Tag Archives: cacao beans

Cacao Slave Trade

“CANDY!!!” This is what you hear kids of all ages scream when they find out they are rewarded with a delicious candy bar. In many ways we condition the children of society to behave for these treats. Adults and children alike are at the mercy of said delicacies which have been perfected by candy makers all around the globe and the influence candy does have is evident in the way it is advertised and marketed towards us. Children are bribed with these sweets during holidays, any time they receive high marks in school, and overall for just behaving in general. With that being said, it is almost tragic to think that in another part of the world, candy is one of the only ways a child can reward themselves with another day of life. More specifically the production of Cacao and how its successful manufacturing or lack thereof determines the fate of the children who help produce the candy we identify as Chocolate. In this post I will attempt to highlight the negative impact the slave trade has had on children in third world countries when it pertains to the Cacao slave trade and how the high demand for chocolate in the United States and beyond is a direct cause of these children’s misfortune.

Children working on a Cacao farm

It goes without saying that slavery is one of the most inhumane practices to ever be documented by the human race. To force another individual to produce a resource in high commodity through grueling work processes and unsafe work environments for minimal pay is despicable, and yet this practice is ever so prevalent in society today. In regard to Cacao farming, children in West Africa are taken from their homes at a young age and are sold to cacao farms where they are forced to produce cacao beans from the pods they are sent to collect. These children range anywhere from five to sixteen years of age, and a large majority of them continue this work well after they have matured. They are paid less than five dollars for a days work and are expected to produce a substantial amount of product in a short time frame. Who is to blame for this injustice done upon these children who are simply trying to survive and provide for their families in areas where resources are limited? To avoid asking another rhetorical question let’s get straight to the point and acknowledge the fact that we are the source of the problem. Chocolate or rather Cacao, has become as crucial a resource in America similar to wheat, agriculture, and livestock.  As previously mentioned above, our society has integrated cacao into our everyday lives in such a way that it would be virtually impossible to reverse the ever growing issue that our high demand for cacao has on the children forced into the slave trade in other countries.

Cacao beans

Large corporations that sell chocolate such as Hershey and Nestle to name a few are prime contributors to the continuation of the slave trade as they have yet to stop dealing with the slave traders that take advantage of the children they have producing cacao for them. Due in part to the fact that they are a business making a large profit off of selling chocolate, why would these corporations modify their business strategies if the return on the dealings are more than what they are putting out? Anyone with a brain could see the logistics behind it, but there is a lack of morality in it all that we must acknowledge if we want to prevent future generations from experiencing something similar. The other cause of the never ending cycle that is the slave trade in the Cacao business is the consumer. These corporations pander to the people to ensure a sizeable return from satisfied consumers of their product. We play a sizeable role in the continuation of the diabolical process known as slavery and we must stop turning a blind eye to its prevalence and seek out alternatives that will not come at the expense of children trying to carve out a life for themselves.

 According to a company called Slave Free Chocolate, these larger corporations that produce chocolate, which have become a primary source of happiness in our country and around the world, are doing very little to ensure the wrong doings placed upon these innocent children are addressed and rectified. Hershey and Nestle are two companies that have acknowledged the harsh reality that is child labor and how they will attempt to limit their contributions to these farms that make a profit off of the backs of younglings due to slave labor. However, in the years following these announcements they have done nothing but prove that they are incapable of changing their business practices to a healthier alternative. Both corporations have been taken to court on a number of occasions in an attempt to uncover the truth behind their business dealings, as well as hold them accountable for negligence in regard to who they choose to do business with. Their contributions to the slave labor running rampant in third world countries like Ghana and Côte d’Ivoireare the reason these children are still fighting for their lives.

The salvaging alone for Cacao beans is not a simple process that your average adult could simply begin without the proper tools and some form of guidance. Yet children are being sent into the forest with sharp machetes and large sacks. They climb dangerously tall trees in an attempt to harvest the cacao pods and bring them back to their slavers so that they can begin farming for the cacao beans. They are rushed by their slavers to cut open these Cacao pods to collect the beans found inside, and the only way they can do this effectively is by using the machetes provided to them. Many children are injured during this process as the bean extraction from the plant requires them to hack open the pod with a machete. There is always a risk that skin and appendages could be taken and still these children partake in this dangerous task because they have no other choice. The market calls for a high demand of Cacao and forcing an abundance of children to produce a plethora of cacao is easier to do rather than hiring adults and paying them a set wage.

The question then becomes are we to blame for being complicit, considering the children are in another country and are not our primary concern because they are not citizens of the United States? So long as they continue to contribute to a service that is provided to us, who cares if we turn our heads in the other direction right? Personally, I feel we have failed these individuals simply because as a country we are considered a super power and we control the eb and flow of the overall market. So, while we have the power to course correct these injustices our demand for the same product presents us with a paradox that is almost impossible to rectify. This alone demonstrates how subconsciously we are complicit because we possess the ability to correct these injustices and yet we are the reason they exist. Not all countries have the liberties we possess here in the United States, and eventually we have to acknowledge the fact that the ease of access to resources in the U.S. has created the lives these children currently lead. Subconsciously, we have been groomed in a way that allows us to be comfortable with getting what we want despite the steps taken to get us there. To take it a step further, let us acknowledge how much food is experimented with here and how America’s irregular consumption of the same foods in different forms has had an inverse effect on the slave trade and by extension the children.

Despite popular belief cacao beans are not solely used to make chocolate. While there are a variety of chocolates that are crafted from the plant, it is also the reason we have certain drinks and alcoholic beverages such as Coffee and Brandy. Not to mention cacao powder, liquor, butter, jam, marmalade etc. are all resources produced from this one plant. Coffee which is a huge resource utilized by the American people is right up there with chocolate as a hot commodity item. Corporations like Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks have perfected their sales techniques to make coffee an adults signature “sweet treat.” Seasonal drinks like Pumpkin Spice Lattes and Peppermint Mochas drive the masses wild and selling them during the holidays means more work for the children.There are endless examples of how food has its properties modified to be made into something else useful, but for the sake of this post it illustrates why the cacao slave trade continues to make a sizeable profit. We have become codependent on cacao and the many forms it takes and in the end the ones paying the price are the children working to keep up with our demand for more of this popular resource. What is even more tragic is the fact that we do not have to support companies that make their profit off of the backs of innocent children when there are companies out there that have demonstrated a suitable alternative exists.

There are small companies and corporations that are willing to pay foreigners a livable wage in order to produce the same chocolate products that we love, without putting children in harm’s way. Corporations like Tony’s Chocolonely make it their mission to deliver the consumer a product that is manufactured free from slave labor and in doing so take the fight directly towards corporations like Hershey and Nestle who refuse to change their business practices. They are so proud of these accomplishments that they label their products “free of slave labor” to encourage the consumer to purchase their product over their competitors. One of the primary reasons this is done is the hope that this will encourage larger corporations like Nestle and Hershey to stop dealing under the table with those who continue to practice the use of slave trade with children on their farms. Once they begin to lose business perhaps this cruel individuals may change the way they hire and pay their workers to something a bit more legal.

Keeping all of this in mind, what role can we play in fighting the war against slave labor to ensure that the number of children inducted into this terrifyingly inhumane practice are safe from trafficking moving forward? For starters we must stop funding these mega corporations that are only in the business to make a profit, and refuse to purchase from them again until they present substantial evidence that they are no longer doing business with slavers. As difficult as that may seem, considering these chocolate companies are already so ingrained into our everyday lives, and we as a society are subconsciously unaware of our complicities’ that have led to the slave trades continuous growth, we owe it to the children whose livelihoods are being sacrificed for a profit to bring forth positive change. We should focus our efforts and fund businesses like Tony’s Chocolonely as they have presented us with a more viable alternative for foreign workers who help produce cacao. Livable wages, safer work environments and zero slave labor. Furthermore, we owe it to future generations of children who are raised in the United States and beyond to seek out a safer alternative for years to come. If we did not try to undo these wrongs, how can we look our kids in the eyes and gift them with a candy bar that another child halfway around the world sacrificed so much to make? To that end, no matter the cost we have to do better and it starts by holding everyone accountable including ourselves for past discretions. When I become a parent, I would like to look into my child’s eyes one day and imagine I am looking at the eyes of a child halfway around the world whose future does not look as bleak as it originally used to.

