A - Online Chocolate Journal - The Chocolate Mag
- Why buy organic chocolate?
- What does Organic mean?
- How can I tell if a product is organic?
- How can I be sure that an imported product is organic?
- Does Organic mean Fairtrade?
- How is chocolate made?
Why buy organic chocolate?
Buying organic chocolate is better for the environment from many points of view, and also may be better for health.
Cocoa comes from the cacao plant, which grows in central America and west Africa, and it is one of the most heavily sprayed crops in the world. Pesticides used in non-organic cocoa production frequently include chemicals such as lindane, which is linked to serious health problems including blood disorders and breast cancer. Though banned in Canada and Europe, this chemical is still used in many developing countries.
In contrast organic cocoa bushes are grown without the use of most pesticides - only four pesticides are permitted under organic production, compared to nearly 200 normally used.
Also, organic chocolate normally contains more cocoa solids than non-organic chocolate, and it is not permitted to add any hydrogenated fat, which is widely used in mass-produced brands and is known to be harmful to health.
Although much chocolate is dairy-free, where milk is used, organic dairy production has the advantage of reaching much higher standards of animal welfare. Animals are kept in a more natural state, and organic farmers do not routinely use antibiotics. Organic milk is higher in levels of some beneficial nutrients, particularly short-chain omega-3 essential fatty acids, as well as vitamin E and the antioxidant beta-carotene.
What does Organic mean?
"Organic" means a method of production designed to achieve benefits for humans, animals, wildlife and the local and global environments. In particular, organic means:
greatly reduced pesticide use
no routine use of antibiotics in farm animals
care for the local environment and wildlife
sustainable processes that use fewer fossil fuels and emit less greenhouse gas emissions
fewer additives in processed products
no hydrogenated fats
no GM ingredients
Organic agriculture focuses on preserving the quality of the soil itself, so that the soil is not degraded and does not require artificial fertilizer. Because the quality of the soil is maintained and enhanced, organic food often tastes better, is more varied, and contains more nutrients.
Organic production is particularly suited to the tropical regions where cocoa grows, because of its ability to protect and preserve the surrounding biodiversity.
How can I tell if a product is organic?
Look on the packaging for the certification mark. Organic products must be certified by a recognised certification body, for example the Soil Association. Certification bodies are regulated under EU law, and "Organic" is defined in EU law.
Processed organic foods may contain a small percentage of permitted non-organic ingredients, if there is no organic alternative available. For example, the emulsifier soya lecithin is a permitted non-organic ingredient.
How can I be sure that an imported product is organic?
There are many organic certification bodies throughout the world. When a UK-certified manufacturer, for example a chocolate company, uses an ingredient from another country, such as cocoa beans, the UK certifier will contact the overseas certifier, and will obtain inspection reports, and details of inputs and outputs, to ensure that the overseas standards conform to EU standards. This process is called establishing "equivalence" and is rigorously applied. Suppliers of organic cocoa beans are carefully certified and checked.
Does Organic mean Fairtrade?
The Fairtrade mark is an independent consumer label that aims to guarantee a better deal for disadvantaged producers in the developing world. Fairtrade standards are set by the international certification body FLO (Fairtrade Labelling Organisations International).
Not all organic products are Fairtrade, and not all Fairtrade products are organic. The certification systems are independent of each other. You can search for Fairtrade chocolate on this site - all of our chocolate is organic, but not all of it is Fairtrade.
However even where products are not certified Fairtrade, most organic chocolate manufacturers that we source from do make a deliberate point of buying their cocoa ethically, and many of them publicise this information on their products or websites. For example, Montezuma's have a "Trading Fairly" policy that includes ensuring that ingredients come from sources where growers get a fair price.
How is chocolate made?
Chocolate starts off as the cocoa bean, which grows in large pods on the cacao tree. Most cocoa beans come from central Americas and west Africa. The beans and their pulp are left to ferment and turn brown, and are then dried. By this stage they will have the familiar chocolate smell.
The dry, raw beans are what is then exported all over the world to be roasted and de-husked. Normally beans of different origin are mixed together to achieve the variations in flavour that we associate with different chocolate brands.
Sugar is added, and the chocolate paste is then ground and refined. This is followed by the critical period of "conching" where the cocoa mass is gently agitated for several days to develop its aroma, and other flavours such as vanilla are added. Then the chocolate is melted and "tempered", after which it will solidify.
Chocolate manufacture is a sophisticated series of separate processes, which have been perfected by chocolate makers over many decades, resulting in the wide variety of different textures, melts and flavours that are now available.
Our aim is to bring you the very best in organic chocolate - exquisite rich truffles, delightful chocolate gifts, pure dark bars and sumptuous after-dinner treats. Visit one of the sections below - or click left - to browse the wonderful range of high quality chocolate available here.