocery store and you’ll encounter an array of chocolate brands ranging from Snickers to Kit-Kat to Hershey Bars. No matter where you go, chocolate is ubiquitous, and the various amount of chocolate that these stores have to offer is a sign that chocolate is here to stay. We, however, know only the surface level of what chocolate really is, and more importantly, where it comes from.

Take a look at the different brands that serve their own signature confection: some, like Hershey’s Kisses, taste more milky and sweet, while others like dark chocolate have a more dry and musky taste. With all these different types of chocolate that exists, we are left wondering what kind of magical sorcery goes into the making and packaging of chocolate. Does chocolate taste sweet right from the cacao pods? Or are they actually touched by the gods themselves? What exactly is chocolate, for Christ sakes?

The answer is actually more complicated. Chocolate, as it turns out, is a product of a large and complex supply chain operated by several multinational conglomerates. These conglomerates operate in a majority of African nations. Ghana and Ivory Coast, for example, produce 60% of all cacao in the world. As such, these conglomerates have a history of exploiting third-world countries and have successfully distorted our understanding of chocolate.

So how did we get here in the first place? And most importantly, if big chocolate companies are responsible for what we perceive as chocolate, what exactly is chocolate? It’s exact history?

I wanted to take those questions and explore the history of chocolate in a more tangible way. To do this, I decided to throw a chocolate-tasting party for a couple of friends of mine. For this project, I made chocolate from those consumed during the Mesoamerican era all the way to the present day so that we can taste and observe how chocolate transformed across time. I used recipes found from credible, scholarly sources so that I can replicate them as close to the original as possible. In addition to our experience tasting the chocolate, I also contextualized the history of chocolate from its respective time to offer insights to the importance of chocolate.

Sure, anyone can drink Mesoamerican chocolate loaded with Latin spices. But with a bit of historical context, one can come to learn that the said drink actually holds deeper historical meanings that’s tethered to ancient religious rituals and the complex societal norms of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. This contextualization is important if we want to truly understand what chocolate meant to Mesoamericans and early Europeans as it absolutely enriches our chocolate-tasting experience. I know it did for my friends.

When I first approached the idea of this project, I didn’t know exactly how far I wanted to go back in time in terms of the history of chocolate. Chocolate has existed well over 3,000 years ago since the dawn of the Olmec civilization, so I needed to find a simpler and more relevant time frame for this project (Coe, 552). As such, I decided to make and test chocolate from three distinct, relevant eras: Chocolate from the Aztec era, the industrial era, and finally the modern era.


While chocolate is easily accessible to anyone today, chocolate during the early days of the Aztec era was considered to be highly valuable. Ancient civilizations such as the Mayans and the Aztecs used chocolate alongside betrothals, religious rituals, and wedding ceremonies, while cacao pods were even used as currencies with value similar to that of gold (Marcy, 14). In essence, they believed that chocolate was the “food of gods.” This perception of chocolate ultimately gave the impression that chocolate was associated with high status, and that only those among the aristocrats and noblemen were “worthy” enough to consume the peculiar concoction. As Spanish missionary Bernadino de Sahagun said while observing pre-conquest customs: “if he who drank [chocolate] were a common person… it was taken as a bad omen” (Marcy, 14).

Chocolate during the Aztec era was a drink based on the mixture of cacao and water with “achiote to give it a reddish tint, chili peppers for a spicy edge, and wild bee honey for sweetening effect” (Marcy, 14). I mixed in all of the ingredients together in a bowl and with the right amount of stir, our concoction seemed to take form. We made sure that the final product was “finely ground, soft, foamy, and reddish bitter”, just like how the Mesoamericans took it (Marcy, 14). The first thing we noticed about the drink was the smell: the drink gave way to a spicy, pungent, chocolate-like aroma that was very distinct from a store-bought chocolate bar. It was deprived of that sweet, sugar-like scent from chocolate that makes one’s mouth salivate, similar to the smell that comes from, say, a Hershey’s bar.

But our reaction to the smell was vastly different to the actual taste. Immediately, all of our faces winced from the unfamiliar taste that was this drink. As we downed our first gulp, our faces shriveled, and our mouths immediately receded inwards as if we ate an intense sour patch. The taste was a confusing combination of sweet and spicy thanks to the honey and chili pepper. Almost reflexively, we all took a huge sip of water to hydrate our dry mouths. Of all the things I’ve eaten in my life, I have never reacted so strongly as I had for this concoction. In this man vs. food scenario, food definitely won.

Almost immediately, we realized that the drink was distinctly red. Of course, it was the addition of chili pepper and achiote, a seed that gives off a yellowish-red color, but there is a deeper meaning to this. Mesoamericans added red food-coloring to chocolate to make it look like human blood, suggesting that they regarded chocolate as a kind of natural life force. This purposeful addition of red coloring meant that chocolate was a sacred drink used only for special, mostly religious-affiliated purposes, almost akin to the tradition of the Eucharist in the Catholic faith. In addition, it can be inferred that the Spaniards’ obsession over Mesoamerica’s mystical worshipping of chocolate played a part in the zeitgeist of Europe’s fascination of the New World, more specifically its obsessive search for fabled legends such as El Dorado in Central America. In a way, chocolate can be used as a lens to understand Europeans’ motives for coming to the Americas. Perhaps Spaniards, then, continued to regard chocolate so highly after they brought it back to Europe because it subconsciously reflected their values and ambitions during the exploration era.

Contrary to popular beliefs, early chocolate in Europe, more specifically those in the 16thand 17thcentury, was similar to the kind of chocolate that Mesoamericans consumed. The only difference was that Europeans added sugar to their chocolate instead of honey as sugar was plenty. This is important to note because of the false notion that early explorers had to calibrate the taste of chocolate in order to make it more appealing to Europeans. In reality, Europeans embraced the new drink and, rather than transforming the confection, they tried to “simulate [the] original tastes” (Marcy, 16).

What did change, however, was the role that chocolate played in society. While Europeans kept the association of chocolate to the noble rankings, they relegated it from a divine food associated with deity-worshipping to a social activity that defined the elite European echelon. This distinction between Mesoamerican chocolate and European chocolate is important to note. This is where we see the birth of what we now know today as chocolate—the sweet confection consumed for pleasure rather than used for religious purposes.

However, the industrial revolution changed the chocolate business forever. The invention of automatic machineries made chocolate production more feasible and the chocolate business more profitable. Like the story of Prometheus from the Greek legends, the Industrial Revolution would steal the elite confection overnight and bring it down to the common people. In 1828, Dutch chemist Coenraad Johannes van Houten, with the help of his father Casparus, discovered a way to separate cacao butter and powder. Houten wanted to make chocolate more soluble so that people at home could easily make chocolate just by adding hot water or milk. To do this, Houten invented the cocoa press method which allows cocoa solids to separate from cocoa butter by adding alkali salt. The Dutch Process Chocolate, as he called his new invention, allowed for chocolate to be eaten as a solid rather than in the traditional liquid form.

In 1875, Daniel Peter, with his neighbor Henri Nestle, invented a way to blend milk with chocolate. They also blended in sugar in lieu of honey. Their experiment proved to be a wild success in Europe and, in 1905, the Nestle’s Chocolate Company was founded.


Our second chocolate-tasting involved three pieces of Nestle’s semi-sweet chocolate morsels. For starters, these chocolates looked vastly different from the Aztec chocolate that we sampled earlier: they were light, solid, and cone-shaped with a swirled-finish on the top. While we figured that these were probably made in an obscure factory, the yellow packaging and the Toll House logo with the house insignia gave a positive impression. In essence, all of these extra details were carefully crafted to convince consumers that this company was credible.

The chocolate morsels tasted like any other chocolate I’ve had before. It was sweet, creamy, and melted right away. But when contrasted with the Aztec chocolate that I had earlier, I could taste the obvious difference. The chocolate fragrance was still there save for the spice from the chili pepper, thick sweetness from the honey, and the molasses-like liquid texture. One of my friends pointed out that we were simply eating the chocolate out of our hands instead of drinking it from a sacred gourd, suggesting that the symbolic meanings behind chocolate became obviously relegated once companies started manufacturing it.


Our final chocolate-tasting product came from Tony’s Chocolonely, a 21stcentury chocolate company based in Amsterdam, Netherlands dedicated to becoming a “100% slave free chocolate industry” (Lidz-Ama). The company was founded as a response to the increasing number of slavery and human trafficking in cacao plantations, particularly those in Ghana and the Ivory Coast, where 60% of all cacao production is made. While the advent of industrialization made way for easily-accessible, commercial chocolate, it also encouraged some of mankind’s worst impulses. According to the grassroot organization, Slave Free Chocolate, there are 5 to 6 million cocoa farmers worldwide with 70 percent of all cacao coming from West Africa (Slave Free Chocolate). Worst of all, over 9 million children are working on cacao farms as slaves and are being trafficked every day. We have now become complicit to a supply chain that exploits poor African laborers.

I wanted to see what the future tastes like if more companies commit to a slave-free, chocolate making practice. For the final tasting, I bought Tony’s Chocolonely Dark Chocolate 51% with Almonds & Sea Salt from Amazon. Immediately, I realized that the chocolate cost more than a regular Hershey bar: a 180g bar costs $10 compared to a $2 Hershey bar. I deduced that the slave-free bar was more expensive because the company doesn’t have the kind of sophisticated supply chain that big conglomerates use to cut prices. But still, it’s a small price to pay to support for a noble goal.


In all honesty, I thought the taste didn’t taste any different from, say, Lindt’s chocolate, which brands itself as a premium chocolate brand. It was quite sweet and bitter, like any dark chocolate, and went down smoothly. The only difference that I can tell, however, was the feeling of not having a guilty conscience from eating a slave-free chocolate. I’m not sure if that enhanced the flavor or anything, but it definitely eased my conscience after having spent an entire semester mind blown that every chocolate I’ve ever eaten was made from exploiting entire continents. Also, it was delicious.

That about wraps up my chocolate-tasting party. I am so glad that I was able to take everything I learned in class and apply it to this experience. I learned that chocolate transformed dramatically over the course of history, and not just the taste and texture but also its meaning in society. What was once a sacred item used to worship deities is now a sinful delicacy enjoyed by the mass. Pandora’s box has been opened, and we’re enjoying this sinful delicacy by the mass.  reaping all the benefits of this delicious treat.

However, it has come at the cost of human suffering and degradation. Perhaps now it’s time that we as a society start asking the hard questions: Is this all worth it? How long are we going to turn a blind eye to the slave laborers in African countries who put the chocolate in bars? This is not to say that chocolate is a bad thing; like everything else that we have done in history, we took one idea and made it into another. We took an obscure ancient drink and turned it into the most beloved delicacy in the world. That is a testament to our inventiveness. Our impulse to experiment and create new things. In other words, we shouldn’t feel guilty about eating chocolate but rather we should embrace it and even celebrate it. But as we continue to enjoy this delicacy, we should keep in mind the giant companies that exploit poor and defenseless laborers. We need to find better alternatives to produce chocolate, and with more slave-free chocolate companies emerging today, the future is looking sweeter.



