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Archive for the ‘News and Events’ Category

Does Fair Trade Mean Environmentally Sustainable?

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

Almost every morning my wake-up ritual is the same. I reluctantly rise out of bed, make the concious decision to bypass the snooze option on my alarm, fumble for my glasses and make a bee-line to the percolator to brew up a life-saving dose of our Cafe Ribera organic coffee (which still amazes me by it’s subtle cocoa flavor, how does that squeeze in there?). Then, I check my email and browse my favorite websites for news and events.

A staple of my morning peruse is Slate is an internet news hybrid of my two favorite traditional news sources National Public Radio, and the Washington Post. Today, the weekly environmental column “The Green Lantern” examined the environmental sustainability claim of the Fair Trade Certification program in it’s article Is Fair Trade Green?

The article thoroughly examined the actual requirements for fair trade certification, compared to what most consumers see as the implications of such a certification. It also does a good job of showing which types of products should be bought locally here in the U.S. instead of having them air freighted in from far off places, increasing their carbon footprint. If you’re shopping for “fair trade” products, kudos to you! You are a socially responsible consumer and should be applauded. You should also know what to look out for in your quest to become a truly sustainable consumer.

Fair trade certification really focuses on fair labor practices, not necessarily environmentally sustainable practices. Our Cafe Ribera and Conuco Reserve Fair Trade cocoa and cacao beans are not only fair trade certified, but also USDA certified organic. Fair Trade certification does not require products to be organic, though it endorses the practice. Make sure that your products are also certified organic; only USDA organic certification ensures that the farms practice environmentally sustainable farming techniques in addition to whatever fair labor certification they might have.

Fair Trade Chocolate for Halloween

Friday, October 17th, 2008
The Fair Trade Logo

The Fair Trade Logo

I came across a news story by the United Methodist News Service about Fair Trade chocolate and they are trying to raise awareness this Halloween, a time when lots of people will eat lots of chocolate. The basic premise of Fair Trade is fairly simple:

  1. Provide access to the market for small scale food producers by purchasing directly from them.
  2. Develop equitable and sustainable partnerships with producers by paying fair markets prices for their goods and reinvesting in their communities.
  3. Raise awareness among consumers and other purchasers about the benefits of Fair Trade (via conferences, newsletters, blogging…)

Eating Fair Trade foods is really not as difficult as one might think. In the past few years, supermarkets and especially smaller, local food coops have put more Fair Trade products on their shelves. However, even if you are not able to stock everything you eat with Fair Trade certified goods, you can still probably find most of your staple foods with the Fair Trade logo. Items such as sugar, coffee, cocoa, tea, fruits, honey, etc. are widely available at any decent food coop.

If you would like to learn more about the Fair Trade movement, check out The Fair Trade Foundation and The International Fair Trade Organization for ways to get involved. Also, take a look at our Organic, Fair Trade Cocoa Powder and Cacao Beans for two of International Organics most popular Fair Trade products.

The Many Different Faces of Cacao

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008
A Ripe Cacao Pod

A Ripe Cacao Pod

Anyone who has sampled cacao from different producers is often surprised at just how different one cacao bean can taste from another. Many people are even more surprised to learn that there are at least three different types of cacao beans grown worldwide: the Criollo, the Forastero, and the Trinitario. To even further complicate things, any number of factors can also create huge taste (and nutritional) differences between one crop and another: soil, water, climate, cultivation method, whether or not fertilizers are used, etc.

I was browsing some news articles this morning and came across an interesting story about some of these taste differences and particularly how the different varieties of cacao affect their taste.

  • Criollo. The Criollo variety of cacao bean is considered by many to be the most prized of all cacao beans, if not the most rare and difficult to come by (only about 10% of cacao worldwide is Criollo).
  • Forastero. The Forastero cacao bean is by far the most commonly grown bean in the world (about 80%) due to its hardiness and high yield. In many areas of the world, particularly west Africa, this is the only variety of cacao that is grown.
  • Trinitario. The Trinitario cacao bean is actually a hybrid of the Criollo and Forastero, and accounts for about 10% of the worldwide cacao crop. It is valued by farmers and cacao connoisseurs as having the delicate, not overly bitter flavor and aroma of the Criollo bean, while still being hardy enough for large-scale cultivation and disease resistance. Much of the world’s finest chocolate is Criollo, Trinitario, or a combination of the two.

The cacao beans sold on are all bought from a single, organic-only coop in the Dominican Republic. About 80% of their cacao crop is Trinitario beans and the other 20% is Criollo. Our beans are 100% raw, organic and fair trade certified. So, the next time you bite into a piece of chocolate, take a moment to consider just how complicated and amazing that little piece of candy really is!