Ros Rants: The ethics of chocolate

I am an utter chocoholic and love the stuff but I always have one huge proviso – it has to be 100% slave free. The chocolate that I devour and that we use at Cookery School is always ethical.

In our chocolate making class, taught by the wonderful Jon Hogan from Rococo, we start the day with a tasting of a range of different ethical chocolates. Our students are always shocked to learn that the chocolates that they eat all the time aren’t free of controversy and ought to be given an enormously wide berth.  For the rest of the day, everyone learns the tricks of a chocolatier so that they can have fun making their own.  An exciting part of the day is watching the transformation from bean to bar, where chocolate nibs are ground to a smooth paste. Most importantly, apart from having had loads of fun, they leave carrying with them the message that the chocolate that they eat ought to be ethically produced.

Our favourite ethical chocolate is Original Beans. It is worth buying a bar but be warned, you will become addicted.  They also have some wonderful tales to tell. I particularly love the story of Udzwunga in Tanzania, where they were plagued by elephants on the cacao plantation.  They found a great ecological solution in the form of bees, which elephants don’t like! They surrounded the plantation with bee hives and, lo and behold, instead of walking through the plantation and trampling all in their wake, the elephants now give the plantation a wide berth and walk around it! Duffy is another ethical chocolate favourite of ours.  They specialise in bean to bar chocolate and it is, using a cliché, ‘to die for’.

For years, I have been going on about ethical chocolate and how so many of the brands that most people eat in the UK are engaged in buying their chocolate from those that use child labour and deal in child slavery.  It is not a pleasant subject to address but it is one that HAS TO BE addressed.  I am unable to understand why it is not at the forefront of the public domain considering the amounts of chocolate that are imbibed these days.

Recently an article in the Washington Post caught my eye. This sums up this very sad situation to which the majority of chocolate eaters turn a blind eye. It reiterates all that we knew from a video that we have been showing on our Sustainable Kitchen course for some years.  It exposes the sinful fact that child slavery and exploitation of children in many cocoa-growing countries still exits and the large chocolate companies turn a blind eye to these practices and continue to buy and benefit from a practice that ought to be outlawed.

However, not all is lost. There continue to be companies that are operating ethically. We have recently learnt of Tony’s Chocolonely. They stand proud in being 100% slave free!

What do you think can be done to help in this dreadful situation? Do let us know if you come across any other ethical chocolates – we’d love to hear about them!

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