Work Cited

Appiah, Lidz-Ama. “Slave-Free Chocolate: A Not-So-Guilty Pleasure.” CNN, 17 Jun. 2017,

Coe, Michael. D. Coe, Sophie, D. “The True History of Chocolate.” Economic Botany, vol. 54, no. 4, 2000, pp. 552-553.

Norton, Marcy. “Conquests of Chocolate.” Magazine of History, vol. 18, no. 3, 2004, pp. 14-17.

Slave Free Chocolate. Slave Free Chocolate Organization. 2018.













Ecuador’s Cocoa Quandary: Nacional vs. CCN-51

“Great chocolate starts with the finer Theobraoma Cacao trees. But those trees are poised for extinction. They’re being crowded out by the vast majority of other cacáo trees – 95% — which are bland, bulk-grade. As this bulk continues to encroach on the other 5% — prized as fine-flavored — at an alarming rate, a world of boring chocolate awaits…”                                (the C-spot, Atlas/historical timeline)

Ecuador is home to some of the world’s most prized cacao, a variety known as Nacional. Although the beans from this fruit fall under the general umbrella category of Forestero, Nacional beans are generally considered “fine or flavored”, and are distinguished by their unique, floral quality, making them highly sought after by chocolate makers. So distinctive are they, that of the first ten cacao beans recognized by the Heirloom Cacao Preservation, four of them are Nacional varieties from Ecuador.


I recently had the opportunity to travel to Ecuador, to visit with cacao growers and see firsthand how they manage the routine activities of farming; of pruning and weeding, pest control, harvesting and generally maintaining their precious crop. Subsequent appointments at centralized co-ops were scheduled, to demonstrate the particular techniques that are required in post-harvest processing – a closely monitored system of fermentation, followed by several days of sun-drying, all set to specific protocols. Once dried, these beans are bagged up and sold to chocolate makers around the world. In posh boutiques stretching from San Francisco to New York and beyond, you will find examples of high quality “craft” chocolate bars made from these very cocoa beans, with prices ranging from $8-17 for a 2 oz. tablet.


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Considering the close attention to detail and care attended to the fruit at its place of origin, one might expect Ecuadorian cacao farmers to earn a respectable return on their investment. In contrast, what I found is that most growers were living at or near the subsistence level, barely earning enough income to offset the costs of production. The susceptibility of their prized fruit to various diseases, the vagaries of weather and the comparatively low yield of the Nacional variety has led many farmers to switch to more prolific, disease resistant clones, such as CCN-51, or to more profitable crops, such as bananas, palm fruit or rubber. Others, clinging to their Nacional trees as a point of pride, are choosing to band together into cooperative enterprises, hoping that solidarity and an increased demand for their beans will result in greater profits in the future. The paradoxical nature of this situation, that a luxury product such as chocolate might bring so little financial benefit to its community of origin, is curiously familiar in the world of fine chocolate and deserves a closer look.


A brief introduction to the story of chocolate:

Cacao Theobroma is known to have originated in the Amazonian/Andean region of South America, in an area that corresponds roughly to a modern-day confluence of Peru, Colombia and Ecuador.












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Through trading, exploration and expansion, or perhaps evolving independently as its own morphological strain, cacao fruit migrated north to Mesoamerica, where it was first cultivated by the Olmec, and then found favor in the everyday social life of the Maya, whose bitter chocolate drinks were consumed as part of ritual ceremonies (marriages, births, and deaths), and employed as medicine to treat various ailments, while the raw beans were used as a form of currency.  

The Aztec civilization saw further esteem bestowed upon cacao, as the drink became synonymous with wealth and prestige. The Emperor Montezuma’s penchant for chocolate is legendary;  far-flung Spanish explorers who visited the Emperor were quick to recognize its symbolic value, and soon developed a taste for the frothy, bitter drink.

European colonialism expanded chocolate’s reach, as it found new and appreciative audiences among Spanish Conquistadors, court royalty, the wealthy, and the Church. To meet these demands, encomenderos first conscripted vast tributes from the indigenous people, in the form of valuable cocoa beans. As the appetite for chocolate grew, increased pressure was put on production, leading to the complete subjugation of land and people, to the point of eventual demographic collapse. (C. Martin, lecture 5,  “Slavery, abolition and forced labor”). Domestication of cacao had already spread throughout Central America, then on to Venezuela and its South American neighbors, as well as to expanded plantings in the Caribbean islands, leading to its inevitable reliance on forced labor, indentured servitude and African chattel slavery.

As time went on and colonies gained their independence, established European chocolate companies were determined to find new regions to exploit, leading to the establishment of cacao plantations in the Philippines and Southeast Asia, the Atlantic islands of Sao Tome and Principe, and eventually the African mainland. The Industrial Revolution saw the development of new and valuable processing equipment, along with major adaptations to the chocolate recipe – alkalization (Dutch processing) became the norm, and milk powder was added to the blend. With expansion and increased output, chocolate consumption became much more democratic; as production methods became more efficient, supplies went up and costs came down. Cote d’Ivoire and the Gold Coast (now Ghana) grew to dominate the market, with their climate being well-suited to the specifics of cacao growth and with a seemingly inexhaustible supply, whether willing or not, of field laborers.

Chocolate’s evolution from bitter drink to a solid, sweetened confection parallels the establishment of other popular stimulants and “drug crops”, most especially coffee, tea and sugar. What was once a rare and costly product, reserved for the elite, became commonplace and a daily consumable of the masses. Large-scale manufacturers, seeking to maximize profits, diluted their products with increasing amounts of sugar and milk powder, then gradually introduced candy bars, who’s actual chocolate content was limited to a thin coating of brown material. Public perception being what it is, our understanding and appreciation for “chocolate” eventually became associated with a low-quality commodity, and the raw materials needed for its manufacture lost the value of their individual characteristics and “terroir”.


Ecuador’s role in the chocolate story

Ecuador has a long and prosperous history as a cacao growing nation, with cultivation of the crop dating back well before the arrival of Europeans. In the early days of the 17th century, Spanish explorers, fresh off their conquest of neighboring Peru and looking to compliment the dwindling resources in Mexico, found extensive forests of wild cacao growing throughout the Guayas river basin and established large plantations, manned largely by African slaves.  Such was the success of these haciendas, that by the mid-1700’s, Ecuador was providing nearly half of the cocoa beans exported from the New World. (Coe, p. 188).


Cacao from Mexico had always enjoyed a reputation for quality, its ancient criollo beans considered the gold standard for nuanced flavor, and much of what was coming from South America met with significantly less enthusiasm. Yet, certain examples of the native fruit of Ecuador, although of forestero origin, piqued the curiosity of early explorers…legend tells of cocoa traders arriving at the port city of Guayaquil in search of this “black gold”, and upon asking where the best quality cocoa came from, were pointed up-river with the phrase “Arriba, arriba” (“up, up”). Since then, the prized fruit has been known as Arriba Nacional. (


What are  “Fine or Flavored” cocoa beans?

The International Cocoa Organization states that “the world cocoa market distinguishes between two broad categories of cocoa beans: “fine or flavor” cocoa beans, and “bulk” or “ordinary” cocoa beans. As a generalization, fine or flavor cocoa beans are produced from Criollo or Trinitario cocoa tree varieties, while bulk (or ordinary) cocoa beans come from Forastero trees. There are, however, known exceptions to this generalization. Nacional trees in Ecuador, considered to be Forastero type trees, produce fine or flavor cocoa…”  Further along, ‘Fine Flavor’ is defined to include “fruit (fresh and browned, mature fruits), floral, herbal, and wood notes, nut and caramelic notes as well as rich and balanced chocolate bases.” (

Note that the qualities of bulk/ordinary cocoa beans are not specifically defined unless to conclude that they will lack the particular nuances that are the hallmark of better quality fruit. Curiously, this apparent shortcoming is exactly what the modern industrial chocolate confectionery business embraces –  cocoa beans with little personality. Because so much chocolate is characterized as candy, with vast amounts of sugar and milk powder blended into the formula, there is little need for a “fine” chocolate flavor. Instead, what industrial chocolate manufacturers look for, what constitutes their ideal, is an inexpensive “supertree” – one that produces prolific amounts of fruit with plump beans, tolerates direct sun, and is resistant to diseases. Such a fruit is found in a variety called CCN-51.  


The Story of CCN-51

The business of cacao farming is difficult. The very nature of its tropical, Third World origin suggests a hot and humid or dusty environment, far from the luxuries of the modern world; reliable electricity, medical assistance, internet access. The work involved can be tedious, back-breaking and hazardous, involving sharp tools, exposure to harmful chemicals, lifting and carrying heavy loads, and bending over for long periods of time. In addition, the financial situation is often fraught with inconsistencies and is subject to the whims of nature – drought or excessive rain, diseases, too much or too little sunshine. The unpredictability of the harvest, in an already stressful economy, has led many farmers to abandon this occupation or to seek out more reliable forms of income.

Homero Castro was an Ecuadorian agronomist, whose work in the mid-1960’s involved crossbreeding cacao to develop more productive, disease resistant strains. His eventual champion, Coleccion Castro Naranjal #51 (named for himself and the town of Naranjal, where the work was carried out), was tremendously successful, often yielding two to three times the typical harvest, and with considerably fewer examples of disease. Naturally, farmers were encouraged to replace their less dependable stock with this new variety (Masonis, et al. 167-69). The success of CCN-51 has allowed Ecuador to enjoy record harvests and steady growth in the cocoa export market, in addition to inviting substantial foreign investment.

For all its benefits, however, CCN-51 has one major drawback – it lacks fine flavor. Phrases like “acidic dirt” (Ed Seguine), “rusty nails” (Gary Guittard) and “scourge of the chocolate world” (Art Pollard) are complaints typically levied against it. Many would insist that, in addition, farmer’s reliance on CCN-51, and the consequent depletion of Nacional trees, has robbed Ecuador of an important national treasure, some going so far as to suggest that the fruit constitutes “a potential hazard from a conservation perspective in one of the critical centers of origin for the entire Theobroma Cacao species” (the

To be fair, some would argue that the bias against CCN-51 is unwarranted and overblown, and stems largely from a misapplication of post-harvest fermentation processes. With its larger pod size comes an appreciatively greater quantity of mucilaginous pulp, which in turn requires a longer period of fermentation, leading to an overly acidic flavor (Masonis, p. 169).  With modifications to the traditional technique,  there exists a potential and satisfactory compromise. Whether or not the environmental and social costs pan out is yet to be determined. 


