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Life Is Like A Box of Chocolates

I love chocolate! Particularly dark chocolate. The darker, the better! But is all chocolate created equal? I'm sure we can all agree that there is a vast difference between cheap waxy Easter candy and a handmade truffle made with fine ingredients. But is that all there is to chocolate?

What you may not know is that more than 75% of chocolate consumed in the United States comes from 600,000 cocoa farms on West Africa’s Ivory Coast. We eat 2.8 BILLION pounds of chocolate each year, yet the vast majority of these cocoa farmers & their families live in complete poverty. They struggle to feed their children, while the wealthiest country in the world feasts on it everyday, in a candy bar at lunch, dessert after dinner, special occasions, holidays or just while getting a treat at the gas station, drug or grocery store. Because these families are so poor, many children of these farmers do not go to school, but instead pick cocoa to help the family survive. It’s estimated that 15,000 child-slaves (whether kidnapped or sold by their parents) work on these farms often at the end of a whip and as young as 8 years old.

If you’re not sure what Fair Trade is, the chocolate industry is a great way to wrap your head around it. "Fair Trade" is about making a difference with your dollars, it’s about companies paying a fair price for products, fair labor conditions (child labor is strictly prohibited), empowerment & self-sufficiency, investment in community development & environmental sustainability. Like me, you may be wondering why, if we (in the US) consume half of the world’s chocolate, are the cocoa farmers from which it comes struggling to make ends meat. Many U.S. chocolate company giants pay as little as they can to these farms so they can make even more money and because competition is high the cocoa farmers would rather make something than nothing and are forced to sell for far less than they should. When a product is Fair Trade Certified it is a guarantee that the ingredients used were grown & sourced in a way that doesn't harm the people who grow it or their communities. And growing cocoa organically means that it is safer for the farmers (they are not exposed to harmful pesticides & fungicides) and it is safer for us to eat (we are not exposed to harmful pesticides & fungicides).

Sweet Earth Chocolates is one of those companies who are making a difference. Creating delicious, hand-crafted Organic & Fair trade-certified chocolates in downtown San Luis Obispo, California, their 65% chocolate scored highest in a San Francisco Chronicle blind taste test. The founders make a trip each year to Ghana & Ivory Coast to keep in touch with the farmers and understand their needs. Sweet Earth also founded a charitable 501 (3c) organization, Project Hope and Fairness to improve the lives of cocoa farmers. I encourage you to check out their website to learn more.

Any of their mouth-watering treats would make a great gift for Father’s Day or any occasion. Now through June 16th, they’ll throw in a free chocolate bar with any $8.00 minimum purchase if you enter “Fig/Sage” during checkout!


P.S. If you’re local to SLO, you can stop by Sweet Earth Chocolates retail space inside of the Splash Café downtown. Their chocolate factory is upstairs. (Are you imagining Willy Wonka? Me too.)

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