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Chocolate and Class in the Twenty-First Century: An Analysis and Tasting/Conversation

From its origins, chocolate has been linked to notions of class, and, in particular, chocolate has been associated with upper class culture. Elites, from Mesoamerica to Baroque Europe, have been principal consumers of chocolate, devoted to perfecting the preparation and consumption of the commodity. For example, the European nobility built a complex material and social culture around chocolate, crafting specialized objects and recipes to enhance the quality and presentation of chocolate. (Coe and Coe, 125) However, as the historiography contends, from the late nineteenth to early twentieth century, with mass production technologies and the rise of companies such as Hershey’s and Mars, chocolate was transformed from an elite privilege to a cheap commodity consumed widely throughout society, and sold at every corner store in America and throughout much of the world.

In my project, I seek to examine the extent to which chocolate remains linked to class, and re-evaluate the narrative that chocolate was transformed from an elite privilege into a universally consumed staple food, and today exists simply as a symbol of our universal sweet tooth. While the industrialization of food enabled chocolate to be consumed by the whole of society, I contend that recent trends in the chocolate industry, specifically the growth in fine chocolate producers and the increasing differentiations between different brands and products, particularly the new emphasis on Fair Trade, organic, single origin, and artisan, have cemented distinctions in food consumption as indicators of class and identity. By further analyzing the contemporary link between chocolate and class, we can learn more about food as a social differentiator, and individual consumption preferences.

The industrialization of food, and particularly the developments of preservation, mechanization, retailing and transportation, were central to democratizing access to food (Goody). Indeed, these innovations and “culinary modernism” generally  “has provided…the food of the elite at a price everyone could afford” (Laudan, 40).  However, the growing distinctions between different chocolate producers and types of chocolate, as I explored with a tasting and interviews with Harvard students, indicate the extent to which chocolate functions as a differentiator of class and consumers’ preferences for particular chocolates, show social identity.

“Taste has come to play a role in defining social ranking and identity… Taste as an aesthetic has become a sign of privilege” – Julie Guthman, Fast Food/Organic Food: Reflexive Tastes and the Making of “Yuppie Chow,” p. 497

Pierre Bordieu, French sociologist, anthropologist and author of Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, contended that “cultural consumption are predisposed, consciously and deliberately or not, to fulfill a social function of legitimating social differences” (Bordieu, 7). In this vein of thought, Julie Guthman argues that the growth of the organic industry was driven by “gentrification and the class differentiation that necessarily entailed” (Guthman, 497). The growth of the artisan chocolate industry, including organic chocolate, has been driven by similar factors, as producers recognize the opportunity to earn a devoted customer base by catering to an upper-class clientele who are inclined to consume distinctly “high-end” foods that separate them from, as one survey/tasting participant put it, “the Hershey’s consuming public.” For American producers, the craft business can be lucrative and satisfying, and allow them to compete in the international economy as they turn to gourmet shops, specialty stores, and community gatherings to target the bourgeois market and capitalize on the eagerness of more affluent Americans to buy specialized food (Eber, 155).

As Jim Eber notes in Raising the Bar: the Future of Fine Chocolate, there has been a recent explosion in the number of small manufacturers and chocolatiers (Eber, 144) and at the time of the book’s publication (2012), nearly fifty American fine flavor chocolate brands had been established in the past seven years (Eber, 155). Consumers are buying more fine cacao; premium chocolate accounted for $2.9 billion of the $20 billion in US chocolate sales in 2013, with an expected annual growth of 10% (Eber, 167). Author and philosopher Carolyn Korsmeyer argues in Making Sense of Taste: Food and Philosophy that “the pursuit of taste for pleasure alone…seems a frivolous pursuit permitted only to a leisured few” (Korsmeyer, 1). Bordieu, too, argues that it is uniquely the “upper classes, who are more interested in treating food as an art form” (Korsmeyer, 89). The fine chocolate market is driven by the keenness of the wealthiest consumers to “indulge” in a distinctly gourmet treat, and one that is healthier from its mass-market, chemical-filled alternatives.

“Food has become the premier marker of social distinctions, that is to say — social class” – Adam Drewnowski, What Food Says About Class in America

To look further into this issue of chocolate preferences as related to social class and lifestyle, I conducted individual sampling/tastings with twenty Harvard College students. I selected six chocolate bars, and presented all six to each person that I spoke to, carefully explaining the details of each bar, before asking each student to answer a few questions. I asked the students to consider: 1) Are all of these chocolates appealing to you? 2) Which of these chocolates is most appealing to you and why? 3) Which of these chocolates is least appealing to you and why? 4) When choosing a chocolate to consume, what factors determine your preference? before sampling. Students were given the option to sample all six chocolate, but many declined to taste all. Here is a list of the chocolates I used, and the elements about each that I pointed out or read:

  • Hershey’s Milk Chocolate: Purchased at CVS, note the large company logo emblazoned across the front.
  • Divine Dark Chocolate with Mint: Fair Trade label, Purchased at Cardullo’s,“Cocoa, vanilla, and sugar in chocolate: traded in compliance with Fairtrade Standards, total 94% of the product’s ingredients,” “Divine chocolate is made with the finest quality Fairtrade cocoa beans from Kuapa Kokoo, a co-operative of small-holder farmers in Ghana. The cocoa is grown in the shade of the tropical rainforest, and slowly fermented and dried in the sun by the farmers, who take great pride in the chocolate company they co-own.”
  • Mast Goat Milk Chocolate: Purchased at Cardullo’s,“Goat Milk Chocolate: Made in New York,” “60% Cacao, Cane Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Goat Milk Powder”
  • Taza 70% Dark Stone Ground Organic Chocolate: Purchased at Cardullo’s,USDA Organic label, Taza Direct Trade Certified Cacao label, Non GMO Project Verified label, Certified Gluten-Free label, Dairy Free, Soy Free, Vegan Label, “Dominican Republic Single Origin,” “Organic,” “We keep the bean in the bar. We make stone ground, organic chocolate, Cacao is so complex in flavor that we want to let it shout loud and proud. That is why we do less to bring you more. We stone grind cacao beans into perfectly unrefined, minimally processed chocolate with bold flavor and texture, unlike anything you have ever tasted.”
  • Dolfin 38% Cacao: Purchased at Cardullo’s, “Made in Belgium,” “The Art of Blending, Natural & Tasty, Tradition & Quality,”
  • Dove Dark Chocolate: Purchased at CVS, Rainforest Alliance Certified Cocoa label, “Our special patented and proprietary Cocoapro process helps retain much of the naturally occurring cocoa flavanols.”

Fast food and organic/slow food are posed as class binaries (Guthman, 506). Likewise, as articulated through readings and demonstrated by my tastings and conversations with Harvard students, mass-market chocolates, such as Hershey’s and Dove, are perceived in opposition to “fine chocolate.” While the Harvard students I spoke with were not necessarily clear about the specific differences between different types of chocolate, they unanimously preferred the more expensive Mast, Divine, Dolfin, and Taza bars — I did not disclose exact price to my student subjects, although the different presentations of the bars serve as an indication of price —  to the CVS-distributed Hershey’s and Dove varieties. When discussing the difference between these two groups, in relation to the chocolates we tasted, students used descriptors like “organic,” “better quality,” “artisanal,” “healthier,” “better for the environment and the world,” and “fair trade” to articulate why they preferred the above. “I prefer chocolate with a high quality reputation, whatever that means,” one student remarked when asked about his consumption preferences. “If someone offered me Hershey’s for free, like you are doing right now, I would never take it,” another added.

Most students selected their preferred chocolate on the basis of packaging, labeling, and/or percentage of cacao. Commentary included: “Either the Dolfin or Mast chocolate. Cute wrappers,” “I definitely prefer the pink one because it looks the best from the packaging,” and “I think I will like the Mast chocolate because the design is simplistic and modern.”

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Student holds up her preferred chocolates, selected on the basis that they “seem the most natural.”

Angelo Agostoni, President of Italian chocolate producer ICAM, notes a recent “purist trend,” in which consumers have a preference for a “single origin, a bean type or a percentage of cacao” (Eber, 161). Many participants that I spoke to claimed that the main, or only, factor they considered when purchasing or consuming chocolate was the percentage of cacao. “I like to buy dark chocolate, at least 60 percent cacao,” one remarked. Participants did not seem as concerned with the origin of the cacao. “Other than the percentage, I don’t care about specific factors of the chocolate, like what country it comes from,” said another.

Curtis Vreeland of Vreeland & Associates, confectionary industry leader in market research and analysis, notes that premium chocolate is considered to be “chocolate selling for greater than $8.00 a pound… qualitative factors: better quality ingredients, better execution, upscale packaging etc” (Eber, 168). Are these distinctions significant beyond the price differential and their appeal to the high-end consumer? While fine cacao or fine chocolate is indeed sold at a higher price based on perceived quality (Martin, “Popular sweet tooths or scandal”),  as we discussed in lecture, Fairtrade, Direct Trade, and organic certifications do not necessarily indicate a higher quality product. During my chocolate tasting, a participant recognized that her partiality for so-called natural or healthier products was likely grounded in rhetorical appeal, rather than objective quality distinction. After expressing her preference for the Taza bar, she noted the effectiveness of the slogan “Stone ground chocolate.” “Stone ground chocolate makes me think that the Taza chocolate is natural and artisanal, even though for all I know, all chocolate could be stone ground, or the stone grinding could have absolutely no effect on the taste of the chocolate,” she admitted.