Agroforestry: Natural Forest Growth vs. Monocropping


In its natural, tropical habitat, cacao lives within a vast and unruly network of fruit and hardwood trees, many of which provide shade, help to regulate moisture, combat invasive weeds and contribute essential nutrients to the soil, virtually eliminating the need for fertilizers.  Cacao grown in an agroforest environment will generally be healthier and more productive. In addition, fruit trees provide farmers with an additional source of revenue (both fruit and timber), not to mention food for the table. In this natural environment, it is expected that a certain number of trees will fall victim to diseases, most notably “witches broom”….this is all part of the ecological cycle. (Notes from farm visit with Francisco Peñarrieto, Esmereldas Province).



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Conversely, most mono-cropped agricultural products will rely on artificial irrigation, to offset the lack of shade trees. Fertilizers and pesticides are commonly applied, to increase production and to counter the various diseases (witch’s broom, black pod, etc). IMG_6580 (1)














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And yet,  mono-cropping will yield greater initial harvests of cacao, which translates to increased income for farmers. These would seem to be short-term benefits, but there can be difficulty in applying this logic in a challenging economic environment, where long-term viewpoints can be seen as risky and unpredictable.


Modern Ecuador, Nacional cacao and the future of “craft” chocolate

Jeffrey Stern, writing for the Heirloom Cacao Preservation, sees the cacao farmer’s perspective, commenting that “with no price differential for the fine aroma Nacional beans over commodity grade CCN-51 beans, and with small farmers at the bottom of the supply chain, they receive little benefit for their efforts”(  



A similar sentiment was shared by Juan Carlos Mesias, whose farm we visited in the highlands of Pichincha.  Mesias mused that CCN-51 is much simpler to grow and higher-yielding than Nacional plus “local intermediaries will purchase it without post-harvest production”. Typical pricing might be $110 per quintal (100 lbs) for CCN-51, while pure Nacional beans might warrant $135 – hardly an incentive. He concluded that he would need an additional $50 to $60 per quintal to make Nacional viable.


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Stern does offer hope for the future, however, recognizing that “growers cooperatives are gaining traction in Ecuador and working to preserve Nacional cacao.”  His opinion can be corroborated, as we discovered while visiting farms in Esmereldas province, where hundreds of small-holders have banded together to form the cooperative UOPROCAE. With stated goals of improved farmer education, increasing yield and quality, boosting productivity to ensure greater income and offering guarantees of consistency, they have made impressive gains, with Nacional beans selling for more than double the price of CCN-51. WIth a stronger community presence comes greater awareness, along with the opportunity to bypass the commodities market altogether and to link directly with independent craft chocolate makers. The premium price received will then go directly to the farmer and the coop, helping the ones who need it most, and ultimately preserving the legacy of this historic cocoa bean.

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Screenshot 2018-05-09 at 11.53.23 AM


Certainly, the world of chocolate is broad and multi-faceted and presents numerous opportunities for consumption and enjoyment, whether that be a hand-crafted, single-origin chocolate tablet, devil’s food cake with fudge icing or inexpensive, candy-coated M&M’s, munched absent-mindedly in the movie theater.  The world has options, and for indulgence in chocolate to be truly democratic, we need products to be available at various price points. Still, when one measures the social and environmental cost of production, it is important to be mindful of sustainable systems – the economic welfare of our farmers and producers, the healthfulness of the food we consume and the long-term effects on the planet. Greater awareness of the issues at each stage of the global supply chain will help consumers to make the most educated and thoughtful decisions.


A Tasting exercise:

To create an exercise geared toward observation, evaluation and reaching an informed conclusion, I prepared test-batches of 70% chocolate and organized a tasting.  Thanks to the generosity of Jenny Samaniego of Conexion Chocolate, Quito, samples of three different varieties of Ecuadorian Cacao beans (Nacional “Sabor Arriba” beans from Puerto Quito, Nacional “Esmereldas Province” from UOPROCAE, and CCN51 from an undisclosed origin)  were roasted in one-kilo batches for 35 minutes in a Combi oven, to reach a final surface temperature of 270℉. Once cooled, the beans were cracked and winnowed, then ground in Premier Grinders for 18 hours, before adding the appropriate weight of sugar.  Once the sugar was added, samples were ground further for 36 hours before the finished chocolate was tempered into 56 g tablets and 3 g coins.

Using a modified version of the protocol established by Barb Stuckey,  survey participants were asked to evaluate and offer feedback, comparing one sample of a Nacional-origin chocolate to one sample of a CCN-51 chocolate. While comments were mixed and decidedly more diplomatic than anticipated (no “rusty nails”, for example), Nacional examples were the clear winner, among seasoned tasters and novice alike, with ESM outscoring CCN 34-7 and SAN drubbing CCN 26-5.

Further evaluation awaits.


Internet Sources:


Real, actual books:

Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. Thames & Hudson Ltd: London (1996) Print

Masonis, D’Alesandre, Vega and Gore. Making Chocolate.  Clarkson Potter Publishers; New York (2017) Print





Chocolate bars made from Ecuadorian cocoa beans:

Everything About Chocolate

1st image
We live in an age, where many of us consume products without questioning its historical background, origins, and benefits, such as in the case of chocolate. Chocolate, which comes from ancient Mayas, has a notorious presence in history cultural mores. Based on historical content, it is known that this product has experienced a shift, from being a Meso-American indigenous food to a luxurious European product for the high elite, and, even further, to a standard product for the world since the 18th century. Nowadays, chocolate is produced in large masses, but Ancient techniques continue playing a role in today’s production; however, its procedures have been developed into tedious and long steps that take months to be completed. Chocolates main ingredients come from cocoa pods planted in Ghana and Nigeria, the two most significant cocoa producer countries. There is an extensive process inside the procedure of chocolate production from where cacao pods are turned in chocolate products like chocolate bars, cocoa powder, and cocoa butter. Cocoa and chocolate production have faced several problems and accusations since their early stages; however, as time passed by, the output together with the demand increased the chocolate industries, and farmers encountered new challenges. These old products became so familiar that its importance and impact on people from the modern world changed. After examining an interview to a random person about his knowledge on chocolate, it is clear that there is a lack of connection between chocolate consumer, the history behind, the production, and the existing problems in the chocolate industry and farms.

What is the first thought that passes through your mind when I mention chocolate?
I would have to say sweetness, sugar, and gifts.
Can you mention some old mores related to chocolate?
European culture and Americans. Chocolate was used as currency. It was an essential element to create a significant impact.
Can you mention some new mores related to chocolates?
I think that a modern habit related to chocolate is to give it away as a present.
How is chocolate made? Do you know the chocolate process?
By a melting process. I know it is made from cacao three seeds.
How long to do you think it takes?
Like a week.
Did you know that most of the time any milk chocolate bar has only 10% of cacao?
Well, I expected to be a little bit more. I knew it wasn’t 100% cacao since it has milk and sugar.
Do you know where cacao is produced?
Amazon and hot areas like Brazil.
Do you think eating chocolate is positive or negative?
I believe it’s positive since it is related to emotional purposes; however, any consumed excess can cause adverse effects. Most of the time, high intakes of chocolate can be related to skin problems like acne, since fat and sugar affect people.
Do you
think the importance of chocolate changes through history?
Yes, I think that, most of the time, people do not wonder about what they consume and the history behind that particular product. Since chocolate is a natural product, the importance is irrelevant; however, I know that chocolate had an important participation inside society since it was used as currency.
Which are the countries you can relate to chocolate? Why?
I would say, Brazil, the United States, and Switzerland. The most significant chocolate industries of chocolate, a lot of consumption and production.
Did you know there are significant child slavery and child labor problems in the farms of cacao?
During the 20th century, you did not expect situations like this one to happen. However, I know there are child labor problems all around the world, and sometimes the conditions are not the most educated. Unfortunately, I don’t think chocolate consumers know about the struggle of the child.
Firts chocolate image
Chocolate has been a crucial and essential element for the development of many cultures throughout history. It has been traced to be part of the Olmecs, the Aztecs, and the Mayas. All of these cultures have developed customs based on chocolate environment and “there were strong symbolic association between chocolate and human blood among both the late Post- Classic Maya and the Aztecs.”(Coe Coe) Moreover, they used it for weddings and rituals but most important it was used as an oblation to their gods. The power of chocolate was definitely translated to a type of currency which called the attention of some Spaniards when they colonized Meso-America. Due to the colonization chocolate started to be shipped and exported to Europe. However, there were different responses towards chocolate among the Europeans countries. It is important to highlight that chocolate was first known and used as a sour beverage. Before chocolate became famous and consumed, it went through different phases and reactions. Little by little it began to make its way into the European routinely life. During the 18th century, it was well known as a luxury that only few could afford. As the time and products evolved, new developments emerged. Desserts and new coffee shops became to develop as centers where people could drink tea, coffee, and chocolate. Regarding the chocolate production history connection with its consumers, the interview conveys that there is a lack and limited knowledge about the chocolate history background. These demonstrates that the fascinating history behind chocolate started to vanish in the 21st century.
To understand chocolate bars, it is important to understand and be aware of its process. It takes around a year to create chocolate bars. The main ingredients to produce chocolate are sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa, and milk. The most important component is cocoa. The production of cocoa depends on farming families, most of them related with trading cooperatives. Women, men, children, and even the weather play a significant role in the process. To create a chocolate bar, specific steps must be followed:
Plantation of cocoa threes and shadow threes such as banana
Harvest of cocoa Pots
Extraction of seeds
Sorting and bagging of beans
Pressing (Use of hydraulic press is necessary)
Some techniques remain being applied since the 18th century. What most consumers do not know (especially the ones that do not read the labels) is that chocolate bars only contain about 10% to 15% of cocoa. Based on the interview previously made, the most concerning point comes to be how long people believe it takes to produce chocolate. Since it can be found everywhere, people overestimate its process and ignore the most important and fundamental processes, such as the farming and transportation of the cocoa beans. Behind the scenes, cacao farmers and planters play the most important role during chocolate production; however, industries take all the credit for such a long process.
Child labor .jpg
Most of the chocolate industry has faced problems that are unknown to the consumers. During the 18th-century, the church accused chocolate to be aphrodisiac and, therefore, they argued that it should be prohibited in religious events. The most important problems related to chocolate are the ones that occur today. Low farmers pay for the raw material, fact that leads to a significant chain of problems. The most critical issues include corruption and child labor. In poor societies, the government insistently tries to bring wealth to its country; however, they tend to fall into corruption. Governments are aware of child labor, but they know child work means massive production for massive exportation, as well as money for the country and the government. It is hard to believe that something that was supposed to be abolished during the industrial revolution is still an existing problem. Some studies demonstrate that “child slavery was the secret ingredient of American chocolate” (Carol Off 139) and kids conditions at farming plantations of sugar cane and cacao are harsh. Kids are being exploited physically and mentally, since “children aged between 5 and 12 are involved in the task, such as the spraying of insecticides, application of fertilizer, bush burning, clearing land and felling trees” (1089). Even though”US since 1930, has prohibited the importation of goods produced with slaves” (Carol off 149) and also tries to prevent child abuses. All of this problems have generated an endless debate that tries to identify the ones to blame and the ones that should be responsible for fixing this problem. Some people blame the farmers together with the industries, and others blame the governments. It is easy to find someone to blame, but in order to understand the roots of the problem people must understand and know those societies. There are key points to consider. Firstly, in countries like Ghana and Nigeria, the families are so poor that they prefer to send their kids to farms rather than to academic institutions, since their economic situation does not allow them to afford not even food. Secondly, most of the time the whole family is involved in the production of sugar or cacao, and their culture makes them feel that every member should contribute. Thirdly, some of the kids escape from home to work hoping they would make some money to support their family and some “are lured by the promise of bicycles, clothes, and money” (Ryan 55). Sometimes ignorance is a blessing, but this is not the case, most of the consumers have no idea. The media plays an important role when portraying chocolate production. They show this processes as a colorful and cheerful industries. Moreover, as chocolates continue to become irrelevant, its problems are being pushed away without being solved. Ironically, the consumption of chocolate is high, but its relevance among the consumers is low. The interviewer was surprised to know about the existing problems and felt impotent about child slavery. In order to remediate this issue, media, technology, and the governments should develop a better way to communicate and inform to conscious consumers about the issues inside chocolate factories. It must not be affecting the wealthiest fragment of society, but it’s changing the wealth of innocent human beings, such as poor little kids and families.
Chocolate has a fascinating trajectory in world history. After analyzing the information related to chocolate provided by the interviewer, it is evident that most people do not pay attention to the traditions, real stories, and problems connected with this industry. Cocoa beans go through a lengthy process to become and be transformed into chocolate bars; however, during this long and difficult process, human labor issues remain the same and poor workers are still suffering. To solve this problem, we all must promote awareness of the problems and injustices that have occurred and continue happening inside chocolate industries. Any source of communication should try to portray and make emphasis on this problem, because the positive shown side can make industries richer, but the negative hidden side is making society become poor of ethical values and moral.