Works Cited:

Appiah, L. (2017, June 07). Slave-free chocolate: Not-so-guilty pleasure. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2017/06/02/world/tonys-chocolonely-slavery-free-chocolate/index.html

Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://foodispower.org/human-labor-slavery/slavery-chocolate/

International Cocoa Organization. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.icco.org/faq/52-by-products/115-products-that-can-be-made-from-cocoa.html

Lampley, R. L. (2019, February 09). Child slave labor rampant in chocolate supply chain. Retrieved from https://www.mysanantonio.com/opinion/commentary/article/Child-slave-labor-rampant-in-chocolate-supply-13602395.php

Law Suits. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.slavefreechocolate.org/doe-vs-nestle

Slave Free Chocolate. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.slavefreechocolate.org/

Formaggio Kitchen and the Bean-to-Bar Movement

Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge, MA

Throughout the semester we learned about how chocolate is more than just a delicious dessert. Chocolate, or cacao, has a rich history that includes a number of political, social, cultural, and economic factors. People today consume Snickers bars and Reese’s peanut butter cups unconsciously without considering the greater societal implications of their food choices. Many of the large chocolate corporations such as Hershey’s, Mars, and Cadbury produce chocolate as another commodity and typically only focus on profits. However, the cacao they use typically comes from slave labor on the coast of Africa. These companies are more concerned with how to market their product than they are with how their farmers are treated. However, there is a new movement in the chocolate industry known as the craft chocolate revolution. In this effort, local chocolate makers are making a concerted pledge to pursue a “bean-to-bar” philosophy. According to Eric Parkes, a local chocolatier from Somerville, the bean-to-bar movement means that producers are “starting off with the bean” or “making the chocolate from scratch” (WCVB Channel 5 Boston). Instead of mass-producing chocolate in factories, bean-to-bar producers are typically more localized businesses that focus on developing authentic chocolate. In these cases, they take cacao beans from a single origin country. Bean-to-bar manufacturing is labor intensive; however, the producers have control over what ingredients they use (predominantly cocoa and sugar) as well as where they source their beans. The companies are revolutionizing the big chocolate companies that have been a staple in the industry for years now. While companies like CVS typically carry predominantly name brand chocolate, there are some local stores that only sell organic, bean to bar chocolate. Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge is an example of a local food supplier that specializes in the bean-to-bar movement. Their website is very transparent about the chocolate’s country of origin, producer, and taste. They primarily sell bean-to-bar chocolate and have a direct relationship with the local chocolate producers. They refuse to sell any of the big chocolate brands due to the ambiguity regarding their chocolate sourcing. production processes, and ingredients.

https://www.wcvb.com/article/chocolate-the-bean-to-bar-movement/9128519 B

Bean-to-Bar Segment on WCVB Channel 5 Boston (Featuring Professor Martin)

Formaggio Kitchen is a European style market that provides specialty foods from around the world to their customers. They specialize in artisan cheese but also have a wide selection of bean-to-bar chocolates (Our Cambridge Store). Formaggio Kitchen was featured in a segment on the local Channel 5 News show called Chronicle. They were featured in a segment regarding artisan chocolate and a new bean-to-bar movement. One of Formaggio’s general managers is also the head buyer for all chocolate products. She buys a lot of local chocolate from producers in areas like Cambridge and Somerville. Before accepting any chocolate products into her store, she first goes through extensive taste and smell tests (similar to tastings in lecture throughout the semester). The general manager places a high level of importance on origin because “there is so much diversity in flavor profiling” (WCVB Channel 5 Boston). Formaggio specifically sells single origin chocolate. Rogue Chocolate is their most popular brand of single origin chocolate. Some of the biggest similarities between bean-to-bar chocolate companies are their size. Most of these operations include a small handful of people. Often times, artisanal chocolate companies only include one to two employees. The process of bean-to-bar chocolate making takes a significant amount of time and numerous hours of manual labor. However, instead of outsourcing chocolate production to slave laborers, these chocolate companies take on the responsibility themselves in order to produce better-tasting, more ethical chocolate. The founder of Rogue Chocolate, Colin Gasko, works directly with cacao farmers in order to source the best beans from a single origin point. Slave labor has been a persistent issue throughout the history of chocolate making and still occurs today. After the Cadbury investigation into slave labor on the island of Sao Tome and Principe, many of the cocoa farms moved to the Gold Coast or what today is known as Ghana. Child slave labor is one of the biggest issues today facing the chocolate industry. Many of the West African Coast cacao farms where the big chocolate companies source their chocolate exploit this corrupt labor system. In 2000-2001, news coverage from UK journalists uncovered the use of “enslaved young men on a cocoa farm in the Cote d’Ivoire (Berlan, 1089). Bean-to-bar chocolate companies such as Rogue Chocolate are able to combat these unjust labor practices by selectively choosing where they source their cocoa and ensure that the farming practices are ethical. This occurs through direct communication between the bean-to-bar companies and the farmers. Formaggio Kitchen focuses on selling fine chocolate but also ensures that the cocoa farming practices are ethical. They do this by analyzing both the origin country of their chocolate and the chocolate producers themselves. 

Ancienne Chocolat en Poudre

Formaggio’s website is very transparent with the information on the background of the chocolate they sell. They have a separate chocolate section with a headline that describes their mission with their chocolate selection. They emphasize how their chocolate provides “health benefits”, comes from “bean-to-bar producers”, and only contains “cacao and sugar” (Chocolate). The health benefits of chocolate are a highly disputed topic. However, there is evidence to support the health benefits of chocolate. Through laboratory and field research, scientists concluded that chocolate “reduces hypertension, minimizes cardiovascular disease, and even fight diabetes and cancer” (Howe, 43). Formaggio Kitchen not only promotes the health benefits of chocolate, they also provide instructions on how to optimize their chocolate for superior taste. For instance, one of the products that Formaggio sells is a 1kg of roasted cocoa beans called Ancienne Chocolat en Pudre. The website instructs individuals to mix the cocoa, vanilla, and cane sugar with hot milk in order to make “traditional French hot chocolate” (Chocolate). Most big corporations simply list their chocolate items. However, Formaggio provides background information on each item they have in stock including their country of origin, producer, nutritional information, as well as recipes. Formaggio only has a limited supply of French chocolate products. This ties into the Terrio reading on French Chocolatiers. France, as a nation has international recognition as one of the leaders in culinary arts (Terrio, 9). Few people, including French citizens, acknowledged chocolate making as an important part of French history like other foods such as wine and cheese. Most associate French Chocolate with other forms of desserts or pastries. Consumers even struggled differentiating artisanal French chocolate from its mass-produced counterpart (Terrio, 9). I would have expected Formaggio to carry a wide selection of French chocolates. However, with the knowledge of French Chocolate History, it is understandable that there is a limited amount of the French dessert in Formaggio’s inventory. 

Formaggio has a wide array of chocolate from a number of different countries: Belgium (3), Canada (4), France (2), Italy (7), Spain (7), The Netherlands (1), United States (15), and Vietnam (4) (Chocolate). Formaggio is very transparent with the notion that they source chocolate from a single origin country with cacao farms. It is interesting to point out that while Formaggio advertises that they collect chocolate from producers around the world, the majority of their inventory comes from the United States. However, they still maintain a high level of chocolate diversity. While the majority of the companies that Formaggio imports from are based in the United States, these companies still adhere to the bean-to-bar practices. While the country of origin provides important information, Formaggio goes one step further and includes the producers of these chocolates: Confitures a l’Ancienne (1), EH Chocolatier (2), Maglio (4), Pasticcerie Sinatti (1), Poco Dolce (2), Potomac Chocolate (2), Ritual Chocolate (2), Valrhona (1), and Xocolates Aynouse (4) (Chocolate). The general manager in charge of buying the bean-to-bar chocolate only chooses from reputable produces that have ethical labor practices and sustainable farming techniques. For each chocolate item, Formaggio provides an individual description page that includes price, quantity, and information about the chocolate itself. For instance, the Callebaut Chocolate Block – Bittersweet is 60% cacao and $10.95 per pound (Chocolate). This is slightly below the median price range for chocolate at Formaggio. The media price is approximately $15. The least expensive chocolate (Marou Chocolate Ba Ria) is from Vietnam and costs $3.95. The most expensive chocolate (Les Chocolats de Chloe Box of 12 Chocolates) is from Montreal, Canada and costs $36.95. The one downside to bean-to-bar chocolate is that it is more expensive than name brand chocolate. However, these chocolates are more organic and ethical. The bean-to-bar movement follows in line with recent trends towards the surge in organic food popularity. Today, organic food is typically more expensive than unhealthy or non-organic foods. Thus, organic food is predominantly only accessible to the middle and upper class while creating a barrier of entry for the lower class. Organic food or “yuppie chow” is also linked with gentrification in cities throughout America (Guthman, 497). Formaggio Kitchen is located in one of the wealthiest cities in the country: Cambridge, MA. Boston suffers from significant gentrification issues. Organic food markets, like Formaggio, tend to only be accessible within a upper class community and prevent lower class citizens from purchasing their chocolate due to their high prices.

