In the heart of Harvard Square, is Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe, there is something for everyone and every occasion, the chocolate connoisseur, the gourmet chef, the wine lover and more. First opening in 1950, Cardullo’s provides an extensive collection of coffees, teas, chocolate, wines, champagnes, and other hard to find food items in Harvard Square . The best part of this store is the variety of the chocolate collection, with chocolate from France, Belgium, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Italy, German, Mexico, etc. With such a vast selection it was difficult to chose simply one or two to use to a chocolate tasting with friends so for the testing six bars were chosen. The theme for the chocolate tasting was comparing and contrasting the different countries as well as the percentage of cocoa in the bar. This essay aims to address the certifications each bar has and the historical and social issues related to these bars. This essay will also address how ethically sourced products, fair wages, and labor practices impacted the production of the bar.
Types of chocolate chosen:
There are six bars from four different companies: Cote d’or Lait-Melk (milk chocolate) produced in Belgium with Cacao beans from Ghana, Valrhona Blond Dulcey (32% Beurre de Cacao) white chocolate produced in France with it’s Cacao beans from Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, Taza Chocolate Stone Ground: one is 80% dark chocolate from the Dominican Republic, the other is 84% dark chocolate from Haiti. The last two bars are from Antidote one of the bars is 84% dark chocolate with Cacao nibs, the other is 100% raw cacao. One of the interesting comparisons between these six bars is none are from the same country, represented is Belgium, France, Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Ecuador respectively. Additionally, one of the bars, Valrhona is white chocolate meaning there is no Cacao beans, however, there is 32% cocoa butter in the bar. Of all six bars, four are labeled dark chocolate due to the high percentage 80% or higher of Cacao in the bar and one milk chocolate bar was included so the tasters wouldn’t completely hate the tasting!
About the companies of the chocolate bars:
There are four different companies represented in this taste testing: Cote d’Or, Valrhona, Taza Chocolate, and Antidote Chocolate. Briefly here is a little background on each:
This company was founded in 1883 by Charles Neuhaus a chocolate manufacturer who used the name Côte d’Or referring to the old name of contemporary Ghana, the source of many of the cacao beans used in chocolate manufacturing . This is a belgian producing chocolate company that is a subsidiary of Mondelez International. On their website they write “The secret of this so recognizable taste is based on a special focus on four key phases: selection and mixing of beans, roasting, ripening and conching.” . Claiming they roast their beans at a lower than average temperature so the cocoa bean can retain their aroma better. The grains obtained after roasting are extremely fine about 15 microns on average against 30 microns which is the general number, this ensures a more refined taste . Lastly this chocolate is connected to chocolate at an above average temperature for higher quality. Getting rid of undesirable elements such as natural acids of the cocoa beans, are extracted to give the bar it’s aroma. This will be interesting to see if the tasters will be able to tell the difference and effort put into the bar by this company.
Valrhona is a french premium chocolate manufacturer based in the small of Tain-l’Hermitage in Hermitage, a wine-growing district near Lyon. It is now a subsidiary of Savencia Fromage & Dairy. The company was founded in 1922 by a French pastry chef, Albéric Guironnet, from the Rhône valley and has five subsidiaries and 60 local distributors across the globe . It is one of the leading producers of gastronomic chocolate in the world. The company also maintains the École du Grand Chocolat, a school for professional chefs with a focus on chocolate-based dishes and pastries. Valrhona focuses mainly on high-grade luxury chocolate marketed for commercial use by chefs as well as for private consumption. The product line includes chocolate confectionery, plain and flavored chocolate bars and bulk chocolate in bars or pellets. Valrhona produces vintage chocolate made from beans of a single year’s harvest from a specific plantation, primarily the Grand Crus which is grown in South America, Oceania and the Caribbean. Here is the video explaining how Valrhona produces their chocolate, they don’t explain the process the same way the other companies do it is more of a broad overview of the bean to bar process .