“An Outlook to Indian Chocolate Industry: From Beans to Bars.” Crafting Luxury Lifestyle, 27 Jan. 2016,
“Child Labor: The Dark Side of Chocolate.”, 3 Mar. 2018,
Bowe, Tucker. “The Legend and Lore of Hot Chocolate.” Gear Patrol, Gear Patrol, 18 Dec. 2015,
Coe, Michael D. True History of Chocolate. Thames & Hudson Ltd, 2013.
The journal of Development Studies ,2013 Vol. 49, No , 1088-1100,
Ryan, Órla. Chocolate Nations Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa. Zed Books, 2012.
Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate: the Dark Side of the Worlds Most Seductive Sweet. The New Press, 2008.

Fair Trade Certification use in common chocolate bars

Cocoa is farmed is all around the world, some of the major exporters are Dominican Republic, Mexico, Ecuador, Brazil, Cameroon, Nigeria, Indonesia, Ghana, and Cote D’Lorire. To help prevent the owners of cacao farms from abusing work conditions a fair-trade agreement was drafted.  Most chocolate bar producers do not grow their own cocoa but buy it from the farmers that have been Fair Trade certified by Fair Trade International (FLO). However some companies either never bought Fair Trade certificated cocoa or dropped out of the program. Fair trade overall is a good addition to the chocolate trade only if all companies join. Two major companies that have either not joined or dropped out of Fair Trade decreases the value of FLO. FLO was initially created by the Max Havelaar Foundation when they made the Green and Black chocolate bar. FLO was created to help get rid of the practice of child labor, and to have the farmers paid more money. In the book The Reality of Sustainable Trade Nick robins explains th

at having the Fair Trade certification garenties “that producers are guaranteed a minimum price, and are paid a premium if the market price is above minimum” (The Reality of Sustainable) Being part of the Fair Trade certification allows the company to know that where they are buying is compiling with basic human rights. Another part benefit of being part of Fair trade is that the companies is allowed to use the Fair Trade symbol somewhere on the wrapper.

Each chocolate bar has a different list of ingredients that make it taste like chocolate. Some expensive bars use cacao beans while others use chocolate liquor. On the other side cheap bars like Hershey only have an ingredient chocolate. Looking at a CVS chocolate shelf some note able chocolate bars on the shelf are Taza, Endangered Species Chocolate, Lindt, Chuao Chocolatier, Green and Black’s, and Hersheys. Looking at all of these bars it can be hard to tell if they take part of Fair Trade certification. Some have the logo on the wrapper otherwise making a google search will tell. Small local chocolatiers, like Ta

A typical Taza wrapper

za like to show where exactly where their cacao comes from. Taza’s cacao comes from the Dominican Republic, Bolivia, and Hati. (Taza Direct Trade) Taza makes it a pride that it shows where every cacao bean comes from. On their website Taza put out a yearly Transparency report to prove where their cacao is from. On their website they make a point of showing off some of their own growers. For smaller companies like Taza like to show off exactly where and who their cacao comes from. On Taza’s wrapper the Fair Trade’s symbol is directly on the wrapper this shows the importance of it is to them.

Green and Black’s chocolate bar was the first chocolate product after the Fair Trade certification was created. Along with Fair Trade Green and Black’s is also part of Cocoa Life

Green and Blacks most popular chocolate

who’s goal is to help build the communities in cacao farming regions. “Launched in 2012, Cocoa Life is investing $400 million USD by 2022 to empower at least 200,000 cocoa farmers and reach one million community members.”( About the Program) while Cocoa Life helps farmers from Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Indonesia, India, the Dominican Republic and Brazil. Green and Black’s only buys its cacao from Belize.

Chuao chocolatier is from San Diego, while the owners were originally from Venezuela. While naming the compony after the region that they were from, they also only get their cacao from the Chua region in Venezuela. Although nowhere directly stated on their packaging and on their wrapper Chuao is part of Fair Trade certification.


Lindt, and Ghirardelli a subsidiary, a larger company is also part of Fair Trade certification and their cacao is from Ghana, Latin America and the Caribbean (mainly Ecuador), Madagascar, and Papua New Guinea. (Ask Lindt & Sprüngli) Lindt not only is a part of Fair Trade certification but also runs a program that helps to have a more sustainable farm. On their website they say “Our commitment to sustainability starts with a bean, a tree, and a farmer.” (Lindt & Sprüngli Farming Program) In addition to the Fair Trade Lindt works with their farmers to try and provide sustainable farming.

According to April Linton “in the meantime, campaigns to get large US candy makers, such as Hershey’s, Mars, and Nestle to source Fair Trade cacao—including an effort involving child lobbyists”( April Linton ) Companies like Hershey’s that do not belong to FLO claim that they use the money to give more to the farmers rather than pay the fees to FLO. In recent years Hershey has set up a program they call Cocoa For Good, which has similar ideals as FLO without the oversight that comes with an outside organization. Hershey’s claim that their program will help with nutrition, eliminate child labor and finically help wom


en farmers.  “Increase access to nutritious foods. Families need access to nutritious foods to live healthy lives and avoid issues like anemia, which affects 1.6 billion people worldwide. Eliminate child labor. A symptom of poverty in cocoa communities, children aged 14–17 are at the greatest risk. Eliminate child labor. A symptom of poverty in cocoa communities, children aged 14–17 are at the greatest risk.”( Cocoa For Good. ) Although Hershey claims to help their program helps farmers there is no certainty without Fair Trade certification.


IMG-3092company that dropped out of the Fair Trade certification is Endangered Species Chocolate, although they are now part of it again. In 2006 Endangered Species Chocolate dropped out of the FLO and started to give the money used to get the Fair trade certification to the farmers directly. On their website Fair Trade is listed as one of their certifications but it is not easily found on their wrapper.

Fair Trade certification is an important certification that helps prove that the product is ethical. Without Fair Trade certification the farms could get away with child labor and under paying their laborers. Cacao farms were once known to have difficult working conditions. While child labor was a common place among cacao farms the jobs and hours were extremely tough. “A child’s workday typically begins at six in the morning and ends in the evening. Some of the children use chainsaws to clear the forests.  Other children climb the cocoa trees to cut bean pods using a machete. These large, heavy, dangerous knives are the standard tools for children on the cocoa farms, which violates international labor laws and a UN convention on eliminating the worst forms of child labor. Once they cut the bean pods from the trees, the children pack the pods into sacks that weigh more than 100 pounds when full and drag them through the forest.”(Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry) With this extra info on the work conditions and typical jobs on the farm, it is easy to see why the Fair Trade certification was set up. Even if the farm was once certified by Fair Trade, they will not hesitate to remove the certification. “In 2009, the founders of the Fair Trade certification process had to suspend several of their Western African suppliers due to evidence that they were using child labor.” (Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry) If farms do no act in accordance with Fair Trade certification policies they will be dropped. Fair trade has power and the will to get enforce their rules, which makes them a good standard. Overall Fair Trade certification has made an improvement to reducing child labor around the world, but it will only become a guarantee that no child labor was used if all companies join the Fair Trade.




Sources Cited

“About the Program.” Cocoa Life,

“Ask Lindt & Sprüngli.” History | About the Lindt & Sprüngli Group | Lindt & Sprüngli,

Barrientos, Stephanie, and Catherine Dolan. Ethical Sourcing in the Global Food System. Earthscan Publications, 2007.

Bowden, Rob. Food and Water. Smart Apple Media, 2010.

“Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry.” Pollution (Water, Air, Chemicals) | Food Empowerment Project,

“Cocoa Farmers.” Fairtrade Foundation,

“Cocoa For Good.” Corporate,

“Lindt & Sprüngli Farming Program.” Lindt,

Linton, April. “Fair Trade from the Ground Up.” Google Books,

“Taza Direct Trade.” Taza Chocolate,

Zysman, John. Can Green Sustain Growth?: from the Religion to the Reality of Sustainable Prosperity. Stanford University Press, 2015.

Craft Chocolate- Worth It

Are craft chocolate bars really better than common brand chocolate bars?
In 2015, the Mast Brothers suffered a huge blow to their reputation when their popular artisan chocolate bars were accused up being nothing more than remelted and repackaged hershey bars (“Chocolate-making.”) The Mast brothers were offended, and so were their many loyal customers who had not been able to tell the difference. It must have come as a great shock to those customers regularly purchasing ten dollar chocolate bars that they’d actually been munching on a product five times as cheap. It begs the question, what really is the difference between craft chocolate and common brand chocolate? Is craft chocolate worth the money?

The answer is yes. Although the Mast Brothers scandal may have been disheartening, craft chocolate is in fact generally worth the money. There are two main reasons why.