Potomac Chocolate Upala 85%

In addition to price and quantity, the website also provides brief descriptions on the origin country of the chocolate, the producers, and characteristics of the chocolate. For instance, the description page underneath the Potomac Chocolate Upala 85% chocolate bar describes how the cacao is sourced from the Upala district of Costa Rica. It provides information on the producer, Ben Rasmussen, and his small workshop in the Washington DC area. He adheres strictly to bean-to-bar practices and follows all the traditional chocolate making methods. Like other bean-to-bar companies, he uses a minimum amount of ingredients: cacao beans and sugar. This particular chocolate bar is “rich and earthy dark chocolate with notes of raspberry and caramel” (Potomac Chocolate Upala 85%). It is very rare to find such a descriptive flavor description, country of origin identification, and producer information on name brand chocolate bars. Formaggio provides these descriptions under each and every chocolate bar in their inventory. Unlike many big chocolate companies, they do not provide false advertisements on their farming practices and organic quality of their chocolate. Formaggio provides honest information regarding their chocolate and gives their consumers all the tools necessary to make the right purchasing decisions. 

Formaggio’s high level of transparency regarding all facets of their sourced cacao and finished chocolate bars reveals how important ethics are to their overall success. Formaggio’s is a successful local market not only because they embrace cultural diversity and source cacao from trustworthy producers all over the world. They are successful because they do not lie to their customers. All the information one needs to make a smart, well thought-out decision regarding their purchases is at the tip of their fingers. Big chocolate companies, as we learned throughout the semester, are more focused on overall profit than they are about other greater social issues. However, small markets, like Formaggio Kitchen, are more focused on working with responsible producers and providing customers with the highest quality of chocolate possible. The bean-to-bar movement in the chocolate industry is revolutionizing how individuals farm, produce, and sell chocolate. Now, it is up to the consumer to make the smart ethical decision when it comes to their chocolate purchases. While it may be easier to walk into a CVS and purchase a Hershey’s bar for a small price, there are underlying social, political, and economic consequences that affect people throughout the chocolate industry. People rarely consider any other factor besides taste in their food purchases. When it comes to chocolate, the suppliers certainly have a large amount of responsibility when it comes to providing ethically sourced and organic chocolate. However, the consumers are responsible for choosing chocolate from local bean-to-bar producers over big chocolate companies. While it is important to acknowledge that prices are higher for bean-to-bar chocolate, it is even more important to be a conscientious consumer that strongly considers where the greater societal impact of their chocolate selection. 

Works Cited

Berlan, Amanda. “Social Sustainability in Agriculture: An Anthropological Perspective on                       Cocoa Production in Ghana”. The Journal of Development Studies. Vol. 49, No. 8, 1088-          1100. 2013

“Chocolate”.Formaggio Kitchenhttps://www.formaggiokitchen.com/cambridge. 2019

Guthman, Julie. “Fast Food/Organic Food: Reflexive Tastes and the Making of ‘Yuppie Chow’”.Food and Culture. Routledge. New York, NY. 2013.

Howe, James. “Chocolate and Cardiovascular Health: The Kuna Case Reconsidered”. University of California Press. Vol. 12, No. 1. (Spring 2012). pp. 43-52. 

Terrio, Susan J. “Crafting the Culture and History of French Chocolate”. University of California Press.Berkley and Los Angeles, California. 2000. 

“Our Cambridge Store”.Formaggio Kitchen. 2019.                                                                                     https://www.formaggiokitchen.com/sweets/chocolate.

“Potomac Chocolate Upala 85%”. Formaggio Kitchen.       https://www.formaggiokitchen.com/potomac-chocolate-upala-85-50g. 2019

WCVB Channel 5 Boston. Chocolate: The Bean to Bar Movement.March 13, 2017. Retrieved                 from https://www.wcvb.com/article/chocolate-the-bean-to-bar-movement/9128519

The Development of Chocolate as an Industrialized Food

Anywhere you go in the world, you can find people enjoying various brands of chocolate with a smile on their face. With chocolate being so widely consumed, nobody ever thinks about how a market was actually born from the universal enjoyment of chocolate. It originated in the Pre-Columbian times as a ritualistic treat for Mesoamericans. Chocolate was not as sweet back then, but they nonetheless added sweeteners to try to improve the taste. Nowadays, much more complex ingredients are used to obtain the sweet, rich, and creamy goodness that is chocolate. Chocolate can be found in grocery stores and homes all over the world; it’s so commonly seen that if you went to a check out line in any store and they weren’t selling chocolate bars, you might actually question the legitimacy of their business. For as long as many of us have been alive, chocolate has been bought and sold abroad but it wasn’t always so widely industrialized.

Chocolate first arrived in Spain in the early 16thcentury. It took some time to become widely accepted, as many Spaniards were initially skeptical of the foreign, bitter drink (Norton 2004). Eventually, acceptance of chocolate became widespread in Spain as the Spanish royal court began to develop a growing taste for it and certified it as an elite delicacy. From then on, all of Europe had a different respect and interest for chocolate.

Until 1828 when a technique was developed to separate cocoa butter from cacao solids, chocolate was something you could only drink. Casparus van Houten created the cocoa press method and his son, a Dutch Chemist by the name of Conraad Johannes van Houten, perfected it. In an attempt to make chocolate more soluble, Houten was able to effectively separate the cacao butter from cacao solids by adding alkaline salt. This would make it so that chocolate could be made in the home fairly easily and therefore would be more accessible to the common man. With the invention of the cocoa press method, chocolate became more than something you could just drink; people were for the first time able to eat it as a snack (Cox 1993). Chocolate as a solid bar caught the attention of the entire continent and eventually became more prevalent than its previously enjoyed liquid form. The chocolate that results from the cocoa press method is now referred to as Dutch-Process cocoa. Dutch-Process cocoa is one of the standard ingredients in most of the chocolate we consume today.

With the European chocolate industry growing rapidly throughout the 19th century, people continued to try to find new ways to optimize the taste of it and make it more marketable. In 1875, Daniel Peter and Henri Nestle invented milk chocolate by blending milk with chocolate. Milk chocolate boomed in Europe, but the growing market for chocolate was increasingly more crowded. As more and more people got into the market and tried to develop better chocolate than their competitors, the quality of chocolate inevitably improved. With inventions like the conching machine in 1879 by Rodolphe Lindt, the texture of chocolate became much smoother and was able to be made much faster, pushing further industrialization. In order to attack a new market that had never seen the type of chocolate they specialized in, Peter and Nestle brought their product to America and created Nestle’s Chocolate Company in 1905. From the invention of milk chocolate and the introduction of it to the American market sprung the industry we are most familiar with today. Major chocolate companies today would not be so profitable if it weren’t for Daniel Peter and Henri Nestle.

Since 1905, a few (and I do mean a few) other companies have also gotten in on the mega-market that the sale of chocolate has grown to produce. The top companies that make close to all of the brands of chocolate sold around the world are Nestle (who is till the biggest company), Cadbury, and Mars. These companies drive what has turned into an ever-growing market that we all are guilty of contributing to on a regular basis.

Chocolate has come a long way from the time when it was first consumed on Earth to the much more marketed chocolate we are familiar with today. It went from being a hand made commodity to being produced through a much more mechanized process and from being consumed in one particular part of the world to being consumed worldwide. Chocolate is and will always be a part of our lives, as our love for it seems that it will never fade. Hopefully this Food of the Gods, as it was once regarded (Presilla 2009), will be waiting for us in the afterlife.

Works Cited

Cox, Helen. 1993. “The Deterioration and Conservation of Chocolate from Museum Collections”. Studies in Conservation, vol. 38, no. 4.

Norton, Marcy. 2004. “Conquests of Chocolate”. OAH Magazine of History, vol. 18, no. 3.

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

Cacao as it Exists Today

Cacao Plants hanging from branches

We are a species that seeks to discover all of the wonders of this world so that we may collect and consume them of our own volition. Everyday items that are utilized such as minerals, oil, money, and food are things we collectively yearn for, and there is no limit to what will satisfy our appetite. Among these everyday items exists one that has been a part of our history for as long as we can remember. Cacao plants and what can be created with them have navigated their way into our hearts, minds and influence our appetites daily. Whether it be beans, liquids, or solid chocolate bars, we have become far more engrossed with Cacao than those who originally possessed it long ago. These Ancient civilizations, which consisted of Mesoamerican’s such as the Olmec, Maya, and Aztec’s utilized Cacao in a controlled and market fashion similar to our own. However, we are on a much different playing field than they were back then.

Cacao in Mesoamerica…

As early as 900 AD is when it is believed that the Mayans discovered the Cacao plant. Almost immediately afterwards did the plant and it’s properties become ingrained into every faucet of life during the height of Mesoamerican society. The Olmec, Maya, and Aztec’s each ensured that the Cacao which was produced, was shared with royalty before any other societal class. It is fascinating to think about how the Cacao they were producing quickly became an important part of their lifestyles. Their understanding of it and its significance in regard to their culture during this time period laid the groundwork for how we indulge in the delicacies we have today. Additionally, it was during this era that Cacao began to take different forms that we have simply grown to know as Chocolate. Chocolate beverages were of the most popular amongst rulers that had the power to obtain large portions of Cacao, and they were usually representative of one’s nobility as well as one’s wealth during extravagant parties.