Taza Chocolate was founded by Alex Whitmore, who tried stone ground chocolate while traveling in Oaxaca, Mexico. Inspired by the rustic intensity that he decided to create a chocolate factory back home in Somerville, MA. Alex apprenticed under a molinero in Oaxaca to learn how to hand-carve granite mill stones to make a new kind of American chocolate that is simply crafted, but seriously good . They stone grind organic cacao beans into perfectly unrefined, minimally processed chocolate with bold flavor and texture, unlike anything you have ever tasted. In 2005, Alex officially launched Taza with his wife, Kathleen Fulton, who is Taza’s Chief Design Officer and designed all of the packaging.
Lastly is Antidote, founded in July 2010 by Red Thalhammer, created for those who love dark chocolate but haven’t found options that are exciting enough for their jaded palates, Antidote Serious Chocolate not only satisfies but exceeds your expectations for what chocolate can be . They start with potent intensity of single source raw roasted Arriba Nacional beans from Ecuador and add a jolt of flavor from actual bits and chunks of fruits and herbs. This company is different from the others, they add little to no added sugar and preserving as many nutrients as possible of the cacao in the process. This company sources their cacao beans from Ecuador, as well as their fruits and spices ranging from coffee, to mango and juniper berries. This is a bar one would typically see in a Whole Foods or other upscale shops that sell organic products. The testers thought this chocolate bar had the nicest packaging!
Overall, there was no one bar that was favored more than the other, there were certain aspects of each bar that made the likeability they would buy the chocolate bar less likely, for example, several tasters said “I like a smooth chocolate but the first two are too sweet. I like the texture of the 100% it’s just too bitter.” “Cacao nibs ruined the bar, the style was not as good, rougher particles.” When asked how much they thought the bars purchased cost they guessed they increased in expense the further you go along, stone ground as the most expensive. They also concluded price increases with the higher percentage of cacao in the bar. The tasters we’re correct on the pricing the most expensive bar was the 100% Raw Cacao bar by Antidote. When asked how much they would pay for one of these bars the answers ranged from $5-$12 with everyone agreeing they would spend more on a bottle of wine than on chocolate. The group opinion seemed to be buy better chocolate next time!
Social and Historical issues particularly Fair Trade vs Direct Trade:
In 2001 two United States Senators Eliot Engel and Tom Harkin in response to a documentary and multiple articles in 2000 and 2001 reporting widespread child slavery and child trafficking in the production of cocoa, proposed the Harkin–Engel Protocol. It is an international agreement aimed at ending the worst forms of child labor (according to the International Labour Organization’s Convention 182) and forced labor (according to ILO Convention 29)  in the production of cocoa, the main ingredient in chocolate. Signed in September of 2001, companies have failed to address the problem and the industry’s pledge to reduce child labor in the Ivory Coast and Ghana by 70% has not been met as of 2015, the deadline was extended to next year 2020 and will likely need to be extended again . Companies are not motivated to eradicating this form of labor because it’s cheap, but supporting companies that have signed the Harkin-Engel Protocol as well as taken actions to ensure the bar is under Direct Trade is the first step consumers can take to help the industry. The companies used in this taste test are companies who aim to end child labor practices in all parts of the supply chain by using direct trade agreements. Direct trade, is where the middle-man is eliminated and producers or manufacturers have personal relationships with the people at all parts of the supply chain to ensure not only that child labor is not part of it but also, everyone has fair labor rights. One of the other certifications many companies have is Fair Trade, the main difference between fair trade and direct trade is that they have different end goals. Fair trade was built to improve the lives of farmers, while direct trade places their focus on the quality of their product in this case Cacao .
After searching the Cote d’Or website there is no clear answer if they are a Fair Trade or Direct Trade Certified. However, Cote d’Or since 2005, worked with Rainforest Alliance to the cocoa farmers. The aim of this partnership is first of all to increase the rentability of the crop, then to preserve the ecosystem on the farmlands and to enhance the life conditions of the workers and their families . Indeed, this non-governmental organization provides us a training which allows us to increase their productivity and their incomes. The only other information provided by the company website was their Cocoa Life initiative which is overseen by Mondelez International.