As the commentary of my sample population of the Harvard student body indicates, the presentation of chocolate, including the retail channel, brand name, package design, information included on the packaging, phrasing of the information, and any included labels signal to the consumer whether or not the chocolate bar is one that they would want to consume, without any awareness of the taste of the actual product, or, in fact, perhaps despite the taste. A participant, who initially expressed her preference for the Divine bar, remarked that although she had not tried the brand before, “I like the Fair Trade aspect and not all the processed junk in it.” Upon sampling the Divine chocolate, she did not like the taste of the mint as much as she expected. However, she still asserted that she would prefer to eat the Divine bar over the Hershey’s bar, despite the fact that she preferred the taste of the Hershey’s. “I don’t want to eat a chocolate that I can’t imagine being sold at Whole Foods, such as Hershey’s. And even if I prefer the taste, I also assume that there are a ton of unhealthy chemicals that I don’t want to put in my body.” One student cited the relative difficulty of reading the list of ingredients in a Hershey’s bar as a concern: “You have to really fold back the flap and open the wrapper to read the list.”

For higher-income, highly educated consumers concerned with the consumption of socially conscious, healthy, or natural products, of which I will classify the population of Harvard students that I sampled as generally falling under, presentation and labeling are paramount. However, according to fine flavor industry experts, “up to 90% of what you read on the average chocolate package is “marketing” (or “lies” or “propaganda”)” (Eber, 169). Additionally, there are several major issues with certification labels specifically: certification is very costly for many farmers (who must bear a significant portion of the costs themselves) to obtain, and furthermore, there is little evidence of impact or higher quality associated with certification (Martin, “Alternative trade and virtuous localization/globalization”).

 

Looking to the future, it is important that we recognize the extent to which chocolate preferences, as representative of a larger trend in consumer behavior, are dictated by personal identity, social class, and lifestyle motivations, and the degree to which chocolate, like many other foods, is, often falsely, perceived as existing in dichotomy (e.g. mass market vs. fine). For the consumer who can afford to spend over $8 on a chocolate bar, likely in search of a product that is delicious, high quality, natural, healthier, and artisanal, as supported by research and personal inquiry, the presentation of the good is significant. Producers and consumers alike should evaluate the factors that draw an individual to a particular chocolate product to reflect on the influence of social milieu and the realities of the commodity.

Works Cited

Bourdieu, Pierre. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1984. Print.

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

Goody, Jack. Fast Food/Organic Food: Industrial Food: Towards the Development of a World Cuisine. Ed. Carole Counihan and Penny Van Esterik. New York: Routledge, 1997. 72-88. Print.

Guthman, Julie. Fast Food/Organic Food: Reflexive Tastes and the Making of “Yuppie Chow” Food and Culture: A Reader. Ed. Carole Counihan and Penny Van Esterik. New York: Routledge, 1997. 496-509. Print.

Korsmeyer, Carolyn. Making Sense of Taste: Food and Philosophy. Cornell UP, 2014. Print.

Laudan, Rachel. “A Plea for Culinary Modernism: Why We Should Love New, Fast, Processed Food.” Gastroeconomics: the Journal of Food and Culture 1.1 (2001): 36-44. Web.

Martin, Carla. “Alternative Trade and Virtuous Localization/globalization.” AAAS 119x Lecture. CGIS South, Tsai Auditorium, Cambridge, MA. 6 Apr. 2016. Lecture.

Martin, Carla. “Popular Sweet Tooths and Scandal.” AAAS 119x Lecture. CGIS South, Tsai Auditorium, Cambridge, MA. 24 Feb. 2016. Lecture.

Martin, Carla. “The Rise of Big Chocolate and Race for the Global Market.” AAAS 119x Lecture. CGIS South, Tsai Auditorium, Cambridge, MA. 9 Mar. 2016. Lecture.

Miller, Lisa. “What Food Says About Class in America.” Newsweek 22 Nov. 2010. Web.

Trigg, Andrew B. “Veblen, Bourdieu, and Conspicuous Consumption.” Journal of Economic Issues 35.1 (2001): 99-115. Web.

Williams, Pam, and Jim Eber. Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate. Vancouver: Wilmor Pub., 2012. Print.

 

 

 

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Fair Trade, Direct Trade, and The Relationship Model: Millennials Changing The Ethically Sourced Market

We’ve heard a lot about our generation, the famed “millennials.” Often stereotyped as lazy, selfish and entitled, it doesn’t seem like we’re doing much for the world besides trying to build the next great “Angry Birds” app. However, there is an important part of our generation that is not talked about as much, that we are the “do well while also doing good” generation. Our generation wants to see contributions as investments in causes that we care about instead of solely a donation or charity. In finance, there is something called sustainable and responsible investment and “ESG,” which stands for environmental friendliness, social responsibility and corporate governance. This form of investing is known as impact investing, a strategy for investing in companies that do something good for humanity, yet also do well for portfolios.

Impact investing in the US has grown 76% from 2012 to 2014, in only two years (USSIF). Why is this? Because millennials are entering the marketplace and demanding more ethically sourced goods and ethically responsible companies. Although millennials currently may only account for a small percentage of investing, as we age and come into money that we want to invest for our future, we will be a significant driver of impact investing growth. This investment perspective is important for understanding millennial consumption habits, especially in regards to the future consumption of goods and products that have a history of bad ethics and poor social responsibility, such as characterized in the production of chocolate and coffee.

Our generation is extremely influential in its current and potential buying power, and it has a handle on the limitless potential of social media to address issues and be a voice for causes like no other generation before it. As our generation increasingly enters the marketplace, there will be increasing scrutiny of where we invest our money and what good it is doing in the world. There will be increasing scrutiny on transparency, on getting to the bottom of the supply chain, where much, much more of every dollar we spend gets back to the producer, the farmer. I mention these economic and finance terms as a way to frame the importance of understanding what is happening in the marketplace to inform chocolate companies of the coming conscious consumer and how we will see certifications such as Fair Trade and Direct Trade face increased scrutiny, and companies like Taza Chocolate as pioneers in the marketplace grow in popularity.

In its latest annual study, Nielsen revealed that almost two thirds (66%) of consumers are willing to pay extra for products that come from companies who are committed to positive social and environmental impact (Nielsen). This percentage represents a large jump from 55% last year and 50% the year before. Interestingly, willingness to pay more is consistent across income groups. The study also revealed that almost three-quarters of millennials (ages 20-34) claimed they would pay more for sustainable products, up from about half last year. One of the most fascinating parts of this study was that female millennials, in particular, were willing to pay more at 75% (Nielsen). These trends towards more conscious consumption are something chocolate companies should be paying attention to. While at the moment we are most familiar with Taza Chocolate as a pioneer in the Direct Trade chocolate market, I believe we will be seeing more companies and brands come into the Direct Trade ethically sourced market to capitalize on the millennials that will be looking for such differentiated products in the marketplace. As we discovered in class, women buy the bulk of chocolate products, and if millennial women are the most inclined to pay more for an ethically sourced product, it is good news for the ethical chocolate market and for companies like Taza, who have to charge a premium to maintain their Direct Trade business. According to Steve Polski, senior director of responsible supply chains and sustainability at a top consumer company observes, “Businesses today are looking at sustainability differently than they were even a few years ago.” Polski continues, “It’s an exciting time to be working on supply chain sustainability and I think we’re approaching an inflection point among consumers as well” (Mcavoy).

Nielsen-Paying-Premium-Sustainable-Products-Oct2015

Chart showing the incredible rise in millennials being willing to pay a premium for sustainable products – this is good news for ethically sourced chocolate and coffee companies that must charge a premium to stay committed to their ethical sourcing and be willing to cover the high price of maintaining an ethically sourced company with a high quality, pricey product. 

I have had my own first-hand experience with the issue of supply chain sustainability and the new millennial market that I will discuss further. First, however, I will begin by highlighting the difference between Fair Trade and Direct Trade using Taza Chocolate as an example, and then discuss my own experience creating an ethically sourced coffee company without certifications of any type, a trade model I call the “Relationship Model,” or the one-to-one model. There is much to be explored on the topics of ethically sourced chocolate and coffee and many difficulties of supply-chain management. Yet, as noted earlier, the economic trends and research data tells us that the consumer of the future will increasingly demand ethical products, particularly those transparent as to source, and be willing to pay more for these products – the chocolate market needs to think about how to adapt to these trends and answer millennial questions on sourcing.