Mesoamerican’s indulging in a Chocolate beverage

Aside from that, there were a number of other uses those with access to Cacao stumbled upon. Considering the scarcity amongst common folk, the beans from the Cacao plant became a form of currency. Slightly more disturbing was it’s use in ceremonies where a selected citizen was sacrificed to the Gods and consumed copious amounts of chocolate before being killed. It is safe to say that the obsession this era had with Cacao is the reason why we cannot get enough of it now. Due to how the Cacao plant was held in such high regard by those in power, as well as the way the common folk idolized it since they lacked an abundance of said delicacy at their disposal during this time period, it comes to no surprise how that influence has undoubtedly played a role in the market we have today.

Cacao Now…

So, with all that being said what does that mean for us today? In what ways were the Mesoamericans influential in the way we produce and consume our Cacao? For one, the chocolate beverage these people were so obsessed with has soared to heights no one could have imagined. Whether it be coffee, milkshakes, or hot chocolate, Cacao has evolved into something everyone craves. Coffee being the most predominant of the chocolate drinks, as it has been commercialized and sold to a market that has fallen in love with the tasty beverage. Starbucks, Hershey, Godiva, the list goes on.

These companies that practice selling Cacao in its newly fashioned state have identified what makes it so special and have capitalized on it. Firstly, the healthy abundance of Chocolate as well as how affordable it is in the United States allows citizens to consume as much of the popular product, more so than that of a noble person during the Mesoamerican era. Coupled with their ability to mass produce chocolate in multiple ways while simultaneously producing new ways to sell it, they have effectively created a system in which they can sell us cacao in any shape or form and we will still purchase it. Although we do not force individuals to consume chocolate before sacrificing one another to the Gods, it is still revered as something that everyone cherishes deeply, almost on a ritualistic level. Valentine’s Day, birthday’s, treats, snacks etc. Whatever your preference may be, chocolate is a delicacy that is near and dear to millions and for some it is considered a blessing to receive it as a gift.

What Cacao could look like in the future…

Now although Cacao (or chocolate) in this instance is an important product in circulation around the globe, some issues do arise with how it is produced and what that may look like for us in the future. As I stated earlier, Cacao has been highly influential in our market. It’s found on every corner in the U.S. as well as thriving sections of the world. Yet we are not truly indulging in a complete Cacao product. A vast majority of the companies making a profit off of chocolate are working with a product that is for the majority, made up of sugar. Compared to our Mesoamerican ancestors, we are consuming far less Cacao than we are sugar whenever we enjoy a delicious Cacao “treat.” Perhaps this is done in part to sustain the Cacao plants for a bit longer. However, the production of processed Cacao is not allowing people to experience it as the Aztecs, Maya and Olmec did. Because of this, we may reach a point in society where Cacao no longer exists in any of the “chocolate” products we consume and a vast majority would be none the wiser.

Works Cited

Garthwaite, Josie. “What We Know About the Earliest History of Chocolate.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 12 Feb. 2015, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/archaeology-chocolate-180954243/.

The History of Chocolate: The Mayans and Aztecs, http://www.godivachocolates.co.uk/the-history-of-chocolate-mayans-aztecs.html.

Cartwright, Mark. “Chocolate in Mesoamerica.” Ancient History Encyclopedia, Ancient History Encyclopedia, 14 Mar. 2019, http://www.ancient.eu/Chocolate_in_Mesoamerica/.

CacaoCoin: Cacao Beans as Currency in Mesoamerica

Motecuhzoma II

Today, people think of chocolate as a delicious dessert. However, in Ancient Mesoamerica, cacao beans had a much greater societal significance. According to Professor Martin, cacao influenced numerous facets of society: religion, culture, art, politics, and the economy. Cacao’s impact on the economy is the primary focus in this blog post. For example, cacao allowed the wealthy to distinguish themselves from the poor. According to anthropologists, the consumption of chocolate “was confined to the Aztec elite – to the royal house, to the lords and nobility, to the long-distance merchants, and to the warriors” (Coe 95). It was commonly served at the end of meal along with tobacco. The ”frothy, stimulating drink” was a common feature at many elite Mesoamerican events such as weddings (Baron 211-212). They also classified it as the “food of the gods”. In addition, the warriors consumed cacao as an energy stimulant before battle to make them feel invincible (Martin 52). Cacao quickly took over alcohol’s spot as the “new marker of social status” (Baron 211). Aztec ruler Motechuzoma II possessed 960,000,000 cacao beans (Martin 72). This incredibly large number of beans cemented his spot as the wealthiest individual in Aztec society. The high value of cacao as a beverage is directly correlated to the value of cacao beans as currency in both the Mayan and Aztec societies.

Most anthropologists acknowledge that cacao beans were one of the most prominent forms of currency in the Aztec World. However, Mayans commonly used cacao in transactions as well. Cacao became a prominent form of currency in the Mayan southern lowlands during the Postclassic period (900-1521 CE) (Baron 211). The flavorful physical properties of cacao certainly increased their value as a commodity. By drying and roasting cacao beans, one can preserve them for months before they are ground up into chocolate. The beans themselves were valued based on their freshness and plumpness. Color was also an important indicator for cacao beans. The ashy colored beans were valued higher than the red colored beans because the ashy colored signified full fermentation. Shriveled, red colored beans were the lowest valued beans. 16th century naturalist Francisco Hernandez also points out that there are four categories of cacao beans: “cuauhcacahuatl (tree cacao), mecacahuatl (string/rope cacao), xochicahuatl (flower cacao), and tlalcahuatl (earth cacao/humble cacao). (Baron 212). The smallest beans (the last few on the list) were most commonly consumed as a beverage and the rest were typically used as currency. Through 7th century murals at Calakmul, archaeologists discovered that cacao beans were commonly exchanged in marketplaces both small and large. The mural depicts individuals from different social classes buying, selling, and exchanging certain goods (maize, tobacco, jewelry, cloth, etc.) One particular image depicts a woman exchanging a bowl of chocolate for a man’s tamale dough. This archaeological excavation reveal the integral role that cacao played in the marketplace as both currency and a tradable good.

Codex Mendoza: Aztec taxes in form of cacao beans

In addition to Mayan society, the Aztec Empire had their own form of currency that relied heavily on cacao. From 1430-1531, Aztecs traded cacao beans and offered them as tribute (tax) to Tenochtitlan (Weatherford 19). Aztecs and Mayan rulers received taxes in the forms of cacao sacs. These sacs included the numerical glyph “pik” which represents 8,000 cacao beans (a typical unit of measurement for cacao tributes) (Baron 214). This unit of measurement comes from the Aztec Xiquipilli. A cacao bean’s high market value is also attributed to its common use as a tribute. This example again shows how cacao beans differentiate the wealthy from the poor. In addition to tributes, cacao beans were most frequently involved in a barter system (Weatherford 19). Traders typically used cacao to even out transactions. While cacao beans could be exchanged directly for a particular good (1 cacao bean = 5 green peppers), they were also added on at the end of trades to even out the transaction. For example, if an “Aztec wanted to exchange an iguana for a load of firewood … and if the good did not have precisely the same value, the traders used cacao to even it out” (Weatherford 19). However, cacao beans provide some of the first examples of counterfeiting practices. Individuals would take the shells of cacao beans and fill them with mud to deceive their exchange partners. Despite this disadvantage of an edible currency, Cacao is unique because it is a commodity that one can consume as well as exchange. The cacao beans can be turned into a frothy beverage or traded for an avocado. Paper money and coins do not have this advantage. This differentiation truly makes cacao beans a unique form of currency.

Example of a typical cacao transaction

In order to truly understand cacao’s value in the marketplace, it is necessary to analyze some typical transactions involving cacao beans in the Aztec Empire. Professor Martin’s lecture from February 6th perfectly outlines some of the most common exchanges. According to the Nahuatl document from 1545: a male turkey is worth 200 cacao beans, a small rabbit is worth 30, one turkey egg is worth 3 cacao beans, an avocado is worth 3 cacao beans, one large tomato is worth one cacao bean, a larval salamander (an Aztec delicacy) is worth 4 cacao beans, and fish wrapped in maize is worth 3 cacao beans (Martin 73). These are all examples of typical marketplace transactions that utilized cacao as currency. Even other non-Mesoamerican societies at the time used cacao beans in transactions. For instance. The Nicarao of Nicaragua in the 16th century exchanged 100 cacao beans for a slave and 8 to 10 cacao beans for a prostitute (Coe 58-59). While traders more frequently used cacao in exchange for other foods, textiles, or accessories; it is important to acknowledge that human services were an integral component of the 1500s marketplace. Cacao was a common commodity in the purchase of those services.

Cacao beans played an integral role in both the Aztec and Mayan societies. It was not only considered an elite beverage; it was a prominent form of currency in the Mesoamerican marketplace. With cacao beans, one could purchase a turkey egg, pay their taxes, or buy a slave. People rarely think of food as a form of currency in the modern era. However, in Mesoamerica, food, such as cacao, carried a much greater societal importance.

Works Cited

Baron, Joanne P. “Making money in Mesoamerica: Currency production and procurement in the Classic Maya financial system”. Economic Anthropology: Society for Economic Anthropology. May 10, 2018.

