The Chocolate Life

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Can somebody please help me? I run a small gourmet toffee business in Dayton OH. I have 4 different flavors of toffee and currently use belgian milk, dark (72%) and bittersweet (65%) chocolates which are available in 1lb 1oz bars. I am very interested in switching to a high quality fair trade organic chocolate. I have tried Dagoba but wasn't very impressed.

I am a chocolate novice--I can appreciate really good chocolate more than the average Joe but get a little intimidated when I start reading this site, although I definitely appreciate the wealth of information. I am especially interested in finding a chocolatier who might be interested in working with me to create chocolate specifically for the toffee.

Can anyone point me in the right direction, give me some leads, give me your opinions on the fair trade organic chocolate that's out there, or in any other way help me out?

Thank you very much and I look forward to hearing back.

Tags: fair-trade, organic, wholesale

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Coppeneur creates couverture from a single organic plantation in Ecuador and a single organic plantation in Madagascar. Their couverture is not "Fair Trade". Correct me if I'm wrong but it's my understanding that "Fair Trade" chocolate and coffee must be sourced from a farmers co-op. In other words chocolate or coffee from a single plantation can never be labeled as fair trade.

Fair trade chocolate or coffee can sometimes be a marketing ploy to sell sub-standard beans. Certain consumers will only purchase fair trade chocolate or coffee because it makes them feel good, not because it tastes good.

Outstanding cocoa and coffee beans are nearly always sold at prices above fair trade.
Bruce, you make some very good points here. One thing that most people don't know about "Fair" Trade is that they don't certify farmers, they only certify co-ops. I think the reasons are financial - it's not cost-effective for them to work farm-by-farm and individual farmers don't generate enough income from their cacao to pay the certification fees. Organic certification is also beyond the reach of most individual cacao farmers.

There are some instances where a business corporation (as opposed to a co-operative corporation) owns enough farms to be able to afford to pay for certification and in this case it's possible for a single plantation, if large enough, to be certified or to attain multiple certifications. In which case it is up to the owners to decide if the cost of certifications is balanced by the increase in markets they serve not the increase in the price they can charge. Bruce is right that farmers can earn well more than the minimums offered by "Fair" Trade and other certifications simply by focusing on quality and that all of the truly good cacao in the world commands substantial premiums over the price of commodity cacao.

I have long contented that "Fair" Trade can, in some situations, exert negative (downward) pricing pressure, creating a de-facto ceiling for the price of cacao. Several people have argued that the Fair Trade price sets a de-facto floor, but I believe that it depends on the motivations and intentions of the buyer/broker. Very large companies will tend to look at it as a ceiling, smaller and artisan companies who are interested in the welfare of the farmers and who prefer to buy interesting and unusual beans tend to see it as a floor.

I know that when I was with Shawn Askinosie on his first bean-buying trips we used the Fair Trade pricing model as the starting point for negotiations. On top of that Shawn added profit sharing as well as paying for options contracts on future crops and investing in necessary improvements to infrastructure (e.g., paying to improve fermentation and facilities) in advance of the harvest. In hte latter case, even though Shawn was not buying 100% of their crop the farmers were able to improve the quality of everything they harvested which meant that they could charge more for all of their beans.

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