We have discussed and explored in depth the various issues with the Fair Trade and Direct Trade certifications in the chocolate world. Fair Trade USA promises “the money you spend on day-to-day goods can improve an entire community’s day-to-day lives” (Fair Trade USA). While this goal is promising, taking a closer look at Fair Trade USA’s standards reveals that this certification is not enough to directly impact cacao farmers (Martin). There is no guarantee that money from the purchase goes directly to the farmers’ pockets. Instead, farmers must shoulder high fees, pay premiums, and other charges that come with the Fair Trade certification (Martin). This furthers the sad reality that very little, if any, money actually goes the farmers at the origins of the supply chain. Fair Trade USA promises a fair minimum price for cocoa, but in reality it “barely differs from the current world market price” (Leissle). Ultimately, the research tells us that that Fair Trade USA’s promises and commitments are misleading, and “lack of evidence of impact” makes its certification less appealing to informed consumers seeking ethically sourced products, particularly among millennials (Martin).

By contrast, Direct Trade moves beyond Fair Trade USA’s standards to create a clearer connection between cacao farmers and chocolate makers, or coffee farmers and coffee makers. Direct Trade hopes to go further than Fair Trade USA and be the solution that “make[s] for more ethical, sustainable production in an industry with a long history of exploitation” (Shute). Direct Trade tries to realize this benefit by eliminating the “middleman,” allowing chocolate makers and coffee makers to speak and interact directly with the farmers at the beginning of the supply chain to negotiate prices for the beans. Such direct negotiation, eliminating the cost and burden due to the middleman, should make it possible to compensate farmers at a “premium price they should earn for the high quality cacao they produce” (Taza Chocolate). In addition, Direct Trade eliminates the fees that come with Fair Trade USA certifications. The direct interaction between the farmers and chocolate and coffee makers means the farmers and farms are not obligated to be a part of cooperatives and can thus earn even more (Martin). These structural details of the Direct Trade process make it a better solution than Fair Trade USA for consumers seeking truly ethically sourced products and who want to see more of their money getting back to the farmer and making a difference. Importantly, those who seek ethically sourced products are growing in numbers and are mostly made up of millennials, whose purchasing power is only increasing. Now is when the Direct Trade market can do well while also doing good in the world. As millennials, we care about where the products we eat come from and that the money we spend is going to a good cause, thus enabling companies to charge a premium to make sure that their products are up to our new millennial standards and be assured that these premium prices will not hinder the profits of their business.

Taza Chocolate marketing labels showing their “Direct Trade” icon and their marketing slogan, “seriously good and fair for all.” We should question what these labels mean and recognize the vague notion of “Direct Trade” and the lack of standards it implies. 

While the Direct Trade model eliminates most of the issues buyers have with the Fair Trade USA certification system, certain problems of inconsistency arise due to the lack of set standards for Direct Trade. Buyers who directly source from farmers can have different standards when it comes to what a so-called “premium price” actually represents, what “quality cacao” means, and what the expectations are for farms with “fair working conditions” (Martin). Taza Chocolate maintains that they have “direct relationships with cacao producers,” and pay a set “premium price” to cacao producers and continues to “purchase high quality beans” but does not offer too much into detail of where exactly the money from the premium pricing goes (Taza Chocolate).

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Screengrab of Taza Transparency Report meant to highlight that the transparency reports do not detail the amount of money received by individual farmers or the “premium” paid – it seems as if these “Transparency” reports are no more than a marketing scheme to appear transparent. The details of the economics of the cooperatives and the income of the farmers is left out. 

Taza’s particular company-developed souring transparency also brings forth concerns about inconsistencies in Direct Trade’s more general, less specific standards amongst other producers claiming to source their products via Direct Trade.

As a millennial, I know how difficult it is to be a conscious consumer. Until a few years ago I was unaware of the struggles farmers faced in their supply-chains and how little income farmers were able to make by selling to conventional markets or to big companies. It was only when a started a coffee company myself was I able to truly understand how difficult it is to create a great company with a great product, how difficult it is for the farmer to reap the benefits while also being able to make a profit to sustain a business. But the success of the business is a real case study in changing consumer habits and of the new supply chains consumer changes are causing. In 2011, I visited the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania, Africa. There, I met Paskali Gwandu, our guide in the crater for a week and a wonderful horticulturist. He introduced my family to the most wonderful coffee we had ever tasted, grown and roasted right on his farm in his village down the road from the campsite. Over the course of the week my family drank his coffee and explored the crater. At the end of the week we exchanged email addresses so we could send some photos we had taken and keep in touch about his horticulture studies. In a couple of emails, my family asked about his family and his great coffee, which led to him sending us his coffee beans, rare Tanzanian Peaberry, for a small money transfer of $50, as a thanks for him sharing his knowledge with us. To our surprise, the coffee arrived in just over a week, wrapped in beautiful Tanzanian stamps and with a gift of a blanket interwoven with exotic cowrie shells and with my own name, “Catherine” on it – a thank you from Paskali’s wife and family.

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My brother (on left) with Paskali Gwandu, the talented horticulturalist and coffee farmer. Evidence of direct relationship. 

We continued this email exchange and money transferring to receive his amazing coffee every few weeks. After a while, friends and extended family began asking about Paskali and the coffee and started buying it through us. For my senior multimedia project, I decided to build a website for Paskali as a way for it to be easier for both customers and Paskali to order coffee, naming it “Gwandu Coffee.” Since that point, I have been trying to help Paskali and his family by marketing Gwanducoffee.com and learning about the complex coffee business in Africa. The small amount of coffee we have sold has changed Paskali’s life, allowing him to earn tuition to send his children to school and invest in new coffee plants, things that Paskali never thought were possible before.

Screengrabs from GwanduCoffee.com, the website I made in my multimedia class. Fully functional credit card processing and order transfer to Paskali’s email at the village computer which he checks daily. 

I discovered that by selling this coffee direct from Tanzania to the consumer via the internet, Paskali could get $4 per pound, compared to max $.50 per pound he would get at the markets. I have seen first hand what transparency can do for both the consumer and the farmer. Paskali’s coffee is of highest quality, and he takes deep care of his coffee because he knows he is sending it directly to the consumer’s doorstep and getting paid a premium to care for the consumer and the coffee.

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From GwanduCoffee.com, our simple infographic showing the supply-chain from farm to consumer. 

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A screengrab of my research slide detailing the current issues with the coffee market in Tanzania and how GwanduCoffee.com is a solution to those problems. Detailing the significant price change to the farmer. 

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A screengrab from GwanduCoffee.com showing again the supply chain as direct from farm to consumer, truly “Direct” trade, no middlemen (buyers, sourcers, packaging, etc. – such as Taza must use)

Here, my model goes one step further, in what I like to call the one-to-one or Relationship Model of trade. In this model, you, the consumer, know the exact farmer and farms where your coffee is grown and roasted and can directly witness the impact you make. You know that this coffee is from Paskali Gwandu, not from just from farms in a region or a cooperative. A common question that comes up from people is, “Is this coffee Direct Trade or Fair Trade” and this is where I have to tell them no, it’s much more than that. It’s a relationship trade with Paskali, his family, his village, the coffee and the consumer. It was clear that people knew about fair trade but were unaware of what it did or what it did not do for farmers.

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Straight from GwanduCoffee.com website under the “The Company” tab. Gwandu gvies all the credit to Paskali Gwandu and makes sure to give background to him and the company. Pictured below the information is a photo of Paskali Gwandu himself. 

These new ways of trade and sourcing chocolate and coffee beans leaves more questions to be asked pricing, quality control, marketing, and the disruption of old supply chains, and whether consumers may be exploited from labels and buzzwords, but that is a larger conversation. The important conclusion is that millennials coming into the marketplace and demanding more ethically sourced products, and willing to pay more for them, bodes well for the positive future of farmers and chocolate and coffee businesses.

Even further than the Relationship Model I propose, is a relationship much like World Vision, a charitable organization in which a specific child or family is sponsored over time by a contributing family. Perhaps in this extended relationship model, a farmer could be supported by multiple families or people over a longer period of time, to make a real difference and receive high quality coffee or chocolate. This may be wishful thinking for the future of coffee, but we must continue to think of new ways to innovate the supply-chain and how to increase transparency.

relationship-trade-icon

It is advised to avoid all certifications on packaging to not stray consumers with false advertising, but this is an example of a possible relationship model trade icon, if the market demands such labeling. 

Of course, not every person has access to a coffee or chocolate farmer and can create a company, but consumers can take control of their knowledge and quickly identify which companies are doing good for humanity. Something as small as a chocolate bar or a cup of coffee in the morning can change the life of a farmer half way across the world. As a millennial, I believe the market place will start to make this form of conscious consuming more available to us, as companies will want to capitalize off our changing concerns about where our food is from and where our money is going to support. Companies like Taza Chocolate and Gwandu Coffee are not only paving a new path for companies of the future, but also serving as a contrast to present company ethics and serving as a way for consumers to question current supply-chain practices. Our generation can and will create real positive change in the chocolate and coffee industry. I feel honored to be a part of this change and look forward to the future of an industry so marred with a dark past and even a dark present.

 

Works Cited:

Leissle, Kristy. “What’s Fairer than Fair Trade? Try Direct Trade with Cocoa Farmers.”YES! Magazine. YES! Magazine, 04 October 2013. Web. 02 May 2016.

Mcavoy, Kaitlyn. “Ethical Sourcing: Do Consumers and Companies Really Care?” Spend Matters. N.p., 15 Feb. 2016. Web. 2 May 2016. <http://spendmatters.com/2016/02/15/ethical-sourcing-do-consumers-and-companies-really-care/&gt;.