Coe, Sophie D. & Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. Thames and Hudson Ltd; 4thed. 2013.

Weatherford, Jack. The History of Money. Crown Business; Reprint edition. March 10, 1998.

Martin, Carla. “Mesoamerica and the ‘food of the gods'”. Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food.Lecture. February 13th, 2019

Image Citations

Charles River Editors. The Last Emperor of the Aztecs: The Life and Legacy of Montezuma. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. August 23, 2013.

Mursell, Ian. “Beanz Meanz Money”. Maya at Mexicolore. 1994.

Cornell University: Albert R. Mann Library. “When Money Grew on Trees”. Chocolate: Food of the Gods. 2007.

A Sweet Taste that Inspired a Culture and the Bitter Suffering that Created It

From the Amazon basin to the modern day, chocolate has come a long way to get to us. Chocolate as we know it today, however, is very different from what it used to be in the 16th century. Though we celebrate its sweet taste and how it positively affects our brains, not everything about chocolate is sweet, including its history:

https://ed.ted.com/lessons/the-history-of-chocolate-deanna-pucciarelli

It all started in Latin America

When Europeans arrived in the New World, they found a hundred or more cultigens – the most important beverage source being the cacao tree. The cacao tree, Theobroma cacao, originated in South America, where the Olmec were the first to turn the cacao plant into chocolate (Coe & Coe, 2013). Chocolate was consumed during rituals and used as medicine. Centuries later, the Mayans praised chocolate as the drink of the gods.

Chocolate arrives in Spain

In 1528, Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortés introduced Cacao to Spain (Coe & Coe, 2013). After the addition of sugar, the drink quickly became popular among the rich and wealthy. Chocolate was even loved by Catholic monks who drank it to aid religious practices.

Due to its rising popularity, Spain set up cacao plantations in its West Indies colonies to meet demand. As cacao drinking began to spread across Europe in the late 17th century, French, English, and Dutch plantations were also established in the West Indies and South America. As with other colonial plantations in the New World, the production in these plantations used slaves from West Africa (Mintz, 1986).

When the cocoa press was invented in 1828 by J. van Houten, it enabled the extraction of cacao powder from cacao butter, thus the first chocolate bar was created in the mid-19th century (Coe & Coe, 2013). Those developments resulted in the affordability of chocolate for the mass market, which further increased the demand for cacao.

In Africa, it was only in the late 19th century that production began on any significant scale, with the first large scale production from Portuguese plantations on the island of São Tomé & Príncipe. Despite slavery having been officially abolished in 1875, these plantations became notorious for using workers who were slaves in all but name.

Cacao and Colonialism

Back in the 15th century, when the Portuguese discovered the Azores, Madeiras, Cape Verde Islands, and São Tomé & Príncipe, they were all uninhabited. After discovery, the Portuguese soon began cultivating the islands for sugar; however, the sugar plantations required a large labor force. With the Portuguese population being too small to provide a large number of colonists, it was ultimately the slaves that filled that demand – and so began the African habitation of the islands.

Between 1888 and 1908, over 67,000 people from the African mainland were shipped to the two islands, mostly from Angola. It was the early 1900s, and Portuguese colonizers in the small country were reveling in the fact that they had turned the island into the world’s largest producer of cacao.

Angolan forced laborers working on cacao plantations on São Tomé & Príncipe (Rhodes House archive).

During the coffee boom of the 1850s the Portuguese began cultivating both crops intensely off the back of slave labor. Portuguese colonies abolished slavery in 1858, yet the laborers continued to be exploited. Many were “contracted” from the Portuguese colony of Angola where recruiters followed the old slave routes deep into the interior and the recruiting process was rumored to be forced (Nevinson, 1906). Workers were paid for their work on the islands, but wages were low and the death rates (as much as 20%) were high. Alcoholism was widespread as a result of soulless work, depression, and cheap imported Portuguese wine.

Laborers signed 5-year contracts, which were automatically renewed, and no workers ever returned to their homeland. In the early 1900s, the English challenged Portuguese policy implying that workers were not allowed to leave freely, making them slaves on the islands. Its suspicious labor practices had already made São Tomé & Príncipe one of the world’s biggest producers of cacao.

Cadbury Brothers began importing cacao beans from São Tomé and in 1901, William Cadbury heard that the island’s cacao was produced by slave labor, after coming across an advertisement for the sale of a São Tomé plantation. Included in the sale were the plantation laborers, indicating that the workers themselves were considered property. Cadburry joined with Frys, Rowntrees and the Stollwerck chocolate firm of Cologne, and together sent Dr. Joseph Burtt to investigate conditions on the islands and in Angola (Kiesow, 2017). Burtt reported that Angolan people were taken to the islands “against their will, and often under conditions of great cruelty”, and that it was almost unknown for them to return to their homeland (Higgs, 2013).

The dark and cruel reality of chocolate was, however, soon revealed to the rest of the world. In Harper’s Magazine, Nevinson (1906) described the São Tomé of 1904 as, “a hot-house climate of burning heat and torrents of rain.’ The type of conditions that, ‘kills men and makes the cocoa tree flourish.” Nevinson (2015) later said the death rates were highest among child slaves, with most dying within a few years because, “it was very difficult to convince them to live through the misery and homesickness” (Nevinson, 2015).

As Western consumers reacted with shock and disgust to those news, much of the production moved from São Tomé to the plantations of Ghana and the Ivory Coast, which did not make use of slave labor. As Ghana and the Ivory Coast had increased their cacao production to meet demand, many of the plantations were unable to sustain themselves and the once glorious plantations fell into disrepair across the islands.

Independence from Portugal finally came about in 1975, making São Tomé & Príncipe one of the last few African countries to throw off the shackles of colonial rule.

Today

São Tomé & Príncipe remains one of the world’s poorest countries. However, despite the islands’ reputation for quality cacao, one would not find chocolate for sale at the local Mercado Municipal. To associate cacao purely with pleasure would do an injustice to the island’s history. If one were to savor a rich piece of chocolate while reflecting on the trials of slavery and those who once worked on cacao fields, chocolate would surely take on a bitter taste.

The good thing is that the island nation’s cacao industry has moved on from its dark history. Organic cacao farming, today, is a sustainable type of farming, both for farmer’s incomes and for the environment. The growing demand for organic cacao (cacao beans that are not treated with synthetic fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides) has presented a whole new opportunity to São Tomé & Príncipe.

One interesting fact to note is that none of the primary crops grown by slaves, such as cacao, coffee, sugar, and tobacco, were necessary to sustain human life. Can we therefore argue, that slavery is a very early byproduct of a consumer culture that revolves around the purchase of goods that bring us pleasure but not sustenance?

References

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

Higgs, C. (2013). Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, slavery, and colonialism. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press.

Kiesow, S. (2017). Cocoa culture on São Tomé and Príncipe: The rise and fall of cocoa on the islands in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Agricultural History, 91(1), 55-77.

Mintz, S. (1986). Sweetness and power. London, UK: Penguin Books.

Nevinson, H. (1906, February). The slave-trade of to-day. Conclusion. The islands of doom. Harper’s Magazine, Retrieved from https://harpers.org/archive/1906/02/the-slave-trade-of-to-day-conclusion-the-islands-of-doom/

Nevinson, H. (2015). A modern slavery – Scholar’s choice edition. Wolcott, NY: Scholar’s Choice.

Calling out Cadbury, Chocolate ain’t so Sweet: The Chocolate Industry and Slavery

Cadbury Putting up a Front

William Cadbury brought a lot of controversy and contradiction to his beliefs about the laborers in São Tomé in the early 20th century. He expressed that he wanted to reform labor conditions in Portuguese West Africa by not working with cocoa planters from there (Satre 24). However, what Cadbury said and did were two different things. Cadbury and his comrade, Joseph Burtt created what seemed like a mission to show the public that they would not do business with corrupt purchasing of cocoa beans and would explore the life of black laborers to discover the truth regarding how they were treated (Satre 74). Cadbury proved to be slow to action and did not want to participate in a boycott to maintain good relationships with the Portuguese government even when missionaries advised him that a boycott would help bring positive change to stop slavery and the abuses of laborers (Satre 78). In this work, I argue that William Cadbury carried out a facade to uncover slavery, the cacao laborers’ working conditions, and to help the Portuguese recognize that slavery existed so they would end it. I believe Cadbury intentions were to give his company a positive reputation, so the British would continue to buy Cadbury’s cacao products and disillusion the public that the company was making amends with Portugal to stop slavery in West Africa.