The most straightforward reason why craft chocolate is generally better than common brand chocolate is because they are more transparent in the sourcing of their products. The whole point of the bean to bar movement is to ensure customers that what they are consuming has been meticulously sourced for quality and ethics. Take a brand called Potomac Chocolate for example. Potomac Chocolate is a craft chocolate maker in Woodbridge, Virginia, whose mission is to “transform ethically sourced cocoa into award winning craft chocolate.” On his website, Ben Rasmussen (founder of Potomac chocolate) describes in depth the process by which he makes chocolate. He gives descriptions of his products, and posts videos showing how he turns cocoa beans into artisan chocolate bars. The bars go for $9.00, but with the insurance that fair trade conduct was exhibited every step of the way (“Welcome.”)

This is a happy alternative to common brand bars, whose cocoa production and factories are hidden away from the public eye. It isn’t hard to discover that there is a lack of transparency concerning the origins of confectionary or industrial chocolate bars.



As can be seen in the example above, industrial chocolate bars (hershey’s, Mars, Nestle, etc.) there is rarely any information concerning origin or ingredients on the wrapper. It makes sense that these major companies would not advertise that their cacao is produced in countries like Cote Devoire and Ghana because that region of West Africa in particular is often associated with the most troublesome labor conditions. Whether this is true or not is inconclusive as a result of major efforts on the part of large companies as well as governments to block any and all investigation. The danger that journalists face in researching the cocoa industry in West Africa is not only a problem of its own, but likely an indicator of dubious labor practices.

Alternatively, craft chocolate (French confectioner Chocolat Bonnat featured above) often advertises the origins of its cacao as enticement for consumers. Having cocoa that was produced in places like Ecuador, Mexico, or Madagascar is a point of pride for many craft chocolate makers as these areas have come to be associated with a higher quality product, and more transparent working conditions. This alone should be enough to convince consumers that craft chocolate is better than industrial chocolate.

It should also be explained the role that fair trade plays in all of this. Fair trade in its simplest form is a guaruntee that farmers are being paid fairer prices than commodity level which is remarkably low. While many artisan chocolate makers are fair trade certified, meaning they pay farmers more than skimpy commodity prices, there are also craft chocolate makers who go above and beyond that. For example, ChocoSol is an artisan chocolate maker based in Toronto that works directly with cacao farmers in Mexico, pays almost six times the fair trade market price, but didn’t ever bother to get certified (“Financial”). So while fair trade certifications are good assurances of fair trade practices, it should be noted that they are not the only measurement of ethical practices.

On the other hand, there are also a lot of craft chocolate makers who claim to trade directly with farmers and yet fail to actually solidify agreements with them. Just because a chocolate maker visits a cacao farm to make sure ethical labor practices are being observed doesn’t mean there is any sort of guarunteed consensus on price or labor conditions. On top of this, fair trade certifications are often sold to consumers as being not just about prices, but about justice and progress. Consumers should be weary of this, for while fair trade is a catylist for positive change, it is not a panacea for injustice in the food industry and should not be treated as such.

But at the end of the day, the simple assurance that no child or forced labor was used at any point in production, and the assurance that farmers received considerably more than commodity price for their product, should be assurance enough that craft chocolate bars are worth the money.
Passion for the Product, Taste, and Health Benefits
The second reason why craft chocolate is worth the money is the care and precision applied to the cultivation of the cocoa bean and how it impacts the final product. The major difference between craft chocolate and industrial chocolate in this sense is in the approach towards diversity of flavor. While brands like Hershey’s strive to achieve consistency and reliability in flavor, craft chocolate companies embrace a variety of flavors and challenge their consumers to expand their taste.

Industrial chocolate makers have been known historically to sell blended chocolate. This means that in the process of creating their chocolate, different varieties of cacao were blended together to produce a singular taste. This practice is not in itself a negative thing, as when done correctly there can be multiple distinct flavors of cacao in a single chocolate bar. However, common brand industries have taken this process and altered it so that very small amounts of high grade cacao are used to enhance batches of majority low grade chocolate, thereby erasing any and all diversity in flavor (“Presilla”). Craft chocolate, or single origin chocolate to be specific, takes the exact opposite approach.


Craft chocolate is known for sorting out what is called “exclusive derivation chocolate.” This practice began in the 1990’s, and is defined by the process of choosing beans from a single strand or geographic location. When carried out correctly, the end result is a chocolate product which gloriously highlights the individual taste of different strands of cacao. An example of a company that excels in this way is Guittard Chocolate, started in San Francisco in 2000. Guittard chocolate bars are knowns for having high cocoa content made with high quality beans from Venezuela, Hawaii, Colombia, and Peru (“Lev-Tov”). Companies like Guittard have only gained more popularity, as consumers in America become more adapted to the flavors of different strands of cacao.

Of course, in the end it is up to the consumer to decide which taste they prefer. The nature of industrial advertisement and the cultivation of cradle to grave loyalty is one of the main reasons why industrial chocolate has remained so popular.


Although this is only a single example shown above, Hershey’s and other industrial chocolate makers often show advertisements geared toward children. In doing this these companies aim to create brand loyalty in young consumers that will persist throughout their lives and be passed on to future generations. Common brand chocolate is also known to exploit themes of gender in their advertisements, distracting consumers from product quality with stereotype policing and societal pressure. This is a strategy used more often by common brand chocolate makers seeking to portray themselves as high end. An example is shown below.

These advertisements are just shields that common brand chocolate makers use to conceal the low quality of their products with nostalgia and social pressure. Although these commercials are enticing, as consumers grow increasingly conscious of their purchases, statistics have actually shown both a significant drop in the sales of industrial chocolate companies and a spike in the consumption of high quality craft chocolate. In the United Kingdom for example, industrial chocolate makers lost over 78 million pounds in the last two years, while its most popular craft brand Hotel Chocolat saw its profits more than double (“Baker”). Theorists claim that consumers are no longer buying into large amounts of cheap chocolate, but small amounts of high quality chocolate claiming to lead to happier and healthier lives. Though this is likely an exaggeration of the effects of higher quality chocolate, it is clearly making a dent in the world of chocolate consumption. There is more and more research being publicized about the various health benefits of chocolate. They say the higher the quality, or cocoa content, the more benefits a bar of chocolate with have to a person’s health. This is perhaps a return to the ways in which cacao was regarded by ancient Aztec and Mayan society before it was Westernized and turned into a sweet candy, as having medicinal qualities, or maybe it is just modern society’s way of justifying an incomparable need for chocolate. Either way, this research is not talking about just any Hershey’s bar- it’s referring to chocolate that has been carefully crafted. The care and precision with which craft chocolate makers produce chocolate brings out the maximum nutritional value of distinct ingredients. Craft chocolate also generally has higher cocoa content than industrial chocolate, whose amounts of cocoa hover around 10-11%, the bare minimum to even be considered milk chocolate.There are many new studies and discussions on this, one notable example being a TED talk given June of 2011 by a nutritionist named Shawn Stevenson, claiming that chocolate could save the world.

He begins his talk with history of the uses of chocolate in its simplest form, the cacao fruit. Stevenson then goes on to discuss the health benefits of chocolate and how they can solve major problems in the world. Shawn Stevenson presents an exaggerated version of an argument that many consumers are now buying into: chocolate is good for you, if you buy the right bar.



Only time will tell if consumers will continue to buy into the positives of craft chocolate, and if industrial chocolate is in fact a dying breed. Hopefully this piece has offered a good representation of the major points as to why craft chocolate is a better alternative to industrial chocolate bars despite the price. Transparency, passion for the product, and enhanced health benefits.

Works Cited

Baker, Andrew. “Why Artisan Chocolate Makers Are Thriving and the Best Bars to Buy.” The Telegraph, Telegraph Media Group, 9 Oct. 2017,

“Chocolate-Making Mast Brothers Are Ready for Sweet Redemption.” Fortune, Fortune,

Financial Post. “Beyond Fair Trade: These Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Makers Are Upping the Ante on Working with Cocoa Farmers.” Financial Post, 28 Apr. 2017,

Giller, Megan. Bean-to-Bar Chocolate: America’s Craft Chocolate Revolution: the Origins, the Makers, and the Mind-Blowing Flavors. Storey Publishing, 2017.

Leissle, Kristy. “Invisible West Africa.” Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture, vol. 13, no. 3, 2013, pp. 22–31., doi:10.1525/gfc.2013.13.3.22.

Lev-Tov, Devorah. “50 States: 50 Craft Chocolate Makers.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 12 Feb. 2018,

Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate: a Cultural & Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Ten Speed Press, 2009.

Sharon, et al. “ARTICLES.” The Chocolate Journalist, 23 May 2017,

“Welcome to Potomac Chocolate.” Potomac Chocolate,


The World’s Most Expensive Chocolate Might Just Be Worth It

It should come as no surprise that chocolate is a main or complementary ingredient in all of the most popular, mass produced candy bars in America. Having come a very long way since its adaptation into daily life by the Mayan people, cacao is available in a seemingly unending number of varieties today. From those popular candy bars with relatively little chocolate in them to more (un)refined bean-to-bar products, there really is something for everyone in the realm of chocolate. In recent years, there has been an increase in the availability of small-batch, luxury and artisanal chocolates making it, for some, more confusing than ever to choose a chocolate bar.

Beyond the obvious question of milk or dark—or in the case of some bean-to-bar chocolates I have found a hybrid of the two—it seems as though choosing a bar of chocolate could now be compared with choosing a bottle of wine; for those unaware or lacking a specific tried and true preference or knowledge base, there may exist a great deal of uncertainty surrounding what company to choose and why. On the other hand, however, this increase in availability and attention to detail in the realm of luxury, high-end chocolate has cultivated a new attention to detail; to flavor and quality and the overall terroir of chocolate which is made evident by the popularity and prized nature of single origin chocolate bars.

Similar to the wide price range we can see with wine, the price of a chocolate bar can run the consumer anywhere between $0.50 and $500 in cost. This is an expansive range and many may wonder if those higher end chocolates are truly worth shelling out the money for only a bite or two. While not necessarily consumable by the greater public on a regular basis, as a true lover of chocolate and the finer things in life myself, I am sure some of the most expensive chocolates in the world have tastes to match the price tag while others may seem drastically outrageous. Read on for an in-depth look at two of the world’s most expensive chocolate companies and the unique but important differences between them.

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TO’AK Chocolate is regarded as one of the most expensive chocolates in the world with a price tag of $385 for 50 grams of chocolate. The story of this Ecuadorian company is somewhat of a rags-to-riches tale, its start originating in a cabin in the rainforest with no electricity. To’ak was co-founded by two Ecuadorian transplants, Jerry Toth and Carl Schweizer. It is evident early on that they approach their chocolate making with the utmost care and attention for the sacred cacao tree and with ecological appreciation for their placed-based production right down to the very name of the company; “Derived from a fusion of ancient dialects in Ecuador, the name To’ak (pronounced Toe-Ahk) means “earth” and “tree,” which together represent the true source of all chocolate. We liken this name to the French term terroir, which describes how the taste of an artisanal product (wine, cheese, chocolate) expresses the specific soil and climate conditions of the land on which it was grown” (To’ak Chocolate).