Martin, Carla. “Alternative Trade and Virtuous Localization/globalization.” AAAS 119x Lecture. CGIS South, Tsai Auditorium, Cambridge, MA. 6 Apr. 2016. Lecture.

Nielsen. “GLOBAL CONSUMERS ARE WILLING TO PUT THEIR MONEY WHERE THEIR HEART IS WHEN IT COMES TO GOODS AND SERVICES FROM COMPANIES COMMITTED TO SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY.” Nielsen. Nielsen Press Room, 17 June 2014. Web. 2 May 2016. <http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/press-room/2014/global-consumers-are-willing-to-put-their-money-where-their-heart-is.html&gt;.

Nielsen. “Sustainable Selections: How Socially Responsible Companies Are Turning a Profit.” Nielsen. Nielsen Press Room, 12 Oct. 2015. Web. 2 May 2016. <http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2015/sustainable-selections-how-socially-responsible-companies-are-turning-a-profit.html&gt;.

Shute, Nancy. “Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Makers Dare to Bare How It’s Done .” NPR: The Salt. NPR, 14 February 2013. Web. 02 May 2016.

REPORT ON US Sustainable, Responsible and Impact Investing Trends 2014. 02 May 2016

“Taza Chocolate Direct Trade Certified Cacao.” Taza Chocolate. Taza Chocolate, 2015. Web. 02 May 2016.

 

Images:

Nielsen chart: http://www.marketingcharts.com/traditional/will-consumers-pay-more-for-products-from-socially-responsible-companies-60166/

All Gwandu Coffee Images are from author and from Gwanducoffee.com website.

“Relationship” icon: http://blog.seattlecoffeeworks.com/in-the-news/introducing-relationship-trade/

Taza Direct Trade and Taza Chocolate: Via Taza Chocolate website

 

The False Narrative of Chocolate & Female Sexuality, and the Importance of Promoting Chocolate to Women Without Degradation

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Advertisement for Dove’s Cranberry Almond Dark Chocolate bar from the “My Moment. My Dove.” campaign (2008).

Historically, chocolate has been considered an aphrodisiac, associated with love and sex, and perceived in highly gendered ways, with evidence of this in the Aztec culture and Victorian Era, for example (Martin). Modern advertising narratives, such as the Cadbury Flake ad featuring a woman in a bath, continue these traditional themes associated with chocolate by selling the candy with highly sexualized, erotic images and messages. Chocolate advertisers frequently depict the experience of consuming chocolate as “identical to the pleasure of sex or redeemable for the pleasure of sex” (Anderson). I will examine the Dove ad for their Cranberry Almond Dark Chocolate bar, pictured to the right, and consider how the image, and other chocolate ads, create a harmful narrative around chocolate and female sexuality. Too often, they promote a notion of women as weak objects, who, once exposed to the influence of chocolate, which serves as an alternative to men, are completely powerless.

The Dove ad is not true to the actual product: the cranberry almond bar is not a substitute for sex and it will not incapacitate the woman by providing her with irresistible physical satisfaction. By obscuring the reality of the product and depicting women as easily, irrationally entranced by chocolate, and by extension, as helpless, I contend that ads like this Dove ad are promoting an injurious characterization of women as objects without agency, and without interests beyond satisfying their own pleasure. It is important to consider the effects of these messages on female self-perception, and work to create ads that instead more accurately celebrate chocolate as a tasty sweet, rather than a “sexual surrogate” (Kawash), and women as real people with depth and personality.

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This ad for Magnum Chocolate is one example of the preponderance of ads suggesting that women share sexual experience with chocolate.

Samira Kawash, author of Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure, notes the “overt sexuality” of the Dove ad, which she describes as featuring a “lithe woman caressed by brown silk, writhing in pleasure” (Kawash). Upon first glance, the viewer notices a woman wrapped up in a silky brown material with an expression of pure bliss. Her eyes are closed, her features are soft, and her expression is one of peaceful ecstasy. She is certainly in rapture, but her face has been molded in a way so as to not create a dramatic appearance, so she does not appear too powerful. The ad focuses on the comprehensive sum of the different elements of the image: the woman’s euphoric expression, the silky folds of the fabric, the soft lighting, and the suggestive overlaying words.

Noticeably, the whole advertisement is tinted brown and it is difficult to discern sharp boundaries between the woman’s face, her hair, and the silky cloth that is wrapped around her. Dove has carefully crafted and edited the image so as to make the woman in bed resemble creamy chocolate in hue and texture. It is if chocolate is literally taking over the woman because of its overpowering effect on her. She is a remarkably flat figure and resembles a painted face, rather than an individual with a personality, sense of self, and means of influence.

The words at the bottom of the advertisement further reinforce the overt sexual connotations of the image and characterize the woman as easily seduced and without agency: “Now it can last longer than you can resist. Unwrap. Indulge. Repeat.”

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My re-designed Dove ad, working to promote a more realistic characterization of chocolate and a positive depiction of women.

My re-designed ad celebrates women as strong, dynamic beings, and markets Dove chocolate for what it is — a sweet. The new ad focuses on the women’s actions, namely, their decision to go for a bike ride together, rather than their sexual satisfaction. It shows that women are strong and in control; they enjoy adventures, represented through biking, and sweets, presumably chocolate, and will not be manipulated or lulled into an euphoric slumber by a mere candy. Furthermore, I incorporated three women into the advertisement to suggest the social nature of chocolate as a food to be shared among friends, rather than an erotic object or substitute for sex that is enjoyed alone in one’s bed, as the initial advertisement suggests with the shrouded woman. The new slogan, “Now life can be full of adventures and sweets,” promotes chocolate as a delicious addition to an active life, rather than an instrument to prod female sexuality.

Considering that most chocolate, and certainly the “My Dove, My Moment” ad, is targeted at women, the implicit messages of female degradation have a negative effect on self-perception. The re-designed ad takes the opportunity to reach so many female consumers to convey a positive, uplifting message by featuring women who are engaged with the world around them and with one another. Dove chocolate will provide women with “sweet” support in their active lives.

 

Works Cited:

Anderson, L.V. “Cuckoo for Chocolate.” Slate Magazine. Slate.com, 13 Feb 2012. Web.

Cadbury’s Flake: Deliciously Terrifying. Video. YouTube. N.p., 2 Mar 2010. Web. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZM4rfqcHtNo&gt;.>.

Cranberry Almond Silky Smooth Dark Chocolate. Digital image. Calorie Count. N.p., 2016. Web. <https://www.caloriecount.com/calories-dove-cranberry-almond-silky-smooth-i132158&gt;.

Dove Ad. Digital image. The Society Pages. N.p., n.d. Web. <https://thesocietypages.org/socimages/files/2010/11/dove.jpg&gt;.

Magnum Chocolate Ad in Beautiful HD. Digital image. YouTube. N.p., 9 May 2011. Web. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZM4rfqcHtNo&gt;.

Kawash, Samira. “Sex and Candy.” The New York Times. The New York Times Online,, 13 Feb 2014. Web.

 
Martin, Carla, PhD. “Chocolate expansion.” AFAM 199X. CGIS South, Tsai Auditorium, Cambridge. 10 Feb. 2016. Lecture.

Sugar as an essential nutrient during the industrial revolution

The popularity of cane sugar in Britain quickly rose from the 17th through the 20th centuries, after its introduction from the New World, but its uses changed several times throughout this period. In Sweetness and Power, Mintz breaks down sugar use in Britain during this period into 5 categories: medicine, spice, decoration, sweetener, and preservative (Mintz 78). The most popular, or common, of these uses varied over time; for example, in the 17th century, when sugar remained an expensive rarity, it was more commonly used as a medicine, spice, or decoration. By the end of the 19th century, however, sugar’s popularity was firmly rooted in its use as a sweetener. Mintz points out that at this time it had become a “virtual necessity” (Mintz 148), yet fails to effectively incorporate this into his categorization of its uses. How can any one, or a combination, of these uses explain the enormous part that sugar came to play in the diet of the average English person, representing one-fifth of daily caloric intake (Mintz 5-6)? Rather, by the beginning of the 20th century, a sixth use developed for cane sugar, which is able to more thoroughly explain its rise in status from luxury to necessity. After the industrial revolution, sugar came to be used as a nutrient, an absolute requirement for the sustenance of many middle class families, due to its source of cheap energy during a time when the rise of an industrialized economy necessitated such sources for productivity.

There is remarkable alignment of the changes in sugar consumption and the manufacturing economy in Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries. The industrial revolution, which was the major turnover in manufacturing processes to the large-scale use of machines, took place in England roughly between the mid 1750 and mid 1840 (Landes 3-8). While it is difficult to determine causality between the industrial revolution and the rise of sugar consumption, we should note that this period of time contains the only roughly exponential change in the rate of increase of sugar consumption in British history (Image 1). This reflects a strong correlation between the rate of change of sugar consumption and the rate of mechanization of the British economy, as demonstrated by the change in fuel use during this time (Image 2). This change in sugar consumption was due to a massive transition in sugar consumption demographics, from consumption only by the wealthy in the early 18th century to consumption by all middle class British citizens by the mid 19th century (Mintz 147-148). Just after 1850, the price of sugar dropped dramatically, enabling its purchase in massive quantities by the middle class, and setting the stage for the use of sugar to expand beyond Mintz’s categorizations and into a staple of the diet. Though these changes in sugar consumption may have not been directly caused by industrialization, their co-occurrence allowed sugar to enter into use as a fundamental nutrient of the English diet.

