This Thursday brought a huge conundrum…Kallari chocolate tasting put on by Slow Foods International or the viewing of Queen of the Sun about the honey bee collapse. I was already bummed the beekeeping class put on by Chicago Honey Co-Op was closed and decided to parlay my decision down the chocolate avenue.
The seminar was divided into two parts; first was about the company Kallari and the rest was about chocolate itself. Just like anything that is purchased, I try as a consumer to be aware of the pros and cons of each product I come into contact with. Walmart, processed food, and certain genres of music were off my list for a very long time. Over the years, I’ve tried to maintain a ‘middle of the road’ kind of theory on life. As always I present the information here on this blog as a learning tool and hope that you readers will vote with your dollars and ultimately decide what is best for you. All the information is directly from the seminar and filled in with information found on the internet-along with a few pictures. Take what is useful and more importantly enjoy some chocolate! So here goes…
Chocolate is a $19 billion industry a year. The top three commodities in the world if you can believe it are oil, coffee, then cacao beans. Of all the cacao beans produced in the world, 65% of them come from Africa. There are currently 45 million families producing beans and the United States is the 2nd leading buyer. Can you guess what country is buying the most? The top 2 companies that are buying these beans in the U.S. are ADM out of Decatur, Illinois (Was fined $100 million for price-fixing lysine- check out the movie The Informant with Matt Damon) (also fined $1.46 million for violating Illinois Clean Air regulations), and Cargill. Cargill is a privately owned company based in Minnesota. Earnings for 2010 were $107.9 billion. Side note- every egg that goes to McDonalds, goes through a Cargill plant. In 2005, the International Labor Rights Fund filed suit against them, ADM and Nestle for trafficking children to farm the cacao beans.
Cacao pods are only grown in the tropics or 20 degrees north or south of the equator. A tree must be 5-6 years old before it will bear fruit and most trees produce 30 pods a years or approximately 1000 beans. Essentially that one tree will produce 2 lbs. of bittersweet chocolate. Once the pods are split open, the beans are scooped out and fermented for about 5 days. This fermentation allows the sugar in the pulp to be converted into acid and change the composition of the beans. From there, the beans are dried for a few more days. These beans are put into jute bags, sold, and sent off to shipping containers where they are fumigated with Methyl Bromide (tasty!) for mold and bugs. The beans may sit in storage for years changing hands to the highest bidder. Just like “Choc Finger” hedgefund owner Anthony Ward did last July. No wonder Starbucks Caffe’ Mocha is so expensive- chocolate is now selling for an all-time high since 1977!
Companies buy the beans where they are then roasted, winnowed (separate the nibs from the shells), grinded, conched, tempered and molded. The final step is the packaging and can look gorgeous in France or plain-Jane at your local 7 Eleven.
Kallari (Kahl-YA- di) is based out of Ecuador. The farmers there were selling their beans for .25 cents a lb. until CEO Steve McDonnell of Applegate Farms stepped in. He loaned the 900 farmers an interest free loan of $500k to start their own Cooperative; which now allows the farmers to go from bean to bar and get paid $1.80-$2.00 a lb for the beans. The beans are roasted only 7 hours from the farms and not stored for years. A lot of chocolate companies today replace cocoa butter with inexpensive soy lecithin (think how margarine replaced butter) to help with profit margins. Thus, bringing the chocolate lover one more step removed from the real product. Kallari ingredients are organic cacao, organic cane sugar, organic cocoa butter, organic whole vanilla bean. THAT’S IT!!
We blind tasted 9 different chocolates (plus wine-yeah!) The actual cocoa ranged from 64% – 85%. Three of the pieces were from Kallari. When a chocolate says it is from a ‘single origin’ in Europe only 10% of the beans have to be from that region. In the U.S. you can do whatever the hell you want. If want to eat chocolate that is really chocolate and not processed crap, along with putting the $$ where it should belong, here are a list of the ones that are Mel-a-coco-approved!