To’ak Chocolate Video

Located in the province of Manabí, To’ak began with Toth’s conservation work and his desire to cultivate an organic orchard featuring fifty different kinds of fruit trees in addition to cacao trees. While working on this endeavor, Toth and his team found several old cacao groves along the banks of a river. This heirloom cacao was harvested and they began making chocolate as it was taught to them by their neighbors. Because of the lack of electricity, in the beginning everything was done by way of the old world; beans were roasted over an open fire, de-husked and ground by hand. After doing this for a while and coming to understand the value and quality of the cacao he was working with, Toth brought in Schweizer as well as fourth-generation cacao grower Servio Pachard to further his mission to bring the fine, dark Ecuadorian chocolate to the world.

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Not only does To’ak demonstrate an appreciation and respect for their product, but also for the environment around them; it is clear that they understand the importance of giving back and replenishing the resources they use in order for them to be successful in the preservation of cacao into the future. “To’ak is working with a coalition of local cacao growers, conservationists, and international universities to save Ecuador’s historic Ancient Nacional cacao from the brink of extinction. Cuttings from DNA-verified 100% pure Nacional trees have been grafted onto seedlings and planted in a protected plot of land in the nearby Jama-Coaque Ecological Reserve, managed by the rainforest conservation foundation Third Millennium Alliance. Within three years, each of these young trees will be able to provide enough cuttings to reproduce dozens of additional pure Nacional seedlings each year, which will then be distributed to any local cacao grower who wants to help save this historic variety from extinction. We call it the Noah’s Ark of Ancient Nacional cacao” (To’ak Chocolate). To’ak also pays their growers the highest price per pound in Ecuador, a direct indication that they have responsible business practices not only in regard to the environment but also in regard those that they employ. It should be noted that To’ak chocolate is based entirely out of Ecuador, from harvesting to packaging, it is providing a wealth of opportunity and safe jobs.

To’ak currently offers 5 different chocolates for sale on their website, all of them available in a 50-gram portion. When you purchase from To’ak however you are not just getting a bar of chocolate. “Each of our editions contains a 50-gram bar of dark chocolate with a single roasted cacao bean in the center. The chocolate bar is accompanied by a bamboo tasting utensil and a 116-page booklet, all of which are housed in a handcrafted Spanish Elm wood box with the individual bar number engraved on the bottom. The design of each of these items is inspired by ancient Ecuadorian artwork, dating back thousands of years, which we proudly introduce to the contemporary world” (To’ak Chocolate)It is these touches that make the chocolate that much more of a luxury experience. Divided into two collections, Vintage and Harvest, the former aged anywhere from 2 to 4 years and the latter from the 2016 harvest. For each chocolate, they list specific tasting notes and qualities one might pick up on as well as flavor wheels.

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There are several indications on the To’ak website that they are aiming to make their chocolate an experience on par with that of tasting fine wine or whiskey, with heavy nods towards understanding and appreciation of their product’s terroir and value as it related to Ecuador and the rich history and appreciation for cacao. Despite the very steep price tag, for those who are looking to have a fine chocolate experience and are willing to pay for it, in the case of To’ak, you are getting what you pay for.

Heading in a different direction and more than a bit closer to home, we come to Knipschildt Chocolatier based out of Norwalk, Connecticut. Started by Fritz Knipschildt, Knipschildt Chocolatier has been around since 1999 where it got its start in his small apartment kitchen. Knipschildt is a chef by trade as well as an immigrant from Denmark, giving him a unique perspective on chocolate. “Pursuing the American dream founded on traditional European chocolate craftsmanship, the philosophy behind House of Knipschildt rests on this desire to constantly improve the confectionary experience to provide customers with the highest value imaginable” (Chocopologie). Since its creation, Knipschildt has branched out to include two additional brands apart from Knipschildt Chocolatier, House of Knipschildt and Chocopologie. All three brands aim to produce quality products which respect individual ingredients, process, and the people behind each step.

Unlike To’ak, the Knipschildt brand, while there are indications they use single origin cacao from places such as Ecuador, the overall brand is much less process focused and much more end result. Not only do they not show pictures of any kind of their cacao source, but there is no specific mention or indications towards the rich historical traditions of cacao. It is safe to say that this company is much more of a European chocolatier in that their attention seems to be more on highly decorated refined chocolate truffles than on bean-to-bar efforts.

Their most prized chocolate is the La Madeline au Truffle with a price tag of $250.00 for a single truffle. This truffle starts with 70% Valrhona dark chocolate, heavy cream, sugar, truffle pol and vanilla as the base for a ganache. Then, a French Perigord truffle which is a very rare mushroom is surrounded by the chocolate ganache. This is then dipped into more dark chocolate and rolled in fine cocoa powder. The end product “Is pure extravagance! Lying on a bed of sugar peals in a gold box tied with ribbon” (Chocopologie) The company also offers other truffles at much lower price points however these come with no indication of where the chocolate is coming from.

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While I am sure this truffle has a unique and incomparable taste, I find it much harder to justify spending hundreds of dollars on something that shows little to no indication of where its coming from or who its really made by. Not to mention, there is no sign that they are sourcing their cacao from places that are free of child-labor or unfair and unsafe work conditions. I think this is a huge determining factor in understanding and appreciating today. While they do indicate that they use Valrhona chocolate, a visit to the Valrhona website does not provide much additional information

Comparing these companies might seem like comparing apples to oranges, in light of all we learned in chocolate class this year my opinions and preferences are changing. When one has a true knowledge base on the subject of cacao and the intricate web that has been woven around it throughout history, it changes how they view chocolate. And while I still love and appreciate the milky European varieties, I know understand what true chocolate is. True chocolate pays homage to those who came before with a heightened level of sacred respect for cacao as an ingredient passed down from the gods. It is difficult to maneuver the protection of old-world techniques and practices in the modern world but it can certainly be done as made evident by To’ak. Of course, business is business and both of these companies examined aim to make a profit however it is their differences that set them apart. The people behind To’ak have demonstrated a heightened connection to the cacao industry and from close examination of their website, one might leave thinking they are more in the business of preservation than candy sales and I think this is very true; by selling the chocolate for a high price, they generate money to protect and preserve the cacao species so it will thrive well into the future as well as provide for local indigenous people in the moment. Buying one of their chocolate bars is almost ceremonial in the same way that sharing chocolatewas seen as sacred and to be saved for special occasions such as new life, marriage, or death in the Mesoamerican culture (Coe & Coe 2013). As Maricel Presilla said in her book, “The true appreciation of chocolate quality begins with a link between the different spheres of effort. To know chocolate, you must know that the candy in the box or the chef’s creation on the plate begins with the bean, with the complex genetic profile of different cacao strains. Think how impossible it would be to make fine coffee with the coarse acrid beans of Coffea robusta. You must know also that the flavor of the finished product further depends on people carrying out careful, rigorous harvesting and fermentation practices” (Presilla 2009 pg. 4). It is with this in mind that we can find appreciation and understanding for certain higher end chocolates like To’ak.



Works Cited

“About.” Valrhona,

Coe, Michael D., and Sophie Coe. True History of Chocolate. Thames & Hudson Ltd, 2013.

“Knipschildt Chocolatier.” Chocopologie,

Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate: a Cultural & Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Ten Speed Press, 2009.

“The World’s Most Luxurious Dark Chocolate Made by To’ak in Ecuador.” To’ak Chocolate,


Chocolate- why only for Women and Children?

Children, women, children. Why do confectionary advertisements feature women and children? Even on Valentine’s day, which in the U.S. is supposed to be the day when men purchase the most chocolate, in Japan – such reverse trend cannot even be seen. While there are some signs of changes as represented by soshokukei danshi (herbivore men- refers to feminine men who are not aggressive in love and have womanly taste including liking for confectionaries), the social expectation that men should not be consuming sweets seems to be stronger in Japan.  Are men not allowed to be sweet?

This paper stems from the simple question: why is chocolate associated with women and children? There has been abundant scholarship on the history of confectionaries and women, especially in this trend of gender and race studies. Works such as “Imperial Persuaders” (2003, 63-92) by Anadi Ramamurthy devotes a chapter probing the relationship between racism and chocolate through advertisement analysis. “Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History” by Emma Robertson (2009) provides insight into women’s role in chocolate production to consumption. Yet, neither children, nor the reason why women became linked with chocolate is not fully elaborated. In the field of Japanese history, research has not focused much on specific groups of people, and comprehensive history tend to focus on the transformation of Japanese sweets (wagashi) (Akai, 2005).

In light of such background, the primary focus of this paper will be placed on chocolate. In particular, I limit my analysis to Morinaga Confectionary Corporation for two reasons: one, because they were the first store in Japan to manufacture chocolate from beans, and two, because they were well known for their marketing strategy: mainly advertisements. As for the method, I will analyze the advertisements of chocolate products on newspaper advertisements[1] from 1905, when chocolate advertisement started to appear until 1939 – when chocolate advertisements disappear due to exacerbating Second Sino-Japanese war. By juxtaposing the media analysis with the history of Japan’s Westernization of  diet, this paper traces the gendered and aged trajectory of chocolate: first chocolate as a luxury item was mainly food for men, then from around 1920, it became food for children and women. My main argument is that in Japan, chocolate was established as the food for the weak. I will demonstrate that this primarily has to do with using milk as the ingredient. 

Chocolate- a luxury product

When looking at the advertisements of the early days of Morinaga[2] (1904-1918), two distinct features could be seen: one, chocolate was a gift, and two, the main consumers were – in fact, men. During 1904-1907, confectionaries were often advertised for gift-giving practices. For example, the advertisement in year 1907 July 1st advertises various Morinaga products such as chocolate cream and marshmallow along with the text persuading customers to purchase Morinaga’s western confectionaries as summer gifts (chugen), because of its beautiful packaging and its delicious flavor.

This did not mean that chocolate was completely gender or age neutral. Smiling boy carrying handful of confectionary boxes -already in 1907, we can see children appearing in the advertisements (Image 1). In this respect, it could be said that while children were associated with sweets. However, they were not the primary consumers. They appeared in the advertisements but were rarely depicted as eating the confectionaries. On the other hand, men were shown as (almost) consuming them (Image 2).  Similarly, women appeared as well, but in a lower frequency than children or men.  As such, they did not seem to be targeted as the primary consumers. What are the reasons for this reverse trend?