Cadbury knew slavery was going on but he did nothing about it. Lowell J. Satre in Chocolate on Trail claims, “The Cadbury company had good reason to be troubled about labor conditions on the island of São Tomé. Management opposed the abuse of workers, yet in 1900, the firm had purchased over 45 percent of its cocoa beans from the island” (18-19). Satre helps us understand that the intentions and goals of the Cadbury Bros company were to remain idle with issues regarding slavery and severe labor abuses. Cadbury’s goal was not to be a humanitarian but to be a profitable capitalist and to maintain close ties with the Portuguese. He felt he needed to have cacao imported from São Tomé, while he turned a blind eye on the need to fight for Africans’ civil rights and warnings from the Anti-Slavery Society that was established in 1839 (Satre 19). Satre further asserts, “Aside from the report that Burtt produced, however, the Cadbury company had in four years accomplished nothing for slaves who produced the cocoa beans” (99). Cadbury sent Burtt to the islands to gather information about the conditions of laborers but it is clear Cadbury was not too concerned about the outcome because he proceeded to give time to the Portuguese to reform and set conditions for laborers to “be paid a minimum wage, 40 percent of which would be placed in a repatriation fund. These new regulations also furnished protection against illegal labor recruitment” (Satre 23). These reforms did not take place and Cadbury failed to reinforce better working conditions (Satre 99).

Cadbury advertisements acted as a cover and disillusionment to the public that cacao products were “pure” and innocent when really the production of cacao is exploitative of African labor. The picture entitled, “Drink Cadbury’s Cocoa” below with the couple is not only a marketing tool but is also a tactic to psychologically distract consumers from the cruelty and horrors of slavery by convincing its audience that the product gives a sense of being calm and at peace when drinking the beverage ( “Cocoa Advert with Rower 1885”). Interestingly in small print at the bottom of the ad, it says, “In the whole process of manufacture, the automatic machinery employed obviates the necessity of its being once touched by human hand” (“Cadbury’s Cocoa Advert with Rower 1885”). Cadbury here attempts to persuade his buyers that the process of obtaining (before it gets to the machines that purifies it) the cacao beans is natural and workers are involved in honest and safe labor practices to manipulate people. In reality laborers endure injustices and are falsely promised they have the option to return to their country when their contract has ended, and the workers are barely fed and physically beaten very badly.



The Slave Life

The abuses that the enslaved Africans faced was unbearable. They underwent harsh psychological and physical trauma. They were separated from their families and sold by West African chiefs or traders unknowing of the European treatment towards their people they were selling (“The Transatlantic Slave Trade”). Some of the Africans decided to kill themselves before leaving their country because they heard rumors of being eaten or were worried about an unknown fate (“The Transatlantic Slave Trade”). The slaves had to be taken to the Europeans on the coast, and they traveled for miles in chains (“The Transatlantic Slave Trade”) like the image below (ZekethePhotographer, “Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Artifact”). The West Africans were treated as property and commodities. Inadequate nutrition, diseases, sexual abuse, and punishment was extremely taxing to the captives, and many died as a result (“Life on Board Slave Ships”).

Better standards since the 1700’s on ships were implemented by the French and British in 1800 but still one in eighteen captives died during sea transportation, and this ill treatment continued far beyond into the twenty century to the enslaved people (“Life on Board Slave Ships”). The picture below illustrates a young enslaved woman being tortured by Europeans as a form of disciplining her for disobeying whatever heinous rules were implemented (“African Woman Slave Trade”). I argue that Cadbury did not care about the black laborers and he only cared about profits. He covered up injustices like shown below that were frequent in the life of slave; being whipped, chained, beaten, raped, not fed or clothed properly, and severely objectified in numerous ways. I believe Cadbury sent Burtt on the trip to Africa and have Burtt write a story to be published of his experiences to distract the Europeans from Cadbury supporting slave grown cacao. Cadbury helped reinforce slavery through his business and supported plantation owners by buying their cacao. Thanks to Cadbury and other chocolate manufacturers of his time, this perpetuated to racism, and Africans and African Americans experience inequality in the workforce, with housing, and more is still seen today.

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Reforms Finally but are They too Weak?

Outbreaks and riots took place in 1953 where several hundred African laborers were killed by Portuguese rulers (“History of São Tomé and Príncipe”). In the late 1950’s this changed and a small group São Toméans formed the Movement for the Liberation of São Tomé and Príncipe (MLSTP) (“History of São Tomé and Príncipe”). The new Portuguese regime disestablished the colonies it constructed overseas (“History of São Tomé and Príncipe”). In 1990 São Tomé became one of the first African countries to embrace democratic reform and changes to its constitution with non-violent actions (“History of São Tomé and Príncipe”).

However, child labor has had little improvement. In 2017,  São Tomé and Príncipe did little to abolish the worst forms of child labor (“Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor – Sao Tomé and Principe”). The government tried to end it by giving resources to support centers to have children stay in school (“Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor – Sao Tomé and Principe”). Regardless of the government efforts, São Tomé and Príncipe have child labor occurring in commercial sexual exploitation (“Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor – Sao Tomé and Principe”) and partake in hazardous tasks in agriculture (“Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor – Sao Tomé and Principe”). The poor resources override law enforcement agencies to enforce child labor laws (“Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor – Sao Tomé and Principe”). I further argue that regardless of some of these movements, labor abuses still occur today and we still get cacao from São Tomé with poor regulation of farmers working conditions.

Works Cited

Cruikshank, Isaac. “File:African Woman Slave Trade.jpg.” Wikimedia Commons, S.W Fores, 6 Dec. 2017, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:African_woman_slave_trade.jpg.

“File:Cadbury’s Cocoa Advert with Rower 1885.Jpg.” Wikimedia Commons, 15 Jan. 2008, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cadbury’s_Cocoa_advert_with_rower_1885.jpg.

“Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor – Sao Tomé and Principe.” United States Department of Labor, 19 Sept. 2018, http://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/sao-tome-principe.

“History of São Tomé and Príncipe.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 21 Feb. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_São_Tomé_and_Príncipe.

“Life on Board Slave Ships.” National Museums Liverpool, http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/ism/slavery/middle_passage/.

Satre, Lowell J. Chocolate on Trail Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business. Ohio University Press, 2005.

“The Transatlantic Slave Trade.” PortCities Bristol, www.discoveringbristol.org.uk/slavery/people-involved/enslaved-people/enslaved-africans/transatlantic-slave-trade/.

ZekethePhotographer. “File:Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Artifacts.png.” Wikimedia Commons, 11 Feb. 2018, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Trans-Atlantic_Slave_Trade_Artifacts.png.


Cacao and its Varieties

Cacao products come in many varieties, some of which begin with the beans themselves. While not always immediately distinct, the seeds and the trees from which they are obtained both display considerable diversity. This diversity is of considerable importance both in study of the tree and to the industry surrounding its products. Generally, a few major variants of cacao are commercially recognized. This text aims to provide an overview of the major varieties of Theobroma cacao, of their significance to the groups involved in their utilization, and on how these groups are themselves important in defining these varieties. The different varieties of cacao are often presented as definite categories, even as specific cultivars to consumers. However, the definitions of these varieties tend to be rather inexact, and often do not correspond closely if at all to botanical knowledge. Indeed, much of the categorization of cacao instead has historical, geographical and recently, economical origins. Nevertheless, differences between trees and trends in these do exist even if their naming may be inaccurate. Further, genetic diversity; whether displayed by varieties or otherwise, of cacao trees is of particular importance to cacao producers, since the diversity in a given cacao population may greatly affect the productivity and health of that population.

The cacao tree, or Theobroma cacao is an undergrowth tree which requires rather specific conditions for successful cultivation. The tree requires locations that provide it with moisture and an environment with what might be describes as rich, or messy environment, the better to accommodate the midges which pollinate the tree. Of particular note is that the cacao tree is susceptible to many afflictions, such as blights, fungi, pod rots and other pests and diseases. Thus, the cacao tree is a remarkably fickle plant, the cultivation of which presents many difficulties. As shall be further investigated below, different varieties of the plant may exhibit different degrees of resistance however; while genetic variety, more specifically, is of special importance. (Coe, The True History of Chocolate, p. 19 – 21)

Cacao cultivars and terroir in marketing. Image credit: Own work.

