The Hot Chocolate of Tomorrow
Hot Chocolate: Down the Memory Lane
I remember being a kid and heading to the kitchen after school to make my hot chocolate. A glass of hot milk came from the microwave, 2 spoons of Nestlé chocolate powder, and here I got my hot chocolate! It was easy, simple and for a long time, I didn’t really question the quality of the cacao powder, or the cow milk. Until personal experiences led me to learn to read my cosmetics ingredients labels, to be aware of the worker’s condition behind my fast-fashion clothes, and eventually to be aware of the ugly truth behind the chocolate industry…
When my retired father, a former engineer, received a block of pure cacao paste I sent to him, he texted me “Wonderful! But what do you do with a block of cacao?” Like a large number of us coming from industrialized modern societies, not used to finding cacao blocks in supermarkets, he was curious, yet skeptical. I cheerfully replied to him “Well, you can reinvent the way you make your hot chocolate!”
And this hit me! If there is a big trend growing with cacao among the spiritual communities reconnecting to ancient Mayan wisdom, we don’t necessarily need to be into that to vote for ethical, organic, and fair trade cacao. We can consume it simply because we want nutritious, high-quality food to enhance our health; because we care about the people behind the product; and because we want healthy rainforests to protect the air our kids will breathe tomorrow.
Choose the Way You Drink Your Hot Chocolate
In Cacao Source, we believe in the ethical and sustainable consumption of cacao. We take into account the people that bring you this fruit medicine, and the health of the land, to create shared abundance for all. We believe that cacao is a powerful plant to regenerate the soil, protect biodiversity, and enhances the rainforest! We believe in artisanal, hand-made cacao. And if you ever go to one of our women’s collective tours organized in San Marcos la Laguna, Guatemala, you will hear Catarina sharing how she would put on good music to feel joy when she roasts and grinds the cacao, or Paola putting oriental zen music to create peace of mind and process the cacao consciously.
Cacao: Farms of Industry?
We rarely see these practices of mindful production in the food industry. Most of the revenue generated by our childhood favorite chocolate bars barely goes to farmers. Most of them, especially in Africa, live below the poverty line and earn only 5% of the price of a chocolate bar. Child slavery is used for growing, harvesting, and transporting cocoa beans is also an ugly truth in the cocoa industry. An estimated 2 million children were involved as labor in cacao farms throughout Ghana and Ivory Coast in 2013 (WWF).
But what if the farmers were paid enough to elevate their standard of living, enabling kids to study and have learning activities, instead of sending them to work, and asking them to help the family? Or what about choosing a world where the farmers can touch 50% of the price their product is sold? Visualizing relaxed, joyful farmers having their work rewarded to enable their kids to learn music, go to universities, actually makes me happy.
The rainforest… Simply visualizing the image of it brings me deep fresh breaths and a deep connection to the living. How about you? But a lot of cocoa farmers can be pressured to use environmentally harmful practices to respond to the global demand which includes clearing tropical forests to plant new cocoa trees rather than reusing the same land leading to mono-crop-culture, massive deforestation, and decrease biodiversity in West Africa, particularly in Ivory Coast. 70% of the global cocoa market comes from farms in West Africa while cacao is actually not designed to grow in Africa as it is originally native to South America. So what if we choose to buy a product that would preserve the ecosystem instead?
Cacao is also the most potent plant-based source of antioxidants reducing inflammation, and thereby stress, in the body. It is a very nutritious and healthy food when cultivated and processed with a high standard of quality. However, big corporations in the chocolate industry add a lot of sugar to chocolate bars to cover the bitter taste of low-quality cacao. They use palm oil instead of cacao butter to avoid the conching phase that chocolatiers use for silky melt texture. They use artificial sweeteners to actually reduce the quantity of sugar, which is not without consequences on our digestive system, or other synthetically reproduced flavors like Vanillin made of the byproduct of Vanilla wood and paper. What if we choose to vote for a product that is healthy for our minds? High-quality cacao is full of neurotransmitters… Theobromine, serotonin, dopamine… let’s vote for happiness hormones for all!
Reinventing Hot Chocolate
I feel you, it isn’t easy to make a change. Especially when sustainable and ethical alternatives are not accessible in the closest supermarket, and our intense modern life rushes us to the fastest and easiest option. But we can choose at times, to make consciously small changes by choosing to educate ourselves to buy ethical products. Because a purchase is a vote for the intention behind the product.
And we can also choose to reinvent our hot chocolate, by slowing down with our loved ones, taking time to chop our cacao block, heating a few spoons of it in a small pot, adding nut butter to replace non-eco-friendly tetra pack milk, and even opening a creative space to pick and smell the spices we feel inspired to add in our cacao today, maybe even thyme or rose petals from the garden? Feeling that every sip of a handmade, organic, fair trade cacao is the love for the world we build for tomorrow.