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Images 1 and 2 show a comparison of the change in sugar consumption per capita over time and the change in the use of various fuel types over time. The massive increase in coal use in the second image indicates the mechanization of industry during the industrial revolution. Exponential growth in rate of change of sugar consumption reflects exponential growth in the use of coal.

 

So why does industrialization align so well with the dramatic changes in sugar consumption we see at this time? Industrialization necessitated cheap sources of quick energy for both the workers and for non-working family members (usually women and children). Carbohydrates were incredibly important for both agricultural and industrial workers, which is reflected in the prominence of bread in their diets, on which working class families spent anywhere from 50-70% of their food budget (Griffin 16 and Feinstein 635). With the sudden increase in the availability of sugar just after the industrialization of the British economy, another source of cheap, even quicker, energy could be introduced to their diets. Further, though workers did consume sugar for energy, especially industrial workers, who consumed twice as much as agricultural workers (Griffin 14), sugar became even more important to the families as a means of cheaply boosting energy of the non-workers. High protein foods, such as meat, were expensive for these families, and so a great majority of products like these were reserved only for the working men of the families (Martin and Griffin 11). Even in situations where the women or children in a family worked, it was often thought that they needed less protein than men, and so this inequality in consumption was maintained. For this reason, sugar became incredibly important to the diets of women and children, taking up roughly 20% of their daily caloric intake, as discussed earlier. This type of consumption is clearly reflected in the advertising of sugary drinks and candy bars at this time, which were heavily targeted at women and children and noted such products’ abilities to prevent exhaustion and give nourishment (Image 3).

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An advertisement for sugar demonstrates its use as a key nutrient supplying energy specifically for children. Other advertisements of the time, while not necessarily just for sugar but rather for candy bars and soft drinks, proclaim their nourishing properties and ability to alleviate exhaustion.

An analysis of the change in sugar consumption and availability during the 18th and 19th centuries, together with an understanding of the dietary needs of workers in an industrialized economy, allows us to more completely understand the rise of sugar consumption—a rise that continues today. In examining these factors and the advertisements that reflect the culture of sugar consumption in this period, we realize that Mintz’s categorizations of sugar’s uses was incomplete. The industrial economy and the need for cheap, quick, energy that it propelled, both at work and in the home, drove sugar to move beyond its earlier uses, and to become considered a necessary nutrient.

 

Works Cited

Feinstein, Charles H. “Pessimism perpetuated: real wages and the standard of living in Britain during and after the industrial revolution.” The Journal of Economic History 58.03 (1998): 625-658.

Griffin, Emma. “Living Standards in the British Industrial Revolution: Evidence from Workers’ Diets.” Living Standards in the British Industrial Revolution: Evidence from Workers’ Diets. Academia.edu, n.d. Web. 9 Mar. 2016.

Landes, David S. The Unbound Prometheus: Technological Change and Industrial Development in Western Europe from 1750 to the Present. London: Cambridge U.P., 1969. Print.

Martin, Carla D. “Popular Sweet Tooths and Scandal.” CGIS, Cambridge, MA. 24 Feb. 2016. Lecture.

Martin, Carla D. “Popular Sweet Tooths and Scandal.” Image: Sugar advertisement. CGIS, Cambridge, MA. 24 Feb. 2016. Lecture.

Martin, Carla D. “Sugar and Cacao.” Image: sugar consumption over time. CGIS, Cambridge, MA. 17 Feb. 2016. Lecture.

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York, NY: Viking, 1985. Print.

Rautner, Margaret T. “The Industrial Revolution – Infogram, Charts & Infographics.” Image: fuel use over time. Infogram. Infogram, n.d. Web. 9 Mar. 2016.

Cacao and Slavery: Examining Responses to Cadbury’s Involvement with Slavery on São Tomé and Príncipe to Understand the Evolution of Public and Commercial Attitudes About Labor Ethics

The long-established relationship between cacao and slavery began as soon as the Europeans and indigenous American populations first interacted around cacao (Martin). For years, slave labor was accepted as an economic necessity for the labor-intensive crop. The public reaction to the discovery of slave labor in the Cadbury Brothers company supply chain illustrates that mainstream public opinion in England had changed by the first decade of the twentieth century, as British individuals overwhelmingly rejected slavery as unjustifiable on all grounds. However, the Cadbury company’s slow response — the company’s boycott of Portuguese cacao began a whole eight years after William Cadbury first heard reports confirming slave labor —  proves that corporations continued to prioritize business efficiency over ethical practice. Without public pressures, it is, I argue, uncertain that Cadbury and other companies would have taken actions to curb exploitive labor practices.

Girls-On-Cocoa-Plantation-Trinidad-British-West-Indies
Image shows girls on a cocoa plantation in the British West Indies in the nineteenth century. Forced labor continued even after the 1834 British Slavery Abolition Act.

While a certain amount of opposition to slavery always existed, for centuries, abolition was inconceivable to many as government officials, producers, and consumers alike viewed forced labor as a necessary, albeit morally reprehensible, practice. Indeed, enslaved labor persisted in the industry following the 1834 British Slavery Abolition Act. However, by 1901-1909, the public sentiment had changed, and English citizens revealed their strong disapproval of slavery. Investigative journalists, such as Henry Nevinson, whose articles in Harper’s Magazine first made the existence of slavery on the chocolate islands widely known, and humanitarian organizations, such as the Anti-Slavery Society and the Aborigines’ Protection Society, led the public condemnation of the institution (Higgs 133-134).

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Slaves in Portuguese West Africa, as photographed for Nevinson’s report “The Slave-Trade of To-day,” published in Harper’s Magazine (1905).

 

The reactions of consumers and journalists to the allegations of slavery on São Tomé and Príncipe illustrates that the general public opinion strongly opposed coercive labor practices. Nevinson’s accounts roused widespread public discontent, and newspapers such as the Manchester Guardian, the Standard, and the Evening Standard published articles criticizing Cadbury for continuing to purchase Sao Toméan cocoa (Higgs 143). The outcome of the case between Cadbury and the Standard further indicates the extent to which the public, and legal system, disapproved of Cadbury’s purchase of Sao Toméan cocoa. While the jury agreed that Cadbury Brothers had been libeled, it expressed its condemnation of the firm’s practices by awarding only a single farthing (equivalent to one quarter of a penny) in reparations (Higgs 152).

Although the Cadbury company prized its Quaker values and prided itself on having concern for its workers, the company failed to take strong or timely actions in the face of slavery allegations. Satre notes the strikingly late response of the company in the face of substantiated evidence, remarking that, “Given this extensive evidence, it is surprising that the Cadburys had not recognized this slavery early on…” (Satre 21). It took William Cadbury over four years after he first heard allegations of slave labor and received reports which “graphically confirmed” those allegations to take action (Satre 16). And even then, his actions were weak. Cadbury sent a company agent, Joseph Burtt, to travel to Portuguese West Africa as a “friend” to the planters, and urged him to take his time with this “gentlemanly inquiry” (Martin). Revealing his desire to quash public interest in the situation, Cadbury did not allow Burtt’s report confirming the existence of slavery to be published until October 1908, a year after its final publication in Portuguese (Satre 93).

Given Cadbury’s deliberately slow and mild reaction to the evidence of slave labor in São Tomé and Príncipe in the face of widespread outrage, it is difficult to imagine that the company would have taken action had public outcry not demanded it. Considering the controversy in historical context demonstrates the extent to which popular attitudes had evolved by the early twentieth century to condemn slavery on all grounds, and in spite of any perceived benefits for business. Nonetheless, the Quaker company’s weak, I contend, inadequate, response to reports of slavery reveals that corporate greed and commercial interest would remain a challenge to free labor, despite the public’s overwhelmingly anti-slavery sentiments. Indeed, even today, some of the world’s largest chocolate makers are allegedly knowingly using child slaves.

Works Cited:

“British Colonial Apprenticeship: Slavery by Another Name?” Web blog post. US Slave. Blogpost, 5 Jan. 2012. Web.

Haglage, Abby. “Lawsuit: Your Candy Bar Was Made By Child Slaves.” The Daily Beast. Newsweek/Daily Beast, 15 Sept. 2015. Web.

Higgs, Catherine. Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa. Athens, OH: Ohio UP, 2012. 133-65. Print.

Martin, Carla, PhD. “Slavery, Abolition, and Forced Labor:.” AFAM 119X. CGIS South, Tsai Auditorium, Cambridge. 9 Mar. 2016. Lecture.

Nevinson, Henry W. “The Slave-Trade of To-Day.” Harper’s Magazine. Google Play, n.d. Web. 1 Jan. 1905.

Satre, Lowell J. Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business. Athens, OH: Ohio UP, 2005. 1-99. Print.

Why did chocolate become unhealthy?