According to recent analysis, the genus Theobroma may be subdivided into 22 distinct species, most of which grow mainly in the Amazon basin. Theobroma cacao also seems to have originated in this area, but has, at least in part due to human activity migrated north into Mesoamerica. (S & M Coe, The True History of Chocolate, p. 24 – 25). Theobroma cacao is commonly divided into three or four main varieties, each with various subdivisions. Many of these varieties are contentious however, subject both to varying definitions and levels of recognition. Many varieties are defined by historic usage and location rather than strictly botanically, and perhaps their most important utility is as a marketing tool. (Leissle, Kristy, Cocoa, p.163)

The ancient spatial separation between South American and Mesoamerican cacao trees itself defines the main, perhaps most definite cacao varieties: the criollo variety (Theobroma cacao ssp. cacao), defined by long, heavily ridged pods is native to Mesoamerica. Criollo, or “local” variety commonly counts as the most prized and was commonly grown by the Aztecs and Mayans. While this variety is often considered to be of superior quality, it is also particularly vulnerable to disease and pests. Remarkably, this cultivar is also perhaps the only one supported by actual genetic evidence (Leissle, Kristy, Cocoa, p.165)

Forastero cacao (Theobroma cacao ssp. sphaerocarpum), defined by its round pods is native to South America. The forastero, or “foreign” variety is, though less prized, the most widely produced cacao; making for most of world production. Though its taste may be considered inferior, this variety is considered sturdier and more resistant than Criollo. Though the distinction between these varieties is one of the most common and arguably most definite, it already demonstrates how cacao is commonly labelled for political, economic or geographical, rather than botanical purposes. As hinted at by their very names, the distinction between the two originated after the conquest of Mesoamerica, when the Criollo, or local populations, which had declined along with the native inhabitants were supplemented with forastero, that is, foreign stock brought in from south America. (Leissle, Kristy, Cocoa, p.163)

Three varieties of cacao. From the left: Forastero, Trinitario, Criollo. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Insofar as they may be considered useful botanical categories, the closeness of these particular varieties is demonstrated by their having retained the ability to produce fertile hybrids: they are also commonly considered ancestral to most other varieties. A third major variety is Trinitario, which is already somewhat poorly defined as any hybrid between criollo and forastero. (S & M Coe, The True History of Chocolate, p. 26). These major varieties of cacao together make for most worldwide cacao production, with the forastero being most prominent, providing around 80 % of all cacao. In addition to these three, various other varieties of cacao may be identified, notably the nacional variety. Each of these major varieties also contains various more or less obscure sub-varieties, such as (West African) Amelonado, which are often defined mainly, even exclusively by growing locality.

Global distribution of the main cacao varieties. Blue: Criollos, Green: Forasteros, Red: Trinitarios. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Despite their limited utility for biological purposes, the actual variety in cacao is of considerable importance to the cacao industry. To the consumer, these varieties provide some insight into the origins and terroir of cacao.  Meanwhile, to the grower, these varieties are of material significance, since diversity, or lack thereof, may greatly affect the profitability of a cacao plantation. This fact is especially obvious in places where the cacao tree is not native but introduced. The cacao tree, as aforementioned, is rather susceptible to various diseases, and the lack of genetic variety commonly found in introduced populations may exacerbate such issues. This may be observed, for example, in Amelonado cacao in Ghana, introduced there from Brazil. These trees necessarily have rather less genetic variety than traditional cultivars due to the loss of genetic diversity that occurs when a new population is established from a limited selection of a parent population. The difference in genetic diversity may be readily established through comparison with older, traditional populations. This issue is particularly prominent in some parts of Ghana due to poor infrastructure and the repeated use of seeds from the same plantations. The result is unhealthy and hence unproductive trees with low yields: undesirable to any grower. (Motamayor, p. 83 – 84)

Thus, the designations of most cacao varieties are less useful as botanical categories than one might expect based on how these names tend to be used. However, while the relevance of these categories to the biologist may be limited, their wider utility as cultural and economical concepts is considerable. while the designations of cacao varieties are not generally reliable indicators of botanical properties, they are still important both as more general indicators of diversity and as a cultural and economic phenomenon.

Works Cited:

Leissle, Kristy, Cocoa, Polity Press, Cambridge, 2018

Coe, Sophie & Michael, The True History of Chocolate, Thames & Hudson, London, 2013

Motamayor, Lanaud: Molecular Analysis of the Origin and Domestication of Theobroma cacao L. Managing Plant Genetic Diversity. IPGRI 2002, https://pubag.nal.usda.gov/download/14003/PDF (Retrieved 07-03-19)

Multimedia Sources:

Tamorlan, Tres variedades de cacao; Creative Commons 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tres_variedades_de_cacao.jpg

Sémhur, Main cacao species – World distribution map – blank, Creative Commons 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Main_cacao_species_-World_distribution_map-_blank.svg

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” (Chocolatebar.com).  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 Fortune.com 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.”” (Fortune.com).”

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

 

  1. http://www.chocolatebar.com/products/dark-chocolate-with-forest-mint/
  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, womenshealthmag.co.uk/weight-loss/healthy-eating/2736/health-benefits-of-raw-cacao-over-chocolate/.
  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, fortune.com/big-chocolate-child-labor/.
  6. “Ivory Coast Cacao Farms Child Labour: Little Change.” Http://Www.bbc.com/News/World-Africa-15681986.

Cacao and Climate Change: Implications and Recommendations

At some point in our lives, we all hear Forrest Gump’s famous quote: “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” Climate change is no different. Mother Nature is currently harnessed by an increasingly volatile system that continues to alter our earth each and every day, and by failing to change our destructive ways, humans are allowing this force to perpetuate. According to NASA, average global temperature has increased by 1.7 percent since the late nineteenth century, and 16 of the 17 warmest years on record have occurred since 2001 (MacLennan). Additionally, carbon dioxide levels in the air are at the highest they have been in 650,000 years (MacLennan). Because all agricultural systems are sensitive to these changes, cacao and therefore chocolate are equally subject to adversity. Between the monstrous chocolate industry and diligent cacao farmers, countless constituents are at stake in this sensitive predicament. Given the escalating atmospheric constraints on cacao-growing regions due to the intensification of climate change, cacao farmers must carefully adapt while simultaneously seeking out responsible, innovative ways to keep the beloved cacao crop from becoming obsolete in the coming decades. 

Geographically, cacao can only grow within 20 degrees latitude both north and south of the equator, as illustrated by Figure 1 (Scott). As we learned from a course book, cacao trees flourish under strict conditions including high humidity, abundant rain, uniform temperatures, nitrogen-rich soil, and protection from the wind (Presilla 95). In short, cacao trees thrive in tropical rainforests. The vast majority of the world’s cacao is produced by smallholders, meaning those owning less than five acres of land (de Groot). Currently, there exist about two million smallholder farmers in West Africa alone, all of whom depend on cacao for their livelihoods (Schroth et al 231). Their vulnerability to climate change derives from the fact that they are predominately located in the tropics, but I strongly believe we should remain equally concerned by the various demographic, socioeconomic, and policy trends we discussed in class that hinder their capacity to adapt to change. The world’s leading producers are Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Indonesia, and research highlighted in a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicates that, under a “business as usual” scenario, those countries will experience a 3.8°F increase in temperature by 2050, which I suspect would connote a marked reduction in suitable cultivation area (Scott). 

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Figure 1. A geographical representation of the cacao belt, which spans across the equator.

Cacao will face a distinct challenge from the changing climate compared to that of many other crops. Coffee, for example, suffers direct harm from rising temperatures, but this paradigm alone won’t necessarily hinder cacao production (Jaramillo et al). Cacao cultivation areas in Malaysia, for instance, already endure a warmer climate than West Africa without any obvious negative effects (Scott). Upon briefly conversing with one of our guest lecturers after a guided tasting this semester, I learned that one of the greatest dangers to cacao arising from climate change is the increase in evapotranspiration, particularly given that higher temperatures projected for West Africa by 2050 are unlikely to be accompanied by an increase in rainfall (Scott). Evapotranspiration is the process by which water is transferred from the land to the atmosphere through both soil evaporation and plant transpiration (Handley). In other words, as higher temperatures coax more water from soil and plants, rainfall likely will not increase enough to offset the moisture loss. In order to avoid generalizing, one should note that this situation will not necessarily represent that of all cacao-growing regions; a study on a Nigerian research farm, for example, found that a combination of optimal temperature (84°F) and minimal rainfall (900 to 1000mm)—both less than the current yearly averages—would result in the best yields (Ojo et al 353). This mélange in the effects and remedies of climate change is a fantastic example of why farmers must adopt such a dynamic attitude moving forward.

As we approach 2050, rising temperatures will push the suitable cacao cultivation areas uphill. The optimal altitude for cacao cultivation in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, for example, is expected to rise from 350-800 feet to 1,500-1,600 feet above sea level (Scott). Generally, areas anticipated to show improved cultivation conditions look to be rugged, hilly terrain. But herein lies the problem: Ghana’s Atewa Range, for example, is a forest preserve where cultivation isn’t permitted, so inhabitants are left with the difficult choice of illegally gutting the forest to grow cacao in the name of global demand or preserving the natural habitat in which they live and losing their only source of income. Given that our class dedicated a substantial amount of time to discussing the already turbulent livelihoods of cacao farmers, I am troubled to see that they may soon face such an unfair quandary. One study examined nearly 300 locations in the world’s primary cacao-growing regions and found that only 10.5% showed increasing suitability for cacao production by 2050, while the remaining 89.5% showed the opposite (Scott). Figure 2 shows current suitability and projections for future conditions under a changing climate (Schroth et al 233):

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Figure 2. Maximum temperature of the warmest month under current and projected 2050 climate conditions in the West African cacao belt. The dotted area shows the extent of current cacao production as used for model calibration. The red lines show areas of cacao production.

