The Chocolate Cult

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Traceability and Chocolate

A while back I reported on a conference I attended of the Cacao and Chocolate Summit and since then, I've been on their email list. I can't always attend even their online meetings, but when I can and I do, I'll write a report here for any of you who are interested to check out. This time the topic was "the use of technology to ensure traceability in the fine cocoa value chain." The two speakers were Sergio Figueredo and Matt Whiteman both from Choco4Peace. Jody Hayden and Jenny Samaniego were the hosts.

The webinar itself focused on four questions that we were sent ahead of time: 1) Did the producers participate in the idea and in the development stages of their model and technology? 2)How has the producer received your technology? 3) What are the challenges and opportunities for producers and consumers as a result of your technology? and 4) Have you seen similar models that have been successful in other parts of the world or in other industries?

However, this report will focus on four questions I had before attending the webinar that I think you will also find more interesting. I hope you learn as I did.

Almost 200 people were pre registered for this webinar according to the chat I overheard after I was admitted. I could not see the list of attendees however. Choco4Peace is focused finding financing for small cacao farmers. They discovered that many of the financing problems of Colombia represent problems endemic to small cacao producers around the world. This include the high risk nature of creating cacao farms and thus lack of financial backing, the need to get government permissions to even farm (often in corrupt systems), high rates of violence in the regions, and low pay to support a demand for cheap chocolate.

What is traceability? 

This wasn't directly answered in the webinar. I guess they assumed that attendees would what it was. So I typed a question asking for a definition. 

Traceability in any field is verifying all of the steps from creation to final sales of any product/service.

The Choco4Peace defined it as "Being able to know how the cacao beans move from producer to the consumer along every step of the way. Also to know the impact each step has to the farmer, chocolate maker, seller, and buyers is. Putting this into the hands of everyone in a digital form that everyone can access." This combines the ideas of basic traceability with visibility.

Why is it important to chocolate? 

Tracking where cocoa beans come from, helps ensure quality and increases the likelihood that the buyer will be interested and willing to pay more. Using a digital platform to keep track can increase communication between farmer and buyer as well as cut back on the costs that many fine chocolate makers spend to constantly monitor the farming practices.

What other issues does it impact? 

The biggest impact is on the income of the cacao farmers and the people they employ. Most small cacao farmers live in poverty and most cacao plantation workers also live in poverty. If the farmer can get more income by proving the value of their beans to buyers, they are more likely to move out of poverty and share economic gains anyone they employ. Furthermore, the increase in income may go into producing better beans and increase the acres that can be grown. The income gained can be generational, too, breaking cycles of poverty. Choco4Peace has a goal of connecting 70,000 farmers, 50% of them women. That could result in social changes within Colombian society that could lead to improved lives for millions.

Why should you care as a chocolate consumer? 

The ability to know where and how your chocolate came from helps you verify quality but also economic and social issues you may care about. If you are wondering why one brand is charging more than another, knowing the traceability of the product from farm to what you are thinking of buying can help you determine if it is worth that price. Prices of chocolate is often more hype than quality or treatment of the people growing this valuable food source many of us love and cannot live without.

Really this webinar was more a way for Choco4Peace to talk about what they do than to explain these issues. However, the two men who spoke took a good deal of time, aided by a visual presentation, to explain what they are doing and why they are doing it. I found it an interesting discussion to attend even if I'm not an investor or chocolate maker/seller.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Will These Keto Cookies Be Good Enough for National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day?

One of my partners follows a light keto type diet from time to time in part to lose weight and in part because his father has diabetes and he worried about inheriting that illness. National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day is happening on August 4th so when I was offered a chance to try out this KETO and CO cookie mix months ago, I gave it a try. Would it be a good choice for those of you following a keto diet for the fun food holiday or should you give it a pass? Is it "craveable" as the mix proclaims? Keep reading to find out. I received a free cookie mix from KETO and Co via the Amazon Vine program in exchange for putting up a review on the mega seller website; this feature article is an surprise bonus for them.

The first thing to note about this mix is that it uses coconut flour and almond flour along with a lot of other added fibrous ingredients and several alternative sweeteners that I'm familiar with. I hoped that these would not destroy the taste of the chocolate drops which are made with chocolate liquor but also have a lot of added ingredients. A simple food this is not. It also required unsalted butter and 3 eggs. Lots of potential allergens then in this mix.

Let's look at the final cookies. Note their light color on both top and bottom.