During the pre-Columbian era, Ancient Aztecs enjoyed a darker and thicker chocolate drink that had a much higher cacao content than the hot chocolate and chocolate bars we enjoy today. Ancient codices such as the Chilam Balam and The Ritual of the Bacams, as IMG_3048 (1)seen to the right, display the medicinal powers of cacao and their belief that chocolate could heal skin eruptions, fevers, and seizures (Martin 68). In contrast, the over-consumption of our milkier and fattier chocolate today is associated with thoughts of nutritional diseases such as diabetes and obesity. An increase in medical knowledge, genetic and environmental changes in cacao, increased technology, and changes in chocolate recipes are all potential causes to explain this nutritional change of chocolate.

 

Ignorance to Knowledge

The increased knowledge in nutrition that classifies chocolate as both healthy and unhealthy helps transition us from the Ancient Aztecs’ idea of healthy medicinal cacao to today’s unhealthier view of chocolate. The French physician Daniel Duncan published a treatise in 1703 suggesting that chocolate can be healthful if it is taken in moderation (S. D. Coe and M. D. Coe 204). So he agrees with the Ancient Aztecs’ views but moves towards contemporary views as he claims that too much chocolate will make the “blood too sharp, too “hot”, and too thin” (S. Coe and M. Coe 204). As we continue increasing our nutrition knowledge and move from this basic understanding of health as a balance of opposites we may be able to identify unhealthy eating habits that is beyond simply the quantity of chocolate you consume. For example, we may find that consumption of chocolate with different foods is unhealthier than others. Therefore, one consideration as to why chocolate is seen as unhealthy today is that chocolate has always been unhealthy in excessive quantities but it is simply our increased medical knowledge that helps us realise its unhealthiness.

 

Environment: decreasing use of Fine Cacao

An increase in knowledge may be a reasonable potential cause to some extent, but the ingredients that the Ancient Aztecs and the Baroque Europeans used were fundamentally different and healthier than what we use today. Fine cacao (Criollo and Trinitario cacao-tree varieties) has more flavour, more aroma, and a lower yield than bulk cacao (Forastero cacao-tree variety) (Amores, Butler, Ramos,  Sukha, Espin, Gomez, Zambrano, Hollywood,  Van Loo, and Seguine 5). Bulk cacao is used in 93-95% of today’s global production, which is much more common than fine cacao’s global production of 5-7% (Martin 40). Fine cacao and bulk cacao is not well classified nor fully understood today, but if the common logic that high quality foods are generally healthier than low quality foods, such as a lean steak from a free-range cow is healthier than meat from a factory-farmed cow, we can suggest that today’s chocolate is unhealthier because we use lower quality cacao beans. This lower-quality-cacao reason for unhealthier chocolate is driven by environmental reasons as bulk cacao beans are being used because fine cacao is endangered, not because its flavour is more popular.

 

Sweet Tooth: decreased cacao content and increased fat content

In addition to cacao beans, which is the primary ingredient in chocolate, historic chocolate differs to today’s chocolate because today’s chocolate recipes use additional ingredients that make it tastier but unhealthier.  In 1879 Daniel Peter created the first milk chocolate bar and in 1930 Nestlé launched the white chocolate “Milkybar” (The Nibble). Though these are definitive events that mark momentous inventions, they demonstrate the gradual decrease in the percentage of cacao used in chocolate products. Sugar, cream, and other fatty dairy unhealthy ingredients are used in today’s chocolate products in substitution for the previously high volume of cacao used. It is likely that our natural desire to fulfill our sweet teeth drives the market to continue producing chocolate products with lower cacao content, since these higher fat content products are more popular and have a higher demand, as shown below.

piechart

 

This figure illustrates the preference of white and milk chocolate over the healthier dark chocolate. The smallest section represents that 10% prefer white chocolate, the largest section presents a 70% preference for milk chocolate, and the darkest section represents a 20% preference for dark chocolate.

 

Technology & Competitive Market: adulteration and preservatives

As technology and mass production develops, the quality of chocolate products has decreased and unhealthier and more unnatural ingredients are being used. As technology advances, such as Van Houten’s 1828 introduction of the hydraulic press and Rudolphe Lindt’s 1879 invention of the conching process, less and less chocolate is made by hand. Today, few chocolate products are made by grinding cacao nibs on a metate. As technology develops and more machinery is used in the creation of chocolate products, the quality of chocolate decreases. The healthiness of consuming mass-produced chocolate is challenged as some products are adulterated with gum, potato starch, and veal suet instead of cocoa butter. Using machinery also increases the likelihood of impurities being found in products. For example, in the mid-1800s, 39 out of 70 samples of chocolate were found to contain traces of ground bricks in Britain (Martin 19). In addition to machinery, the competitive chocolate companies fight to produce cheap chocolate with longer shelf-life by altering the products’ ingredients. They produce chocolate with preservatives and replace natural ingredients, such as sugar, with artificial ingredients, such as artificial sweeteners, as illustrated below. Therefore, the recent increase in technology and today’s competitive market result in unhealthier and lower quality chocolate products that have been adulterated and contain impurities and unhealthy and unnatural ingredients.

hersheys-candy-coated-milk-chocolate_risk-nutrition-and-dye-content

This Hershey’s product is an example of the various unnatural, unhealthy, and artificial ingredients present in one single chocolate product.

 

Thesis

In conclusion, many factors can explain why chocolate has become unhealthier over time. As we increase our understanding of nutrition we understand that chocolate is unhealthy in excessive consumption, the changes in the environment prevent us from using high quality fine cacao, our innate “sweet tooth” drives the market to produce fattier products, and the competitive market and technological advances produce low quality unhealthy products. Though these are all reasonable potential explanations, some are practically less useful in improving our health. For example, increasing our nutritional understanding allows us to realise how much chocolate consumption is of concern, but unless we resist that urge to indulge we will continue to become an unhealthy population of chocolate consumers. Therefore, we should continue to increase our understanding of nutrition, care for the environment more, support smaller local businesses and not fuel large competitive chocolate companies, but more importantly, we should fight our sweet tooth’s desires if we want to be healthier.

 

Works Cited

Amores, David Butler, Gladys Ramos,  Darin Sukha, Susana Espin, Alvaro Gomez, Alexis Zambrano, Neil Hollywood,  Robert Van Loo, and Edward Seguine. “Project to determine the physical, chemical and organoleptic parameters to differentiate between fine and bulk cocoa.” INIAP 15 Aug. 2007:  5. Print.

Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. “The True History of Chocolate.” Thames & Hudson 2007 (1996). 204. Print

Martin, Carla. “Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food Lecture Slides 2016. Lecture 2: Mesoamerica and the “food of the gods”” 2016. Slide 68. Retrieved from: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B_kGt6Sj1X5bYUY0UWg0Y1h2TTA&usp=sharing

— “Lecture 5: Popular sweet tooths and scandal” 2016. Slide 19. Retrieved from: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B_kGt6Sj1X5bYUY0UWg0Y1h2TTA&usp=sharing

— “Lecture 7: Sugar and Cacao” 2016. Slide 40. Retrieved from: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B_kGt6Sj1X5bYUY0UWg0Y1h2TTA&usp=sharing

“The History Of White Chocolate”. The Nibble. The World’s Best White Chocolate. 1 April 2008. Retrieved from: http://www.thenibble.com/zine/archives/best-white-chocolate2.asp#history Retrieved 11 March. 2016.

 

The Elite World of Chocolate: Cultural Significance in Early Europe

Across time and space, from the Aztec Empire to Baroque Europe, chocolate has been associated with upper class culture. While chocolate was first introduced to Europe in the sixteenth century as a medicine with strong curative powers, it evolved into an elite drink during the grandiose Baroque Age. Chocolate was popularized throughout Europe and came to occupy a distinctive place within upper class society because of the complex material and social culture that the aristocracy and nobility created around it.

“It was during the Baroque Age that the beverage [chocolate] made its major journeys, and it was in the Baroque palaces and mansions of the wealthy and powerful that it was elaborated and consumed.” – The True History of Chocolate (Coe and Coe 125)

Europeans crafted specialized objects to enhance the quality and presentation of chocolate. By creating intricate paraphernalia and drinking processes, they elevated the consumption of chocolate to elite ritual ceremony. The development of objects including chocolate pots, cups, and saucers for the preparation and serving of chocolate in Baroque Europe indicate the extent to which the consumption of chocolate was a show of extravagance. The Spanish, Italians, and French developed their own varieties of specialty chocolate-pots in copper, gold, and silver, such as the one in the image below, (Coe and Coe 156) for the stirring, frothing, and serving of chocolate.

Joseph-Théodore_Van_Cauwenbergh_-_Chocolate_Pot_-_Walters_571802-1.jpg
Chocolatiére (1774), made of silver and amarath wood

Particularly in France, these chocolatières were prized by the nobility, and the Dauphin Louis XIV himself received chocolatières as gifts from foreign guests, such as the King Narai of Siam in 1686. A body of literature surrounding the correct usage of chocolatières and other objects involved in the chocolate consumption process emerged, and the French debated chocolatière design in cookbooks and culinary treatises. For example, an issue of contention was whether there should be a hole in the chocolatière lid, to allow for the passing of the handle of the moulinet, used to stir the liquid chocolate, or if the lid should not be pierced, as with a caffetière, to avoid the “cumbersome” opening and closing of the pot with a moulinet passing through it (Grivetti and Shapiro 91).