The area depicted above is known as the West African cacao belt. Once entirely covered by the Nigerian lowland forests in the east and the Guinean lowland forests in the west, much of the area has now been converted to agriculture (Schroth et al 235). The world’s cacao industry depends largely on this belt for raw material due to the sheer volume of cacao produced as well as the abundance of high-quality bulk cacao that cannot be readily replaced by other cacao origins. As we learned in lecture, blended cacao typically goes to large industrial producers (unlike exclusive-derivation cacao, which exemplifies the traits of terroir through individual nuances), so this region is undeniably crucial to the future success of the large chocolate industry. Climate change aside, production in this region faces a wide variety of challenges, all of which we addressed in lecture: most trees are over-aged and therefore unproductive in the already small farms; low prices—until the recent price inflation—and variability make it difficult for farmers to afford costly inputs such as fertilizers; absence or insufficiency of technical assistance in most countries make maintenance difficult (Schroth et al 236). Perhaps while addressing climate change, whether internally or through foreign aid, actors should undertake these challenges alongside those directly associated with climate change itself.

Due in part to the aforementioned adversities, cacao farming has been a major driver of deforestation in West Africa, most notably in Côte d’Ivoire. Historically, cacao has been a “pioneer crop” grown after forest clearing, meaning that rather than replanting aging plantations, farmers have typically opted to migrate to the forest frontiers to establish new cacao farms. During the second half of the twentieth century, the cacao frontier moved from the drier east to the wetter southwest of the country, a migration fueled by massive immigration of prospective cacao farmers from the savannah (Ruf et al 101). From my perspective, it appears that the climate gradient was a major driver of these east-west migrations and that, by replacing forest with farmland over vast areas, cacao farmers contributed to the further drying of the climate in what appears to be a positive feedback loop. This is precisely the type of damage we as a civilization must avoid in the coming decades. In order to help facilitate a greater awareness of sustainability, governments and supply chain actors should discourage forest frontier dynamics by helping farmers adapt to environmental change through more intensive and diversified farming practices.

The question of whether water availability or maximum temperatures during the dry season will be more limiting to the survival, growth, and yield of cacao trees in a future climate is of particular importance when considering the design of climate resilient production systems. One highly efficient—and, in my opinion, the only practical—method of protecting cacao trees from high temperatures is through overhead shade from appropriately selected, spaced, and managed companion trees such as banana and plantain as seen in Figure 3 (Colina). This practice can reduce cacao leaf temperatures by up to 40°F, sequester carbon that would otherwise be lost from the soil, make cacao trees less vulnerable to pests, and provide nutrient-rich leaf litter as well as protection from wind and soil erosion (Rajab et al). With that said, adequate ventilation is also important as a complementary measure, as it helps to reduce the prevalence of fungal disease in cacao (Schroth et al 240). The general takeaway here is that farmers need to be properly trained such that they can correctly execute these methods.

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Figure 3. Young cacao plants in a nursery under shade trees in Mindanao, Philippines.

When considering shadow crops such as those pictured above, we must recognize that an expectation of severe water limitation during the dry season may complicate things. Under such conditions, there could eventually not be enough water available for both cacao and shade trees during the dry season, thereby stressing the trees and leaving farmers in a tough position. Although I feel this is an unlikely extreme, we should prepare for all possibilities. Temperature struggles aside, another mitigation strategy could be to provide cacao growers with selectively bred seeds that have superior drought resistance. Farmers could, however, be skeptical of genetically modified seeds given the stereotypically low trust between farmers and large agrochemical corporations such as Monsanto. While I am not sure how feasible this final point is given my unfamiliarity with the growing techniques behind these commodities, it may be beneficial for cacao farmers to raise animals or cultivate honey in order to spread climate risk (de Groot). In general, climate-smart agriculture—an approach that combines various sustainable methods under a climate-change umbrella—that assesses climate change-related risks and requirements of a farm and subsequently tackles those challenges using practices crafted for that particular situation is key to success in the coming decades.

In our class, we discussed industrial chocolate production as well as consumption, both practices that are generally decoupled from on-farm production. Fortunately, industrial chocolate corporations have a large incentive to help with damage control and mitigation. MARS is a fantastic example of corporate initiative: the company plans to slash carbon pollution from its products by 67 percent come mid-century (Simon). This includes reducing emissions from land use changes and agriculture, and the company has even gone a step further by offering resources to help farmers increase yields, though they don’t disclose any specifics (Simon). The five global titans of chocolate—Ferrero, Cadbury, Hershey, Nestle, and Mars—should work together with consumers and defy the ugly “Big Sugar” stereotype considering we all share a common enemy: climate change. In terms of consumers themselves, our research from class suggests that people should seek out responsible, sustainable companies that give fair treatment to farmers. Whole Foods and other specialty stores, for example, boast a great selection of fair trade and organic bars such as Taza, Chuao, and Endangered Species. Consumers who have already caught wind of the possible “cacao crisis” are understandably uneasy, but they’ll be happy to know that research suggests climate change will not have an effect on the taste of cacao—that is, assuming the crop isn’t wiped out entirely (Sukha et al 255). For further information, videos such as the following can help to spell things out in a more informative and empowering way:

Realistically, we simply have no way of accurately predicting what the future climate will look like. With that said, the cacao belt appears to have a strong differentiation of climate vulnerability across its latitudinal axis, with the most susceptible areas near the forest-savanna transition in eastern Côte d’Ivoire and Nigeria, and the least vulnerable areas in the southern parts of Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, and Cameroon. Farmers will face the challenging task of controlling as many factors as possible in a progressively erratic world, so I recommend they look towards specialized companies such as The Climate Corporation—a digital agriculture company that examines weather, soil, and field data to help farmers determine potential yield-limiting factors on their fields—while employing the many protective measures mentioned above. Moving forward will require a team effort that ranges across the chocolate production and consumption chains, but because most changes in climatic suitability are predicted to take place over a time period of nearly 40 years, we have a full generation of cacao trees and farmers to adapt.

So, who will win the fight: climate or chocolate? Let’s not leave it to chance.

 

Works Cited: 

Anga, Jean-Marc. “International Cacao Organization.” The International Cacao Organization; Cacao Producing and Cacao Consuming Countries, ICCO, May 2018.

Bunn, Christian, and Mark Lundy. “Bittersweet Chocolate: The Climate Change Impacts on Cacao Production in Ghana.” CGIAR Research Program, 2015.

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd ed., vol. 1, Thames & Hudson, 2013.

Colina, Antonio. “Cacao Developemnt in Davao Region.” Davao Integrated Development Program, 2014.

de Groot, Han. “Preparing Cacao Farmers for Climate Change.” Rainforest Alliance, EarthShare, 20 Sept. 2017.

Handley, Liam. “The Effects of Climate Change on the Reproductive Development of Theobroma Cacao.” ProQuest, vol. 1, no. 1, 2016.

Jaramillo, Juliana, and Eric Muchugu. “Some Like It Hot: The Influence and Implications of Climate Change on Coffee Berry Borer (Hypothenemus Hampei) and Coffee Production in East Africa.” PLoS ONE, vol. 6, no. 9, 14 Sept. 2011.

MacLennan, David W. “Our Changing Climate.” Our Changing Climate: Supporting Farmers to be Resilient in the Face of Changing Weather Patterns, Cargill, 2018.

Morton, J. F. “The Impact of Climate Change on Smallholder and Subsistence Agriculture.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 104, no. 50, 11 Dec. 2007, pp. 19680–19685.

Ojo, A.D., and I. Sadiq. “Effect of Climate Change on Cacao Yield: a Case of Cacao Research Institute (CRIN) Farm, Oluyole Local Government Ibadan Oyo State.” CABI , vol. 12, no. 1, 2010, pp. 350–358. CAB Direct.

Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate. 2nd ed., vol. 1, Ten Speed Press, 2009.

Rajab, Yasmin Abou, and Christoph Leuschner. “Cacao Cultivation under Diverse Shade Tree Cover Allows High Carbon Storage and Sequestration without Yield Losses.” PLoS ONE, vol. 11, no. 2, 29 Feb. 2016.

Ruf, François, et al. “Climate Change, Cacao Migrations and Deforestation in West Africa: What Does the Past Tell us about the Future?” Sustainability Science, vol. 10, no. 1, 18 Nov. 2014, pp. 101–111.

Schroth, Götz, and Christian Bunn. “Vulnerability to Climate Change of Cacao in West Africa: Patterns, Opportunities and Limits to Adaptation.” Science of The Total Environment, vol. 556, 15 June 2016, pp. 231–241. ELSEVIER.

Scott, Michon. “Climate and Chocolate .” Climate.gov, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 10 Feb. 2016.

Simon, Rosie. “Climate Change Could Hurt Chocolate Production.” Yale Climate Connections, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, 19 Oct. 2017.

Stroman, Lee. “Rethinking the Cacao Supply Chain.” AgThentic, Medium Corporation, 16 July 2017.

Sukha, D.a., and D.r. Butler. “The Impact Of Processing Location And Growing Environment On Flavor In Cacao (Theobroma Cacao L.); Implications For ‘Terroir’ and Certification.” Acta Horticulture, no. 1047, 2014, pp. 255–262. ISHS.