Launched in 2012, Cocoa Life is investing $400 million USD by 2022 to empower at least 200,000 cocoa farmers and reach one million community members . This effort builds on the Cadbury Cocoa Partnership, which was founded in Ghana in 2008, as part of their commitment to ensure a sustainable future for chocolate. Cocoa Life helps communities thrive in six key cocoa-growing origins―Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Indonesia, India, the Dominican Republic and Brazil . Mondelez International believes they are helping farmers in these regions gain knowledge and skills to improve their livelihoods, strengthen their communities and inspire the next generation of cocoa farmers.
As seen on the Cocoa Life website here are the main goals:
- Increase transparency, by connecting consumers to cocoa growers
- Promote self-sufficiency by building knowledge and skills within cocoa communities
- Make greater impact through transformative partnerships
- Respect human rights, focusing on child rights and promoting women’s empowerment
- Increase business advantage by ensuring a sustainable supply of cocoa for Mondelēz International’s much loved brands
Both Cote d’Or and Mondelez international are taking steps to ensure there are no problems in the supply chain in terms of abuse of labor (including any form of child labor), fair wages, and creating a system where the farmers can move up in the supply chain.
Valrhona pursues a policy of direct trade with farmers in accordance with the principles of Fair Trade. Valrhona does everything in its power to ensure that the conditions in which their cacao is grown allow planters and their families to develop a long-term business strategy . They take particular care to ensure no children work in the production of our cacao, that there is no forced labor and that all national and international labor regulations are respected. Over the past year, companies have increasingly stepped up to tackle climate change and rising social inequality. Valrhona is firmly part of this movement. Through their four sustainable commitments, which includes: Cacao, the environment, gastronomy, and working together to build a better world. Valrhona builds long-term relationships with our cocoa producers and support cocoa producing communities, ecodesign our products, reduce our carbon footprint and develop the young gastronomy talents . Out of the four companies, Valrhona is one that is taking the most initiative in other aspects of the Cacao industry, with projects aimed at promoting sustainability and commitment to the environment. It is an active initiative to promote sustainable cacao farming among our partner cacao growers . This company is a founding member of the Cacao Forest program, which started in 2015 to develop new agroforestry practices that both protect the environment and increase income for growers. The first agroforestry projects were carried out in the Dominican Republic on plantations where cacao trees were grown alongside other trees and crops. Growing fruits and vegetables at the same time enabled growers to diversify their income, which protected them from the inherent uncertainties of cacao production.
Antidote prioritizes quality and flavor over certification allowing them to have a direct relationship with their Ecuadorian partners as well as pay them fair wages that are above the market rate. On their website Antidote writes, “We are practicing direct trade with all cacao beans and some other ingredients cutting out any middleman. We are happy to collaborate with small and bigger companies and providers, and in turn, increase support for their local community as a whole through our bean to bar manufacturing in Ecuador.” . It’s clear Antidote is taking steps to make a bean to bar process without abusive labor practices with fair wages. Antidote argues for Direct Trade standards because working with certified organic farms would limit us in getting the best quality cacao. Their partnership and close collaboration with their cacao partners for unique processes used to achieve desired flavor profiles for each of their cacao percentages. One of the bars used is 100% raw chocolate, for this Antidote has a special protocol in place with farmers that requires a different process starting at the farm in order to make the most minimally processed chocolate they can for the raw bars. Producing our chocolate in the country of cacao allows access not only to the beans itself but to other lush ingredients right from the source – from coffee to mango and ginger. It also fosters direct relationships with suppliers and farmers whom we collaborate with to fine-tune every step of the process. Yet another company that does not use Fair Trade but Direct Trade.