With an elaborate material culture surrounding it, chocolate emerged as a fundamental element of royal and high society across countries including Italy, France, England, and Spain. Chocolate was served at public functions and levees at royal courts across Europe, such as Versailles (Coe and Coe 156).

Social gatherings offered individuals the opportunity to display their collection of objects relating to chocolate as well as their innovative methods of chocolate preparation. Esteemed recipes came to be associated with particular places, such as Francesco Redi’s jasmine chocolate at the Tuscan Court (Coe and Coe 143). These recipes were time-consuming and complex, requiring ingredients unavailable to most individuals. Redi’s chocolate, for example, required ten days to prepare and 250 jasmine flowers per kilogram of cocoa nibs a day for each of these ten days.

 

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The Family of the Duke of Penthievre or The Cup of Chocolate (1768) shows a noble family drinking chocolate in a salon, illustrating the type of individuals who consumed chocolate in Baroque Europe.

The upper bourgeoisie class also consumed chocolate in increasing amounts. In England, chocolate was served in traditional coffee-houses, which functioned as important social institutions within English society, by the mid seventeenth century (Coe and Coe, 167).

Chocolate consumption flourished in Baroque Europe because of the extensive material and social culture that developed around it. The luxury item grew in popularity not simply because of its taste or perceived medicinal qualities, but because it offered the European upper class an opportunity to construct a set of customs and social practices around its consumption. Indeed, chocolate became a symbol of wealth, and a vehicle by which one could exhibit his or her privilege. Chocolate was expensive to begin with, and the construction of an extravagant world around chocolate made it even more inaccessible to the lower classes.

 

Ultimately, mass production technologies transformed chocolate from an elite privilege into a European staple food. However, even today, chocolate remains linked to notions of opulence and luxury.

 

Works Cited

Charpentier, Jean Baptiste. The Penthievre Family or The Cup of Chocolate, 1768. Digital image. PBS Learning Media. Web.

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

Grivetti, Louis, and Howard-Yana Shapiro. Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2009. Print.

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

Van Cauwenbergh, Joseph-Théodore. Chocolate Pot. Digital image. Wikimedia Commons. Mar. 2012. Web.

From Cacao to Chocolate

 

Cacao

“Imagine walking through an orchard unlike any other you have ever seen – a jumbled community of trees, vines, and other growth shrouded in the sweltering green chiaroscuro of the South American lowlands…The vengeful sunlight of the tropics pierces the great canopy of towering shade trees, slivering into a thousand rays as it hits the leaves of other small, slender trees around you in the dusky understory. These graceful trees are the real heart of this unlikely orchard. This is cacao, the source of every chocolate bar and truffle ever made” (p.43).

-Maricel E. Presilla The New Taste of Chocolate

The past is too far complex to assume that cacao just transforms into chocolate. The botanical and natural history of cacao is so deep-rooted into the South American lowlands, we’ll need to take a look at the logical green anarchy in order to make the connection from cacao to chocolate. From choreographing life on a plantation to the passing of quality tests, cacao must undergo an extensive journey before finally arriving to a chocolate factory.

Cacao trees are no exception to the tedious farming of crops. Farmers don’t just plant the trees, they also choreograph their surroundings. “Some plots simply make use of existing forest cover, but there comes a time when new cover trees have to be created from scratch” (p.46). The beginning stages of a cacao tree’s establishment in its sector are imperative to its growth success. The blossoming and bearing of fruit depend on the tree’s healthy habitat. Everything from proper shading to the insect life that helps pollinate are imperative in this stage.

Once a blossom is successfully pollinated, the fruit will mature and harvesting can begin. “The trick is to sever the stem and retrieve the heavy pod without disturbing the cushion like area that it grows from, and without damaging any flowers or mature fruit” (p. 52). One could imagine how careful this process would need to be handled. Cacao trees are already susceptible to diseases and in comparison to blooms, pods are in small quantities. The pods are then split open and the baskets are weighed. It’s at this point that the farmers are paid for their product and harvest is complete.

Fermenting is another important step in the cacao to chocolate process. After picking out anything that doesn’t belong, the pulp is placed on wooden bins to begin an interesting transformation. “The temperature of the mass rises while the pH goes down, which cause the hulls and the germ tip to soften and allow acid to penetrate. These factors together kill the germ or embryo within the bean. Meanwhile, the semisolid baba spontaneously melts into a liquid vinegar that drains off of its own accord to leave the slightly darkened beans free, though still full of moisture” (p. 55). The cacao beans are now experiencing a chemical process that changes the flavor from bitter to not so harsh, which is important for quality’s sake.

After proper aeration of the fermented beans has completed, the drying stage begins. Since rain is typically expected at some point during this time, drying on mobile wooden shelves or platforms is encouraged. “During this period, they are periodically turned with wooden rakes. At night they are pulled into sheds for protection or covered by clear plastic roofing materials. In about five to six days, the chemical changes within the beans gradually slow down and then stop when the moisture content has dropped to less than 8 percent by weight” (p. 56). How scientific! With the lack of technology to handle such intricate details, one could conclude these farmers knew their stuff.

drying cacao beans

We’re not finished yet. Classification according to size for trading begins after the beans have fermented and dried. “This is an important moment in the life of chocolate. The trade classifies beans according to size and quality. Only specialty or high-quality beans are sold at premium prices. The assorted beans are then placed in burlap bags and weighed” (p. 59). The burlap bags will then eventually make their way into the hands of prospective buyers who will sell them to a chocolate company to produce their version of chocolate.

There are several steps involved when converting cacao to chocolate. Each step, from plantation placement, harvesting, to fermenting, drying and trading of cacao, are important preliminarily to the success of chocolate. One must learn to appreciate the botanical and natural history of cacao in order to fully appreciate chocolate. “The life of the cacao bean is perilous from beginning to end. Each step cacao takes toward the chocolate factory has a bearing on the ultimate quality of the final product” (p.60).

Cacao

 

Works Cited:

 

Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Berkeley: Ten Speed, 2001. Print.

From Africa to Mesoamerica: The Evolution of Exoticization in Chocolate Advertising

In response to the growing demand for “natural,” “authentic,” and “original” foods among Western consumers, chocolate makers have sought to sell their products as somehow connected to the Aztec and Mayan origins of chocolate culture (Martin). By aligning their products with these civilizations, such advertisements exploit Aztec and Mayan cultures to sell to consumers who desire supposedly exotic goods. However, advertisements that seek to portray chocolate as an unusual good have a lengthy history. At the beginning of the twentieth century, such tactics frequently used images of black workers on colonial farms to emphasize the far off origins of chocolate’s ingredients. Due to evolving consumer desires, firms have sought to capitalize on different attributes of chocolate over time, while an emphasis on the good’s exotic nature has remained constant.

As large-scale advertising was just beginning, firms already sought to capitalize on the distant origins of chocolate’s ingredients. In 1910, German postcards used to market chocolate depicted black workers on a cacao farm in Cameroon, while a representative of the British Cadbury Company also focused on those who harvested the beans around the world when writing about cacao production. Silke Hackenesch asserts that “this knowledge of toiling black bodies for white consumers… enhanced the exoticism, the luxury value, and the appeal of consuming chocolate” (Hackenesch, 100-3). The emphasis on the arduous process of cacao production in little-known far flung colonial possessions contributed to the exotic connotation of chocolate, piquing consumers’ interest.

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Liebig – http://www.collectingcandy.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/CC_Mexico-La-Azteca-Carlos-V-chocolate-candy-bar-wrapper-1970s-ALT-3.jpg

Although Western buyers’ desires to associate their purchases with imperialism waned following decolonization, the depiction of chocolate as exotic persisted. In the 1970s, a popular chocolate candy bar in Mexico, Chocolate Carlos V, was made by “La Azteca” (Liebig). The company used a kneeling, silhouetted, presumably Aztec female offering up a few unidentifiable objects against an off-white background as its logo. Much like the “toiling black bodies” referred to by Hackenesch, her kneeling position reinforces notions of native submissiveness in the face of white colonialism. The woman is also presumably offering up the products of La Azteca as a representation of her culture to the buyer. However, La Azteca’s product is not similar to what Aztec people would have made from cacao. As discussed by Sophie and Michael Coe, the Aztecs would have drunk cold and not particularly sweet products, unlike the solid, sugary chocolate advertised (Coe and Coe, 83-6). These images, which have largely misrepresented Aztec culture, seek to exploit the Aztecs’ relationship with chocolate as a demonstration of the food’s exotic nature. Although the methods are different from those analyzed by Hackenesch, the goal of exoticization has remained.

