With Halloween just around the corner, Slow Food couldn’t help but be thinking about sweets. This week, Maria, Doug, and I ran a table in the Memorial Union to educate students about the importance of buying fair trade items. Given the time of year we decided to focus on chocolate. If you aren’t familiar with what fair trade is, you may have noticed some specialty food items that have started to bear the Fair Trade stamp and wondered what it meant. In short, fair trade works towards creating a sustainable global economic system. It ensures that the payment of producers in developing countries is fair, in an effort to support the rights of worker’s, eliminate poverty, and protect the environment.
Taza Chocolate, an organic and fair trade chocolate company from Somerville, MA was nice enough to donate samples of a few varieties of their chocolate to Slow Food URI. Taza goes about making their chocolate in a very unique way. They not only produce their chocolate straight from the bean using a traditional method of stone grinding, but they’ve hand selected cooperatives to work with in Mexico, Costa Rica, and the DR that grow cacao sustainably and organically. Lastly, as a part of their Direct Trade principles, Taza made it a commitment to maintain direct relationships with their cacao producers, to only purchase cacao beans from producers using fair and humane work practices, and to pay their cacao farmers a minimum of 500 US Dollars/metric ton more than the current NYBOT price for cacao beans. There isn’t a step of their process that they didn’t put a lot of thought into. Visit Taza’s website to read the story about how their passion to create a socially responsible chocolate bar using traditional techniques began: http://www.tazachocolate.com/AboutUs
Also of interest to us Slow Foodies, was the fact that Taza’s technique of stone grinding (and minimal processing) helps to keep the health benefits of the cacao beans in tact. This process also gives their chocolate a unique texture. Chocolate is often touted for offering a host of health benefits to those who indulge. However, for all you chocolate lovers out there, be aware that your average chocolate bar has been through so many steps of processing that most of the vitamins and minerals that were once present have been lost along the way. But, as I’m sure you are gathering by now, Taza makes anything but your average chocolate bar. Lastly, their chocolate is dairy, soy and gluten free! So vegans – have at it! If you’re not vegan, buy some for your friends that are lactose intolerant or have Celiac Disease. Or, simply consider handing out some socially responsible chocolate this year for Halloween.
To learn more about Fair Trade and to seek out other businesses that are sourcing their products in a socially responsible way, check out Fair Trade USA’s webpage: http://www.fairtrade.net/products.html