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Image 1: An advertisement of Morinaga’s confectionaries in 1907, July 1st, on Asahi shinbun (page 1)
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Image 2: An advertisement of Morinaga’s confectionaries in 1904, December 25th, on Asahi shinbun (page 4)













Chocolate was a novel item in early 1900s Japan. Prior to this, Japanese sweets could mainly be categorized as wagashi, often made from red bean paste and flour (Image 3). Even after nanbangashi – Western sweets, were brought by the Spanish and the Portuguese around the 1543 the novelty of that was that it included eggs, which were back then not eaten by the Japanese[3] (Suzuki 1995, 232). Something like chocolate did not exist. As such, how people reacted to chocolate is unimaginable for us.


Image 3: Photo of Japanese sweets. Thee top left – manjyu (sweet red bean bun) and the bottom –yokan (sweet red bean jelly)


Chocolate was expensive. Today, where chocolate has become so ubiquitous to the extent that it can be purchased from stores at prices as low as dollar or so, it is hard to believe. However, as Coe and Coe (2013) show how chocolate was originally an exclusive food item enjoyed by the elites. This could be traced back to the origin of chocolate – the Classic Maya civilization, where chocolate in the form of beverage, was mainly used in religious rituals such as funerals and weddings (Coe and Coe 2013, 35-66). Even after the Spanish brought chocolate to Europe, and flourished around the 17th Century, it was initially consumed by those belonging to high socio-economic status (Coe and Coe 2013,125-178). It was only in the mid-20th century that chocolate was made into a bar form and became accessible to everyone (Coe and Coe 2013, 235).

The situation was the same in Japan. Slightly lagging behind nanbangashi, the first record of chocolate dates back to 1797. In a record kept by the cities of Maruyama and Yoriai of Nagasaki[4], the word shokorato (chocolate) appears as a gift a prostitute received from the Dutch (Bunchian 1960, 158-159). Around that time, chocolate was only known as rare food. However, during the first Sino-Japanese war (1894-1895), the sweet was imported from the US for the soldiers (Bunchian 1960, 158-159). Since then, the product slowly started to make itself familiar to the Japanese people.

Morinaga produced chocolate confections since its founding in 1899. Named “chocoleto kurimu” (chocolate cream), it was a sugar cream coated with chocolate. From its shape like a ball, it was often called “tama-choko” (ball chocolate) (Morinaga n.d.). Unfortunately, the price of chocoleto kurimu is unknown. However, based on the fact that it was assigned in 1901 as one of the products to be offered to the imperial family, and that the price of chocolate was as high as 135 yen for 100 pounds[5], it could be assumed that the price of tama-choko was not so cheap (Morinaga Seika Co., 2000, 72-73).

This explains why chocolate was associated with men – in particular, soldiers. One possible reason is because chocolate was a luxury product and thus was considered to be consumed by those fighting for the country (Image 4). Another reason is that Morinaga was already establishing chocolate as a nutritious food item (jiyohin), hence should be consumed by those at war efforts (Image 4 -1904, November 7th, 8). However, from the advertisements, it is unclear what it was about Western confectionaries that was made it so nutritious. The notion of sugar as quick energy which Mintz (1995, 147) argues for the British case, was prevalent in Japan as well. By the 1880s, we can see a notion that Western confectionaries were nutritious due to the inclusion of dairy products such as milk, butter, and eggs, but along with this was also sugar (Mitsuda 2017, 46).

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Image 4: Advertisement says that confectionaries are nutritious, thus are good for sending to those fighting in the war (November 7th 1904, 8)

When and for what is Chocolate for?

Men, women, and children appeared in Morinaga advertisements throughout the pre-war period. For the two years following the start of mass production of chocolate from beans in 1918, advertisements focused on promoting the benefits of chocolate –back then still a fairly new product, to the general public. However, a difference occurred around 1920: advertisements became more diverse and women, men, and children were targeted separately. By this, I mean that the advertisement rhetoric and images were now catered towards each social group.

Another change that occurred in this period was that children and women increasingly appeared in the advertisements, targeted as consumers. Men were also prevalent. However, the difference lied in what context men, women, and children were portrayed when eating chocolate.


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Image 5: An Advertisement of Milk Chocolate featuring women (Asahi shinbun June 2nd 1921, 7)

Women are depicted as enjoying the taste of chocolate (Image 5). However, it should be noted that she is not indulging in the sensational pleasure the product gives. Rather, what the advertisement claims is that she is feeling the nutritiousness of chocolate from its slight bitterness. It says “not only sweetness is my preference, but this slight bitterness… the taste of the most nutrient and calorie rich food – Morinaga Milk Chocolate”. This could be seen as a strategic attempt of Morinaga to persuade Japanese people to develop an appreciation for the bitterness of chocolate, as it was commonly said to be too bitter (Usui 2016, 31).

Similarly, the nutritious effects are targeted towards children. In contrast to advertisements featuring women, those with children tend to have a plot. For example, an advertisement posted in February 12th 1926, features a boy playing wa-mawashi, with the caption- “children who play a lot, eat a lot and grow well” (Image 6). Below the words of Morinaga Milk Chocolate, written along with the price are the calories contained in a bar of chocolate labelled as nutrient (eiyo) (Image 7). Another advertisement featuring a kindergarten boy and girl, says “as neighbors and friends attending the same kindergarten, Hanako and Ichiro play together while eating their favorite milk chocolate”. The interesting commonality between these two advertisements and the those featuring women is that it is an ordinary scene in which they are consuming chocolate. In other words: they are eating chocolate on an everyday basis. for them, consumption of chocolate is embedded in their daily lives.


Left: Image 6 (Asahi shinbun, February 12th 1926, 8); Right: Image 7: (Asahi shinbun, December 27th, 1923, 6)


In contrast, men or men in their youth are mainly associated with chocolate-eating on special occasions. For example, Image 8 shows a boy – assuming from his school uniform like clothing, studying for class or exam. Accompanying this picture is the caption – “energy (uses the characters for effort) … chocolate on a cold day- energy supply”. What could be inferred from this is how chocolate is an energy booster (Image 8). There were also advertisements which claimed physical benefits of chocolate consumption. A man like figure named “M” walking is accompanied by the caption saying that “M, having realized the importance of calorie intake necessary of the body became a huge fan of Morinaga Milk Chocolate, and thus became smart and could run fast” (Image 9). In this case, daily consumption of chocolate is promoted towards men as well. However, it signifies transformation, almost like fortification. Unlike children and women who consume chocolate to gain necessary nutrients, men’s consumption is portrayed as a means to go beyond their original capabilities.

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Image 8: Boy studying (Asahi shinbun February 9th, 1923, 4)
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Image 9: Man stepping forward (Asahi shinbun, November 6th, 1922, 6)









In the same category is this advertisement featuring a sumo wrestler, with the words “mantenka gohiiki” (loved by the whole country) (Image 10).  Although sumo wrestlers were used for the advertisement simply because they were celebrity-like figure in 1920s Japan, it creates the association that even someone as strong as them were consuming chocolate and caramel. The words in the circle –  Tabako daiyohin (substitute for tobacco) represents how constant consumption of chocolate towards men was promoted, but not for its nutritiousness.

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Image 10: Sumo wrestler (May 14th, 1920, 6).


Chocolate (Cream) to “Milk” Chocolate

Why did such change occur? The significant lowering of the cost could certainly be one factor[6]. However, I wish to argue that this was also related to the state’s efforts to Westernization Japanese diet. In specific, the key was – milk.

Japan’s modernization started in the Meiji period (1869-1912). The arrival of Commodore Mathew Perry’s black ship in 1853, signified the onset of Westernization. Behind such rapid start was the Opium War (1839-42). Seeing China’s loss against Britain leading to the signing of unequal treaties, Japan was alert by the threat of the West.  From politics to everyday life, Westernization was carried out. Food was one aspect that major emphasis was placed on, because it was seen as the foundation to build stronger bodies.

Countering Western power entailed war. However, the Japanese, in terms bodily figure was much smaller in comparison to the foreigners. What was seen as the key for transforming those meager bodies was protein, in particular- beef, eggs, and milk. However, as written earlier on, egg-eating was already introduced to Japan around 1573. Furthermore, the first cookbook in Japan- “Ryori monogatari” (Cooking story), published in 1643 already included several egg recipes and a cookbook of 103 egg recipes called “Manbo Ryori-hibako” was published in 1785 (Ego 1995, 232). Although this may not necessarily indicate the degree in which people consumed eggs on a daily basis, it illustrates how popular eggs were at that time (Ego 1995, 232). The fact that these recipes were mainly savory egg dishes also shows that despite the fact that eggs arrived in Japan in the form of sweets and people perceived those sweets as delicious, it was not necessary the taste of sugar that was attractive[7].

Similarly, beef – although first met with hesitation due to the smell and the longstanding Buddhist prohibition, had become fairly familiar to the Japanese people by the late 1800s. Even though people raised smell as a reason for their disliking of beef, the odor of animal meat was not completely foreign to them. Hatanaka (2017, 27-30) argues that Japan has a relatively long history of eating animal meat, and that persisted even during the prohibition period. The ordinance did disavow the eating of beef, chicken, horse, dogs, and monkeys, but only during the harvesting season – from April to September. Furthermore, wild animals, in specific game such as deer and bores were excluded. People even continued to eat beef, but under the name of medicine. Amongst the Hikone han area, the present-day Shiga prefecture, gyuniku misozuke (beef marinated in miso) was sold as “Henpongan” -energy food and Hikone beef which was known for its rich nutrition and excellent taste, was sent to the shogun as offerings (Hatanaka 2017, 31). Due to the influence of Dutch studies that disseminated the notion that meat was nutritious, there were increasing number of game meat shops in the mid-1800s, and with the arrival of Perry’s black ship, beef eating started. Already in 1867, the first gyunabe-ya (beef hotpot restaurants) in Tokyo opened (Hatanaka 2017, 54). Followed by the newspaper report in 1872 that the emperor ate beef, abolished people’s hesitation. A statistic that portrays this is the number of beef store in Tokyo. In 1875 there were 70 beef stores in Tokyo, which in a matter of two years increased to 557 (Hatanaka 2017, 56-57).   Although the prices are unknown, from the fact that gyunabe initially became popular amongst the commoners, it could be assumed that it was fairly accessible for people of all class.

Although the extent may not have been as great, beef spread as food and established a position in Japanese people’s diet, just like eggs did. Milk also gained acceptance amongst the people, but there was a slight difference in the way it was consumed.

