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Food & Drink

Hershey's, West African child labor, and the promise of Brazil's 'cabruca' system

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo

Slave-free chocolate from Posh Chocolat.


There's a Brazilian agricultural cooperative called Cabruca that helps sustainable, fair-trade chocolate growers, large and small, grow their crop and market their beans to companies like Valrhona, in France, or the Swiss chocolatier Läederach. Be prepared to pay more for the conscience-soothing options, and expect a better-tasting product. The Cabruca cooperative also sells wine made from the fruit of the cacao plant (chocolate is made from the seeds).

While the term cabruca is used only in Brazil, the concept of rainforest-friendly chocolate has taken root to some degree wherever chocolate is grown, even in West Africa. As part of Hershey's new commitment to fair-trade and sustainably grown chocolate, the company's Bliss and Dagoba lines will soon be sourced exclusively from Rainforest-Alliance certified operations. The change is due in part to pressure from groups like the International Labor Rights Forum, and in part to chasing profit; artisanal chocolate is one of the fastest growing segments of the food business.

Chocolate is an industry rife with stories, and stories — like rainforest friendly — sell product, even if they're plain wrong, says Jason Willenbrock of Posh Chocolat in Missoula, Montana. He says when Valentine's Day rolls around he has to brace for the annual onslaught of fondue makers looking for Belgian chocolate. It's frustrating, he says, because Belgian chocolate makers tend to be "among the worst" of the Africa-sourcing chocolate makers, in terms of environmental and labor practices, and also in terms of quality. "There's absolutely no reason to choose Belgian chocolate, for fondue or anything else," he said. •

Jason Willenbrock's (non-Belgian) chocolate fondue

1 1/4 cup heavy cream
6 oz chopped chocolate (South American origin chocolates in the 65% range)
1 oz cognac or brandy
Sponge cake squares or strawberries for dipping

 

In a heavy bottom pot slowly bring cream to simmer. Slowly incorporate the chopped chocolate by whisking in a little at a time until it melts completely. Whisk in the cognac and keep it warm. Serve immediately with sponge cake squares or strawberries.

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