ONE: The Great Fair Trade Chocolate Chip Experiment
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!
Wonderful post I’ve heard that costco has slavery free chocolate chips but not 100% sure. What about Whole Foods or Trader Joes?
Thanks for coming by to comment! I’ve heard the same about CostCo, and their bag states that all their chocolate is “ethically sourced” though not Fair Trade certified. I’ve done a little research into Whole Food and Trader Joes. They each carry lots of Fair Trade Chocolate Bars (which you can chop up and use like chips in cookies), but I don’t think they carry any specific Fair Trade Chocolate Chips. However, from the research I’ve done it sounds organic chocolate is almost always slave free due to the strict regulations and standards they have to meet, so you could certainly go for the organic chocolate chips at either of those stores. For more on the organic vs. fair trade I recommend this site: http://vision.ucsd.edu/~kbranson/stopchocolateslavery/main.html
Hi! I had buy purchasing my chocolate chips from Trader Joe’s, I had emailed the company about their chocolate chips and baking cocoa and they said slave labor was not used. Costco now carries Kirkland brand chocolate chips that are responsibly sourced. I know that these are not considered fair trade, but I think they are a fabulous alternative to the mainline companies who are using slave labor.
Sorry, been purchasing, not “buy purchasing”. 🙂
Good to know! Especially the tip about Costco. I previously purchased my chocolate chips in bulk from Sam’s but they were Nestle so I stopped buying them. May have to switch membership over to Costco and try that instead!
I wanted to add that I can find camino chips at our health food store in a small city in Canada- should be easier in the US. Also, our grocery store chains carry cocoa camino cocoa powder and hot chocolate mix. If you can find any cocoa camino products you could ask that the store also order the chips. I rarely use choc chips but always have cocoa and sometimes the hot choc mix for special occasions. Also, since FT chocolate is more readily available, I would do as Amanda has suggested and just chop up bar chocolate. Since you pay more for FT, it’s hard to justify the additional shipping costs (and this added expense isn’t contributing to the growers/harvesters). It is a good alternative for those that would find online shopping too expensive to commit to- at least this way you get to have you cookie and help others, too.
Thanks for sharing! I agree, I think the chocolate bars might be the most cost effective approach. Camino is actually a Canada-based company, which is why we can’t get it shipped direct from their website. I also imagine that’s why the shipping was so expensive for me! But if you’re from CA and can find them in the stores or have it shipped directly from their website, that’s a great option!
Thanks for the post. I feel a little bit like, “Darn, now that I know better, I have no excuse to keep buying $3 grocery store chocolate!” 🙂
I might search for slightly more affordable or locally available brands though, like a Whole Foods generic or something, because double cost per bag is one thing (and worth it to pay people, I agree), but quadruple cost for shipping is really prohibitive. Did you focus on these two because of issues with other companies that purport to sell fair trade? I was just looking for alternatives and saw http://vision.ucsd.edu/~kbranson/stopchocolateslavery/main.html and it lists a bunch.
Thanks for stopping by and for sharing the resource Mirati! I would definitely look at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s for other options. I focused on these two because I knew anyone could order them, even if they couldn’t find something in their local stores. Most of the other Fair Trade companies listed don’t carry chocolate chips, which is the other reason I narrowed it down to these two. Although I did find one other one thanks to the resource you posted here: http://mama-ganache.com/level.itml/icOid/34. It looks like you can buy them in bulk which would probably be cheaper. I’ve also read that buying organic is a good option if Fair Trade is cost prohibitive. Because of the high standards and restrictions for organic farms, it’s highly unlikely slavery is involved in the process. You can also do what another commenter suggested and buy chocolate bars and just chop them up for cookies! I hope you’ll be able to find something that works at your local store!
Looks like we’re two of a kind. I’m a blogger with a similar commitment. Check out my post, much like yours, on the issue of fair trade chocolate and my commitment in my own kitchen!! 🙂 http://sweetjumbles.com/chocolate/
Very cool! Thank you for sharing. The more resources the better.
Great post! Just wanted to let you know that Guittard also do a Fair Trade semi-sweet chocolate chip; it comes in a pink foil bag.
And as a chef let me just say that buying bulk chocolate or chocolate bars and chopping them up ALWAYS makes for a better cookie. So don’t be deterred by the chips!
Thanks for sharing! Guess I’ll have to do another taste test (oh darn). I will probably end up going the bar route–seems more cost effective, plus then you get the chocolate chunks plus a better chocolate melt throughout. Can’t wait to try my favorite recipe that way!
Wonderful post! Can’t wait to see photos of those delicious fair trade cookies & hope you’ll be sharing your ultimate chocolate chip cookie recipe! 🙂
Thank you! Here’s the link to my favorite recipe: https://neighborfoodblog.com/2011/04/great-chocolate-chip-cookie-experiment.html. (It’s one of my earlier posts, so you’ll have to forgive the photography. 🙂