One of the reasons why beef spread so rapidly was that the belief in its nutrtiousness. as such, it was perceived as a way to Westernize. Likewise, people believed in the rich nutrients of milk, but it was not food. Similarly, to the case with beef, the emperor played a major role in introducing milk drinking to the Japanese. Yoshida (1988, 79-80) notes how the newspaper article published on 1871, November reporting that the Meiji emperor drinks milk twice a day, served as a watershed moment. However, things were not that easy. Terada Torahiko (1878- 1935), a physicist, poet, and essayist reflecting back to his youth memory discusses how his first drinking milk experience at age 19 – year 1897. The image of milk at that time, he states was still “not something that people developed taste towards, neither was it nutritious food… It was primarily seen as medicine for the weak” (1948). For example, in Yomiuri Shinbun from April 12th 1875 (pg.3), in the section dedicated to the voices from the people, a man shares his concern about his neighbor who does not believe that drinking milk and Western medicine serves as the curing disease. What particularly conveys his belief in milk as a panacea can be seen from the fact that he described this neighbor not only “ganko (stubborn)” but “baka” (stupid). Furthermore, there were also letter from people who were concerned about the fact that the milk delivered to their homes were no longer serving its function as medicine, because it has recently been diluted with water. Even in this letter, the one who is drinking milk is the sickly mother.

Why was it so difficult for milk to develop from medicine to food? The reason was the smell – it stank to the point that it prevented people from drinking them or even made them vomit or cause diarrhea (Terada 1948). To drink such malodorous medicine required small tricks. For example, for young Terada it was to add coffee. He writes that this made him indulge in the exotic flavor of coffee and does not mention about the unpleasant smell of milk. Likewise, Fukuzawa Yukichi (1872), a famous writer and an advocate of Westernization, in the book “Nikushoku no setsu” (A view on meat eating), wrote that the odor of milk is something that people have to get used to, suggesting that adding deep roasted, thick coffee could help cancel out the smell. While the possibility of poor milk could be attributed to this smell issue, it is interesting to see that even in 1922, a recipe book written to encourage people to cook using milk – “Gyunyu ryori” (Milk cooking), included lemon in many of the recipes, possibly to ameliorate the unpleasant odor. In addition to lemon, another commonality amongst these recipes was sugar.

Sugar seemed to be something that made people consume milk. For example, in 1904 – a woman’s magazine Jyokan in the March 1st volume started a column to introduce cooking Japanese food using milk. The fact that this serialization continued seven times indicates its possible popularity. Yet, we do not know whether people actually made them by themselves. As the title – “Jikken gyunyu nihon ryori” (Experiment- milk Japanese cooking) suggests, this seemed to be quite a novel attempt. The opening paragraph of this very first episode also explains:

“In the West, using milk for cooking can be seen in cookbooks, but in our country, it is still considered as a daily drink. Using it for the purpose of cooking is unheard. The author, as a huge milk lover, thought that this was boring. Taking a step further, I plan to include it in people’s daily meal and succeeded in creating about a hundred recipes.”

(Shimizu 1904, 83).

While the first few recipes are thing such as milk tea and milk bread – not really Japanese food, there were unique attempts such as using milk as the coating for deep-fry, miruku-kan (milk yokan – red bean jelly, in this case using sweet potatoes instead) (1904, April). There were also some savory dishes such as “tamanegi” (Onion)-almost like an onion milk stew using miso and salt as the primary seasoning, and “togan” (winter melon) – again cooking winter melon using milk, seasoning it with soy sauce and adding minced chicken (1904, June). Yet, most of the dishes tended to be sweet, or used some kind of sweet flavoring seasoning such as miso.

This is not to say that sugar was continued to be seen favorably. Rather, by around 1910, sugar was seen to be bad for children’s health. Mitsuda (2017, 59) points out that this was related to the emergence of nutritional science around that time. This lead to criticism about wagashi – many magazine articles claimed that wagashi was not nutritious because it was just read bean paste and sugar. Sugar in this context was primarily seen as bad for digestion. On the other hand, Western confectionaries were still seen positively, due its nutritional effect deriving from dairy products. In such discourse, mothers were encouraged to feed them to their children.

Milk was for the feeble. The belief in the nutrient richness of milk meant that it was for those who were lacking or needed extra energy. In addition to those who were sick, a major focus was placed on children. Under imperial Japan, children were the main targets as the next generation to lead the nation. A recipe book “kokumin eiyo no zoshin to rennyu” (Condensed milk and the promotion of national health) (1935) published by the National Institute of Health and Nutrition includes a 26 page long introduction of which the latter ten pages – following the explanations of various types of condensed milk- argues that women and children should drink milk. Starting with the infant mortality rate, extending to the number of children suffering from scrofula, to incidents of tuberculosis amongst the whole population, it argues that Japanese diet is not nutritious enough.  Maternal health is the solution they argue. In order for one to grow up to be a healthy, strong adult, it is essential that milk is consumed during childhood (National Institute of Health and Nutrition 1935, 16).


Chocolate was initially for men. From 1904-1918, when Morinaga just started advertising their products including Chocolate Cream, chocolate was a luxury product. Therefore, it served as gifts to others and for the soldiers.  However, from 1920- two years following Morinaga’s manufacturing of milk chocolate bar, women and children increasingly appeared in the advertisements. In contrast to men who were seen as consuming chocolate for extra energy, women and children were eating it on a daily basis to acquire necessary energy. In Meiji Japan, Westernizing Japanese diet was one of the main aims of the Japanese state. It was by strengthening people’s bodies and build a stronger nation that Japan was to counter the West. In particular, Western protein food items such as beef, eggs, and milk were seen as essential. Yet, people’s resistance towards milk was unimaginable from today – it stank. However, by making milk into confectionary, people were able to consume this horrendous medicine. As children were seen to be the next generation of citizens, they were the primary target of milk drinking. Concurrently targeted were the women. Perceived as potential mothers, women’s and girls’ health was of major importance in building a stronger nation.

Perhaps, men simply just had more opportunities than women and children, therefore was easier to advertise in relation to special occasions. Even so, why were men not seen as eating chocolate at homes?  Another question of interest is why chocolate was not targeted at elderlies? Furthermore, Sydney Mintz (1995, 147) argues that confectionaries became something for women and children because it was cheaper source of energy. Men, as bread winners had access to beef, whereas other family members did not. This caused children and women to consume confectionary. His main point is that children and women consumed confectionaries for sugar. Although I argue for the Japanese case in the 20th century is rather for dairies, I wonder how the situation was like in 20th Century Britain and other parts of the world. Regarding the short coming of this paper, a major point is that I only examined the newspaper of Asahi shinbun and some other media material which were mainly distributed in Tokyo. As such, I do not know the reception of chocolate in other parts of Japan. Also, Morinaga had a variety of advertisements such as films and events involving its consumers. These two points, I wish to explore to strengthen my paper.


Japanese Primary Source Documents:

Asahi shinbun. (1904-1938). Asahi Shinbunsha: Tokyo.

Fukuzawa Y. (1872). Nikushoku no setsu (A view on meat eating).  [Accessed April 28th, 108].

Terada T. (1948). Terada Torahiko zuihitsu-shu dai-yonkan. Komiya et al. ed., Iwanami shoten: Tokyo. [Accessed April 28th, 2018].

National Institute of Health and Nutrition. (1935). Kokumin eiyo no zoshin to rennyu (Condensed milk and the promotion of national health).

Shimizu (1904). Jikken gyunyu nihon ryori” (Experiment- milk Japanese cooking). Jyokan March 1st, 1904 – December 1st, 1904.


Japanese Secondary Sources:

Akai, T. (2005). Kashi no bunkashi (A cultural history of sweets). Kawahara-shoten: Tokyo.

Ego M. (1995) “Bunken kara himotoku kasutera no rekishi” (Revealing the history of Castella through documents).  in Kasutera bunka-shi zen-shu zen-sho (A whole collection on the cultural history of Castella). (1995). kuritsu, N. , et al.,: Heibonsha, 226-233.

Hatanaka M. (2017). “Karusiuma fudo niku, chichi, kome to Nihonjin” (Karismatic food, meat, milk, and rice and the Japanese). Shunjusha:Tokyo.

Komei S. (1995) “Kasutera no Fukusaya” (Fukusaya’s Castella).  in Kasutera bunka-shi zen-shu zen-sho (A whole collection on the cultural history of Castella). (1995). Kuritsu, N. , et al.,: Heibonsha, 217-225.

Ikeda, B. (1960). Nihon Yogashi-shi. Nihon yogashi-kyokai.

Morinaga (n.d.). “Morinaga Kurimu Chocoleto” (Morinaga Cream Chocolate). [Accessed April 28th, 2018].

Morinaga (n.d.). “Morinaga Miruku Kyarameru Rekishi” (Morinaga Milk Caramel History). . [Accessed April 27th, 2018].

Morinaga Seika Kabushiki Kaisha (ed.) (2000). Morinaga gojūgonenshi (55 years of History of Morinaga Confectionary Company), Tokyo: Toppan Insatsu.


English Secondary Sources:

Coe, S. D., & Coe, M. D. (2013). The true history of chocolate. Thames & Hudson.

Mintz, S. W. (1995). Sweetness and power: The place of sugar in modern history. Penguin.

Mitsuda, T. (2017). “‘Sweets Reimagined’: The Construction of Confectionary Identities, 1890 – 1930”. In Feeding Japan (pp. 53-82). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

Ramamurthy, A. (2003). Imperial persuaders: Images of Africa and Asia in British advertising. Manchester University Press.

Robertson, E. (2009). Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History.

Usui, K. (2014). Marketing and consumption in modern Japan (Vol. 122). Routledge.

[1] I examine newspapers of Asahi shinbun, as it was one of the major newspapers at that time.

[2] During this period, Morinaga did not advertise products individually. It was confectionaries in general.


[3] Eggs were not eaten in Japan prior to this period, because of the Buddhist prohibition on eating beef, chicken, monkeys, and dogs promulgated in year 675. Eggs were not explicitly under the restriction, but because people back then had a different conception of eggs as to today: eggs had a stronger sense of meat, rather than a premature form of chicken (Suzuki 1992, 231).

[4] Since Japan entered the isolation period from 1639, the Portuguese and Spanish were no longer able to trade with Japan. Dutch were one of the only Western countries that were allowed to trade with Japan. However, their access was limited to the port of Nagasaki.

[5] Around year 1904, a meal (bowl of tendon) could be purchased for around 10 sen – one sen being a hundredth of one yen (Morinaga n.d.).

[6] Previously, the price of chocolate was expensive because Morinaga relied on imported ingredient chocolate. However, from 1918, they set up their own factories and installed machines to start manufacturing chocolate from cacao beans. This lead to a major lowering in price (Morinaga Co., 2000, 72-73).

[7] Sato (1995, 217) quotes from a tourist guide of Nagaski prefecture – “Nagasaki Annnai” (Nagasaki guide) that one of the most popular nanbangashi castella (a cake like sweet made from flour, eggs and sugar) in 1624 was described as “the taste of it cannot be produced in any other way and truly unique. As such, it has become one of the famous confectionaries (meika) of the country by this time.