Taza Chocolate like the other companies mentioned above practices Direct Trade, on their website they write “We said no to predatory middlemen and abusive labor practices. We created the chocolate industry’s first third-party certified Direct Trade cacao sourcing program, to ensure quality and transparency for all. We have real, face-to-face relationships with growers who respect the environment and fair labor practices. They provide us with the best organic cacao, and we pay them prices significantly higher than Fair Trade. In fact, you can see exactly what we pay them, in our groundbreaking Annual Cacao Sourcing Transparency Reports.” . The reports starting from 2011 to present day how much the company pays per metric ton that year. In the 2018 report while looking at the bar sourced from Haiti the report shows the demographic of farmers, country, amount of cacao exported, total customer base, awards won, amount purchased and for how much.
On their website Taza notes when they first published the 2012 transparency report, sharing our sourcing partner relationships and the cacao prices we paid them struck many in the secretive chocolate industry as unusual at best and bad for business at worst. The CEO and Founder, Alex wrote at the time: “We are committed to being connected to our cacao producers, and we want our customers to be as well.” . Consumers appreciated Taza’s transparency and other companies noticed. Since then, fellow chocolate makers including Dandelion Chocolate and Askinosie Chocolate have produced their own reports, reinforcing transparency as a core tenet of Direct Trade. Other businesses have gone a step further and adopted not only the Transparency Report but also our larger Direct Trade program. Taza Chocolate is one of the few companies taking concrete steps and allowing consumers to understand how and why the bars are produced. None of the other companies used in this tasting were as transparent as Taza.
All four of these companies engage in direct trade rather than fair trade, believing in having a close personal relationship with everyone involved in the supply chain will ensure no labor abuses or rights are infringed upon. Throughout this course the importance of finding a bar that not only uses ethical labor practices but also tastes good appears to be a challenge. For those willing to spend a little extra money though on these $8 to $10 bars are spending money towards not only a higher quality chocolate bar but also on companies that are conscious about the issues in production and are working to fix them. The best bar to purchase however seems to be Taza Chocolate, not only are they showing consumers what is going on in each country where they export cacao from, they also engage in Direct Trade, often paying farmers more than market price.
Larger societal and historical issues presented:
In the beginning of this class, the lectures and literature analyzed how cacao became popular a drink once meant only for the elites in Europe is now mass produced and available to the public . In The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe Carla Martin and Kathryn Sampeck write “ With the industrialization of chocolate, it was no longer a commodity for the the elite, expensive or consumed primarily as a drink but rather an inexpensive cocoa powder to be drunk or low-cacao-content chocolate bar to be consumed as a food by elite and non-elite alike” ( 49).  The inaccessibility of chocolate disappeared after the industrial revolution. Today consumers can go to any store and find chocolate for sale typically, in American one’s socioeconomic status would not prevent them from being able to buy a chocolate bar. Inside Cardullo’s the cheapest bar sold was $3.29 and it was a Snickers bar nothing fancy but certainly nothing when compared to the other chocolate offered in the store for upwards of $30 for six samples of “mesoamerica chocolate” with “authentic flavors.” The average price of the six bars used in the testing was $8 now for a college student to spend that much on a chocolate bar seems like a big ask when they could get at least four bags of hershey kisses for the same price. What makes these bars so enticing though is they are made by smaller boutique chocolate companies As noted in Kristy Leissle book Cocoa many of these products are made in far smaller quantities and thus do not benefit from the economies of scale .
Most of these bars are made via a “single batch” method meaning no two bars would taste the exact same. However, just because a bar cost more than a Hershey Chocolate bar does not mean it has a high quality or better productions. Leissle argues, “certainly, some craft makers do pay premium prices for beans, but it is a mistake to assume that if a bar costs $10, nine of those must be going to a farmer. Chances are they are not.” . Not all companies are actively correcting abusive labor practice or unfair wages given to workers. Consumers expect chocolate to be relatively cheap even through the production is very labor intensive. After the taste test I asked my friends if they enjoyed the chocolate more than Hershey, a few said yes and one said no. But when I asked how much they would be willing to pay for it the answer ranged from $5 to $12 when asked if they would spend more on a bottle of wine or even a burrito from any of Harvard’s local mexican restaurants the answer was a resounding yes.