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Maya Belgian Chocolates Product – http://s3-media2.fl.yelpcdn.com/bphoto/FSeawwH00LKKHa78KRyyIw/o.jpg
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Maya Belgian Chocolates Logo – http://s3-media1.fl.yelpcdn.com/bphoto/vq0HwjXjP7k08H41gnehWw/o.jpg

Recent chocolate advertisements have continued this trend while resorting to more blatant misrepresentations of Aztec and Mayan culture. One chocolatier, operating in Inverness, Scotland, has labeled itself “Maya Belgian Chocolates” (“Maya Belgian Chocolates – Inverness, Highland”). The firm uses a glyph followed by the stylized word “Maya” as its logo, both of which it stamps onto its collections of solid box candies, ignoring the fact that the Mayan people consumed cacao as a hot, not particularly sweet beverage and had no connection to the Belgians (“Maya Belgian Chocolates Logo”) (“Maya Belgian Chocolates Product”). The manufacturer has sought to use the Mayan name to demonstrate some relationship to their civilization where one does not exist, demonstrating the enduring importance of exoticism for sales.

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Ancient Aztecs Chocolate Kit – https://d39rqydp4iuyht.cloudfront.net/store/product/image/28704.gif

Other companies have sought to exploit the Aztec culture much like La Azteca did three decades prior. One advertisement for a “Chocolate Kit” depicts a stereotypical Aztec male wearing a colorful feather headdress offering a steaming bowl of chocolate to the buyer, suggesting that the product is similar to what Aztecs would have consumed or given to visitors, much like the image of the woman from Chocolate Carlos V (“Ancient Aztecs Chocolate Kit”). Much like the La Azteca advertisement, the hot, sugary product being sold does not accurately recreate the food as prepared by the Aztecs (Coe and Coe, 83-6). Still, the illustrator further emphasizes the connection by adding a stone pyramid to the background while instructing the consumer to “Discover why cacao was so special to the ancient Aztecs!” (“Ancient Aztecs Chocolate Kit”). Given the aforementioned inaccuracies, this caption naturally leads to uninformed consumers gaining false information about how the Aztecs ingested cacao products. Like the other advertisements discussed above, the “Chocolate Kit” maker has attempted to capitalize on the exotic nature of the Aztecs to appeal to consumers.

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Aztec Gold Chocolate Co. – https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/564x/a6/60/5b/a6605b11ba5c265409ac57bf957d66da.jpg

An advertisement for the Aztec Gold Chocolate Co. goes even further in its attempts to connect with its namesake civilization. Their logo features a stylized bird, vaguely resembling a Native American petroglyph, which is presumably also a reference to the Aztec hummingbird god Huitzilopochtli. The picture also features a “Montezuma Approved” symbol to the left of the bird in a blatantly false attempt to create a connection to the Aztecs (“Aztec Gold Chocolate Co.”). While likely a joke, the fake stamp seeks to convey that not only is the product inspired by the Aztecs, the people of the civilization support the product even though neither the certification nor the connection exists.

Although images of the Mayans and the Aztecs in advertisements for chocolate products have become more common in recent years, marketing that has exploited exotic images of the “other” has been used to sell chocolate products since they became widely available to consumers at the beginning of the twentieth century. While the emphasis of such advertisements has shifted along with consumer tastes, the focus on the exotic nature of the product has remained, demonstrating the success advertisers have had with this tactic. However, the more recent developments in these methods have become increasingly problematic due to their frequent misrepresentations of Aztec and Mayan culture.

Bibliography

Ancient Aztecs Chocolate Kit. N.p., 2016. Web. 20 Feb. 2016.
Aztec Gold Chocolate Co. N.p., 2014. Web. 20 Feb. 2016.
Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. 3 edition. London: Thames & Hudson, 2013. Print.
G., Sharon. Maya Belgian Chocolates Logo. N.p., 2012. Web. 20 Feb. 2016.
—. Maya Belgian Chocolates Product. N.p., 2012. Web. 20 Feb. 2016.
Hackenesch, Silke. “Advertising Chocolate, Consuming Race? On the Peculiar Relationship of Chocolate Advertising, German Colonialism, and Blackness.” Food and History 12.1 (2014): 97–112. brepolsonline.net.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu (Atypon). Web.
Liebig, Jason. CC_Mexico-La-Azteca-Carlos-V-Chocolate-Candy-Bar-Wrapper-1970s. N.p., 2012. Web. 20 Feb. 2016.
Martin, Carla. “Mesoamerica and the ‘Food of the Gods.’” AAAS-119X. Harvard University Cambridge, MA. 2016. Lecture.
“Maya Belgian Chocolates – Inverness, Highland.” Yelp. N.p., 2016. Web. 20 Feb. 2016.

When Money Grew on Trees: Cocoa Beans as Currency in Mayan and Aztec Societies

“Oh, blessed money which yieldeth sweete and profitable drinke for mankinde, and preserveth the possessors thereof free from the hellish pestilence of avarice because it cannot be long kept hid underground”

-Peter Martyr, an early observer of the Aztec society

In today’s society, chocolate is regarded as strictly a consumer good – a beloved, but perishable commodity whose value is primarily derived from its rich and indulgent taste. Aside from gold-foil covered chocolate coins enjoyed as festive treats, there are hardly any instances in which chocolate can be thought to resemble a currency. But for ancient Mesoamerican civilizations, chocolate, specifically the cocoa bean, also held commercial value and was widely accepted in barter. The use of cocoa as a store of value and the traction it gained as a currency that persisted even into colonial times truly speaks to the importance of cacao in these early civilizations. The widespread use of cocoa beans as money and its eventual acceptance by the Spanish, who were at first off-put by the bitter cacao taste, show that cacao’s value was widespread, deep-seated and far-reaching in Central America. It had permeated so many levels of these early societies – religiously, culturally, and even economically.

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A Maya glyph of a cloth bag “xiquipilli’ that kept 8,000 cacao beans, a standard measure of unit of currency.

While the Olmecs were the likely the first civilization to consumer cacao, the use of cocoa beans as commodity money began with the Maya (The True History of Chocolate”). Cacao, originating from the Maya word “Ka’kau”, held great religious, commercial, and even medicinal value for the Maya. Unsurprisingly, the valuable commodity would naturally come to be used to barter for other commodities such as food, clothes, gems and even slaves. They were also exchanged for luxury goods and rare items such as jade, obsidian, and ceremonial feathers (“The Maya and the Ka’kau’ (Cacao)”). Maya farmers would strap baskets attached with Mecapal (a type of band for securing basket to forehead), full of cacao beans on their backs or use canoes to transport the beans for trade. Wealthy merchants would travel as far as Teotihuacan with porters, pack animals, and/or wheeled carts (“Maya Trade and Economy”).

mapa_productos

The map above illustrates Mesoamerican commerce routes as well as flow of goods production. The concept of money via the bartering of cacao beans gave rise to a new social class: the merchants. This had tremendous impact on the political structure of the ancient Maya communities as it allowed for wealth and resources to enter the hands of individuals other than the traditional political elites (“Maya Trade and Economy”). In a sense, cacao helped bring about this redistribution of wealth and power.

When the Aztecs became the most advanced nation in Central America and overtook the Maya, they naturally adopted cocoa beans as a currency as well. The use of cacao currency persisted as a widespread form of money beyond the Aztec times through the Spanish Conquest, Colonial period, and far into the 19th century. In fact, by the time of the Spanish Conquest in 1545, cacao beans outranked gold dust as the primary currency in Mesoamerica. Around 24 years after the Spanish Conquest in, cacao beans were used to set market prices in Tlaxcalla (“Aztecs at Mexicolore”). By 1555, a fixed exchange rate was established in a decree, establishing the value of the cocoa beans at a ratio of 140 beans to one Spanish real (“A Tasty Currency: Cocoa”). Even in the mid-1850s, cacao beans were still observed as being used for small-change.

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[Codex Kingsborough, British Museum] This graphic depicts the tribute tax the Spanish collected from the Aztec was in form of bags of cacao beans.

Although cacao beans would certainly not be a practical form of currency today, meeting just some of the 7 modern characteristics of money (durability, portability, divisibility, uniformity, limited supply, and acceptability), it made for an exceptionally well-received form of money during the Mayan and Aztecs empires. The use of cacao beans exemplified how markets in early civilizations flourished using commodity currencies. The widespread recognition of cocoa as a viable form of money in the Aztec empire really speaks to the amount of value they placed on this commodity.

Works Cited

Berdan, Frances. “Aztecs at Mexicolore.” Mexicolore. Web. 19 Feb. 2016. <http://www.mexicolore.co.uk/aztecs/ask-experts/when-did-the-aztecs-stop-using-cacao-beans-for-money&gt;.

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. 2007 [1996]. The True History of Chocolate. pp. 1-105

“CHOCOLATE: Food of the Gods.” Albert R. Mann Library. Cornell University. Web. 16 Feb. 2016. http://exhibits.mannlib.cornell.edu/chocolate/moneygrewontrees.php

De Maré, Laurie. “A Tasty Currency: Cocoa.” Www.nbbmuseum.be. Museum of the National Bank of Belgium. Web. 16 Feb. 2016.

“Maya Trade and Economy.” Authentic Maya. Web. 19 Feb. 2016. <http://www.authenticmaya.com/maya_trade_and_economy.htm&gt;.

“The Maya and the Ka’kau’ (Cacao).” Authentic Maya. Web. 19 Feb. 2016. <http://www.authenticmaya.com/cacao.htm&gt;.