In terms of flavor, when you encountered the chips they were certainly intense but the rest of the cookie was oddly sweet. For something that is supposed to be keto friendly, I was not expecting that. In fact, the sweetness overwhelmed the chocolate too much for me. My keto light partner liked them but not enough to justify spending that amount of money on them. If you have extra cash, try them once and see if this mix is worth it to you.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Add Desserts to Essential Oils Menu

We only cover products that are related to chocolate in some way here on The Chocolate Cult. Essential oils use the oils from plants to recreate their fragrance so a chocolate essential oil must do the same, right? The ingredients aren't listed, so this review is a bit of a leap of faith. Today in honor of July 11th's International Essential Oils Day, I'm going to be sharing my experience using the Asakuki "Mom's Dessert" essential oil box which contains six fruit, spice, and chocolate scents that we might associate with desserts we grew up eating or which we make ourselves. I was sent this box via the Amazon Vine program in exchange for agreeing to write a review on their website; this article on the blog is an unexpected bonus for them. No other form of compensation was received for sharing my experiences with the product.

Asakuki Mom's Dessert Essential Oils

Of the six bottles, three are plants (Apple, Cherry, and Chocolate) so I know that each could be used to get essential oil materials from to use. However, three fragrances (Pumpkin Pie, Brown Sugar, and Gingerbread) are not plants so what are the ingredients. Unfortunately neither the box nor the inside information listed any ingredients. 

Primarily we are concerned about the Chocolate essential oil so I'll only cover that indepth today. As soon as I opened the bottle, the scent of chocolate syrup hit my nose. The built in dropper required shaking to get it to work. The oil seemed thicker than many essential oils I've been using over the past year. I put 3-4 drops in my water diffuser and it filled my office and then the upper floor of my house with the smell of chocolate syrup. By a syrup scent I mean that it was strongly chocolate but completely reminded me of a syrup I'd put on ice cream and not of a solid chocolate bar or cocoa powder. That makes since because this is a liquid.

I also used the essential oils on cotton balls to see how well the fragrance transmitted. It was a nice thing to tuck into a corner but the scent only spread to a very limited distance. It also made items around it smell like the bottle's label so don't put it in your sock drawer unless you want your feet to smell like chocolate syrup, cherries, or gingerbread for an hour or so. I would urge caution if you have pets or children because the scent may tempt them to try and open the bottle or eat your clothes. The fragrance did not make me hungry and actually the chocolate one because it was so syrupy scented, kind of turned me off of eating chocolate while it was diffusing into the air.

Without an ingredient list, this cannot be in the running for Best of 2021 here on The Chocolate Cult. I do think it could make a cute gift for yourself or a loved one who is into essential oils or thinking about experimenting with them. I found that I could make unique flavors by adding drops of different dessert bottles into my diffuser; that didn't work so well on cotton balls.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Celebrating America with Chocolate Recalls

What a way to celebrate 2021's Fourth of July! With chocolate related recalls!

Seriously, in earlier times in American history, the idea that the government or even manufacturers were responsibility to try and protect consumers from harmful food and drink products was foreign. I won't push this much, but even today there are people who think we should not protect each other through regulations and legal notices when there are problems. I want each and every one of us to enjoy chocolate in all its forms for a long, health life, so I'll keep sharing these recalls on Sundays as I learn about them.

---------- Chocolate Recalls, July 4, 2021 ----------

Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Cup

Bazzini LLC, Allentown, PA is, out of an abundance, voluntarily recalling three lot codes (SELL BY date codes of APR 05 2022, APR 06 2022, and APR 07 2022) of 1.4 ounce Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Cups because it may contain peanut protein. The product was distributed nationwide. People who have an allergy or very severe sensitivity to peanuts run the risk of a serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume this product.

While the label states that the product "May contain traces of ... peanut," following reports of allergic reactions, all potentially affected product was removed from sale.

The product comes in a 1.4 ounce package, with one of the three following date code located on the back of the packages:

Sell By APR 05 2022 18095 or 2B095

Sell By APR 06 2022 1 B096 or 2B096

Sell By APR 07 2022 1 B097 or 2B097

Consumers who have these products may return them to the Trader Joe's location where they were purchased for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact the Bazzini LLC at 1-855-675-7219 Monday-Friday between the hours of 8:00AM-5:00PM EST.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

What Makes Chocolate Patriotic?

As the nation I was born, raised, and still live is marks its 245th birthday, I wanted to ask all of our readers on The Chocolate Cult, what you think would make for a patriotic chocolate.

Can chocolate be patriotic?

What criteria would you use to decide if chocolate product was patriotic or not?

This would apply to any nation.

I want to see your thoughts first in the comments and then I'll chime in with my own.

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