You may recall The Great Chocolate Chip Cookie Experiment of 2011. With the help of the Mr, I conducted a serious side by side comparison study of two of my favorite chocolate chip cookie dough recipes. We were thorough in our approach. Each cookie had to be baked on the same pan, in the same oven, and tasted multiple times over the course of several days. As you can imagine, it was brutal.
Of course, it was totally worth it because in the end we discovered our ultimate chocolate chip cookie–The Chewy.
This new experiment is about more than just finding our favorite chocolate chip cookie. It’s about making that chocolate chip cookie as good for the people who bring the ingredients to my kitchen as it is for our bellies.
You may remember I joined the ONE word community this year with a group of other fantastic bloggers. The word I chose for the year was “one.” You can read the story behind “one” here, but here’s the gist. This year, I’m challenging myself to take all the great, big problems in the world, all those numbers and statistics, and find just one concrete action I can take to help them. It’s not about saving the world. It’s about doing simple things with great intentionality.
It’s no surprise the first stop on this ONE word experiment would be something that hits so close to home–my kitchen cupboards.
Soon after choosing my word for they year, I ran across several articles detailing what one documentary film maker calls, “The Dark Side of Chocolate.” According to UNICEF, close to half a million children work on the cocoa farms of the Ivory Coast. Hundreds of thousands of these children are trafficked from bordering countries, forbidden from leaving the farm, and receive no pay. In other words, they’re slaves.
After reading more about the child labor practices that bring treats like Snickers and Hershey bars to our grocery shelves, I decided there was at least one thing I could do to help: start buying only fair trade chocolate chips.
If you’re unfamiliar with the principals behind the label of fair trade products, they include paying farmers and workers fair wages, ensuring safe working conditions, and preventing child exploitation. For the full list, please check out the Fair Trade Federation.
The good news is, there are plenty of companies out there who are committed to fair trade practices in chocolate production.
The bad news is, there aren’t a lot of them that offer fair trade chocolate chips. After quite a bit of research, I narrowed down the field to two primary brands of fair trade chocolate chips: Camino and SunSpire.
I ordered and compared the two different chips in both semi sweet and bittersweet and have given a short synopsis of both below.
The Camino Chips are completely fair trade, organic, and contain no bizarre or unpronouncable ingredients. You’ll only find cane sugar, cacao mass, and cacao butter in these chips. You can purchase Camino chips from SERRV, a nonprofit organization with a mission to eradicate poverty wherever it resides by providing opportunity and support to artisans and farmers worldwide. Pretty cool mission, huh?
SERVV offers a host of fair trade products ranging from purses and accessories to serving bowls to baking supplies. Along with coconut, cocoa, and baking bars, SERVV offers baking chips in semisweet and bittersweet. A 9 oz. bag of semisweet baking chips is $6.
Unfortunately, the shipping doubles the price at a whopping $6.95. However, the more bags you get, the cheaper the shipping is per bag. So if you get 6 bags the shipping only goes up to $8.95 which makes buying en masse a lot more appealing.
The other source for fair trade chocolate is SunSpire. Like Camino, SunSpire chips are made with all natural ingredients including evaporated cane juice, unsweetened chocolate, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, and ground vanilla beans. SunSpire doesn’t offer their products on their website but they do provide a store locator so you can find a store that carries them near you. If you live in the Columbus area you can find them at The Andersons, the Bexley Natural Market, or at Meijer. You can also find SunSpire products online on Amazon (Amazon: SunSpire Bittersweet Chocolate Chips) or at The Natural Candy Store. I haven’t found the 9 ounce bags for cheaper than $5.99. Of course, the advantage to SunSpire is that if you can find a shop near you that carries them, you can save some significant moolah on shipping.
After a serious afternoon of grueling taste testing, the Mr. and I finally came to a conclusion. We’re team Camino. While both chips tasted good, we thought the Camino chips had the purest, richest chocolate flavor. However, both chips melt just fine in a chocolate chip cookie, and due to the shipping costs of Camino, I’m sure I’ll be buying my fair share of SunSpire chips in the future.
Now, I know at this point you may still be scraping your jaw off the ground because of those prices. I’m still learning to swallow those numbers myself. Fair trade chocolate is not cheap.
But here’s the thing. Labor isn’t (or shouldn’t be) cheap. It takes time and hard work to harvest, prepare, and deliver chocolate to our doors. If paying an extra $3 or $4 for a bag of chocolate chips can help keep a child from becoming a slave, I say it’s worth every single penny. And if I can’t afford it this week? Well, maybe that chocolate craving can wait until there’s a tad more wiggle room in the budget.
Plus, since I paid more for these chocolate chips, I used them more carefully. I took the time to appreciate every silky, bittersweet bite and thanked God for the people who made it possible for me to enjoy it. I put a single chip in my mouth and allowed it to melt slowly. I savored it. It felt luxurious, like a special treat. And really, that’s exactly what chocolate should be–a special treat.
I know buying fair trade chocolate chips isn’t in the cards for everyone. But maybe there’s another way you can help prevent child slavery. Consider buying your next scarf or table linens from SERRV. Danielle, who blogs over at From Two to One, wrote a fantastic article that highlights several organizations who are empowering the poor by providing them with just wages and a reliable source of income. You can find everything from dresses to jewelry to art prints, and believe me, they are some of the prettiest, most unique products you can get your hands on.
There are so many great resources and organizations doing inspiring work. I encourage you to explore and find your own “one” way to participate. And if you know of a great resource for fair trade or equitable products, please share it with the rest of us!
If you’d like more information on the dark side of chocolate and would like to stay up to date on the latest in the issue, CNN’s Freedom Project is a great place to start.
If you’re craving some chocolate just for eating, there are a wealth of companies that make specialty chocolate bars. You can check out Fair Trade USA for a full list of companies and cocoa products available. You can also search the Fair Trade Directory for fair trade companies near you.
Oh, and don’t forget to come back later this week to see where all those delicious chocolate chips ended up!
Updated: Folks shared some excellent resources in the comment section, so please check them out! I also wanted to note that while not Fair Trade Certified, the stringent requirements of organic products mean they are usually slave-free. They’re also more readily available, and in many cases, cheaper than the products listed above. You can read more about organic chocolate and get a big ‘ol list of fair trade and organic chocolate producers at Stop Chocolate Slavery. This site also shares where each company sources their chocolate and is a great overall resource for slave-free chocolate products. Thanks again for sharing what you know and helping to spread the word!