There was a video circulating the internet today of Ivory Coast cocoa farmers trying chocolate for the first time. Ivory Coast happens to be the largest world exporter of cocoa beans, and the farmers had been harvesting and drying the beans for years, never knowing what they were used for. If you have six minutes I must recommend watching this beautiful bitter-sweet video:
Their faces really light up when they experience the taste of chocolate for the first time, it is truly a wonderful sight to see.
We can see the growing conditions of these beans, in lush rural jungle, harvested fermented and dried by hand in a traditional style. It is quite possible some of these beans will end up in a delicious cup of hot cocoa somewhere far from these jungles. It is not hard to find the parallels between cocoa and coffee harvesting. They are similar trees with similar harvesting and drying techniques, the beans bitter until roasted. Preferably harvested by hand as to not damage the trees for the next harvest, and often by the indigenous populations of the regions as one of their only forms of livelihood.
It is quite striking when we learn the farmer in the video runs his entire plantation on seven euros a day, and had never seen the fruits of his labor. He had never been given a single sample of the chocolate his land had yielded. As consumers it is easy for us to put a higher demand on products that give back to the farmers that grow them. There are systems in place that have established this relationship, Fair Trade and others, but we can actually do a lot by just making a conscious effort to care and think about where the foods we love come from.
The next time we're enjoying a great cup of coffee or cocoa, let's be sure to remember the farmers that helped it get to us. We are all connected in the web of life!
Peace, love, and happy sipping,