As the taste test concluded, there was no universal “favorite” chocolate bar it seemed that all the tasters were divided on the “best” bar however all agreed they would prefer a better chocolate selection for the next tasting! The tasting allowed my friends to see the different types of chocolates available for consumers that use fair labor practice, or interest in environmental sustainability in terms of recommending a bar for the consumer to purchase I would recommend the Taza Chocolate bar. The company has taken significant steps to show consumers and other companies how to engage in Direct Trade. After taking this class I was pleased and informed to learn about the variety of chocolates available, the different types of cacao beans and how companies participated actively towards transparency in the process of chocolate production from how much they pay farmers for the Cacao to how much it is sold.
- “C182 – Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182),” Convention C182 – Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182), June 19, 1999, , accessed May 03, 2019, https://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=NORMLEXPUB:12100:0::NO::P12100_INSTRUMENT_ID,P12100_LANG_CODE:312327,en.
- “C029 – Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29),” Convention C029 – Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), , accessed May 03, 2019, https://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=1000:12100:::NO:12100:P12100_INSTRUMENT_ID:312174.
- “Africa: Child Labor in Cocoa Fields/ Harkin-Engel Protocol,” Africa: Child Labor in Cocoa Fields/ Harkin-Engel Protocol, July 08, 2011, , accessed May 03, 2019, http://www.ilo.org/washington/areas/elimination-of-the-worst-forms-of-child-labor/WCMS_159486/lang–en/index.htm.
- “What Is Fair Trade Coffee?” WebstaurantStore, May 28, 2018, , accessed May 03, 2019, https://www.webstaurantstore.com/article/103/fair-trade-coffee.html.
- Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe, The True History of Chocolate (New York: Thames & Hudson, 2013).
- Carla D. Martin and Kathryn E. Sampeck, “The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe,” Socio.hu, no. Special Issue 3 (2016): , doi:10.18030/socio.hu.2015en.37.
- Kristy Leissle, Cocoa (Medford, MA: Polity Press, 2018), 101.
“Africa: Child Labor in Cocoa Fields/ Harkin-Engel Protocol.” Africa: Child Labor in Cocoa Fields/ Harkin-Engel Protocol. July 08, 2011. Accessed May 03, 2019. http://www.ilo.org/washington/areas/elimination-of-the-worst-forms-of-child-labor/WCMS_159486/lang–en/index.htm.
“C029 – Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29).” Convention C029 – Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29). Accessed May 03, 2019. https://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=1000:12100:::NO:12100:P12100_INSTRUMENT_ID:312174.
“C182 – Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182).” Convention C182 – Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182). June 19, 1999. Accessed May 03, 2019. https://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=NORMLEXPUB:12100:0::NO::P12100_INSTRUMENT_ID,P12100_LANG_CODE:312327,en.
Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2013.
Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Medford, MA: Polity Press, 2018.
Martin, Carla D., and Kathryn E. Sampeck. “The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe.” Socio.hu, no. Special Issue 3 (2016): 37-60. doi:10.18030/socio.hu.2015en.37.
“ILO Welcomes New Foundation to Eliminate Abusive Child and Forced Labour Practices in Cocoa Farming.” Welcomes New Foundation to Eliminate Abusive Child and Forced Labour Practices in Cocoa Farming. July 01, 2002. Accessed May 03, 2019. https://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_007801/lang–en/index.html.
“What Is Fair Trade Coffee?” WebstaurantStore. May 28, 2018. Accessed May 03, 2019. https://www.webstaurantstore.com/article/103/fair-trade-coffee.html.