By April Guilbault
Organic and Fair Trade. Not generally terms that spring to mind when you think of Valentine’s Day. BUT, in order to show love to both our planet and the legions of farmers and farm workers that are being exploited all over the world, we need to consider these words.
Chocolate (cacao) is grown around the world in warm, equatorial areas. Many of these plantations use fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides to increase growth and ward off little critters, which of course, results in more harvesting and production. But, in these areas that are dense with rain forests, animal and plant life is being severely compromised. Organic should factor into your chocolate purchases just as much as it does with your milk or meat purchases. (And your coffee too, so please refer to our handy guide to a sustainable cup o’ joe).
An even greater concern with cacao, though, is treatment of farm labor. Many, many hands pick and process cacao pods and the conditions under which they do so can be less than humane. Add to that, and more alarmingly, the fact that many of the workers are children. Fair Trade ensures that working conditions and wages are fair, and that children are not part of the equation.
Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate all earthly love. Do so with these factors in mind and you can color yourself happy and spread the love all around!
Here are some delicious and sustainable picks for your Valentine. Remember, get creative…go beyond truffles and roses!
Set the “bar” high with these bars of wonderful chocolates. Stack them, wrap them in a gorgeous bow, slide a romantic note in between…who says chocolate has to come in a heart-shaped box?
All of these chocolate bars are certified Fair Trade and are sold at Whole Foods Market unless otherwise noted.
- Theo (2 for $5)-flavors such as Cherry and Almond, Toasted Coconut and Spicy Chile, to name a few. Or go to their extensive website and order something pronto! The Casanova Kiss is something special. www.theochocolate.com
- NuNu Chocolates (sold also at Fairfield Cheese Company, 2090 Post Road, Fairfield)-Go for the Beer Box ($11.99) or the Booze Box ($11.99). Craft beers from Brooklyn or blasts of booze infuse the ganache in their chocolates. Wow.
- Chocolate Meltaway Bars by Ethereal Confections (Available exclusively at Olivette, 1084 Post Road, Darien). $8.99 each, these dark chocolate bars owe their fruitiness and depth of flavor to infused olive oils and vinegars in intriguing combinations: Blood Orange/ Vanilla Bean, Sweet Basil/Cherry Blossom, French Vanilla/Salted Almond and Black Cherry Lemonade. You will melt away, guaranteed.
- Divine ($3.39 ea for bars…little bags of heart-shaped chocolates also available)-flavors such as Dark Chocolate with Raspberries, White Chocolate with Strawberries or Dark Chocolate with Ginger and Orange to temp your palate. How Divine (had to say it).
- Moonstruck Chocolate ($3.99 ea) *while not “certified” Fair Trade, they work exclusively with vendors who can confirm no abusive labor practices. Dark Chocolate Chile or Dark Chocolate Espresso Bean bars, to name a few. Head to their website (www.moonstruckchocolate.com) for oodles more. Then, add a viewing of the classic film with Cher and Nicholas Cage and you can call it a night.
- Madecasse Chocolate (2 for $8)-bars of Pink Pepper and Citrus, Cinnamon and Sakay Pepper, Sea Salt and Nibs. Check out their website (www.madecasse.com) and help save the rain forests, too, while you shop for your Valentine. The “Conservation International Madagascar Gift Set” from this 2011 Good Food Award winner is particularly noteworthy.
…or warm your love’s soul with some organic and Fair Trade hot chocolate! Chocolate is chocolate, right? Light a fire, make a few cups and cuddle with your beloved. Top with whipped cream if you are feeling frisky!
All can be found at Whole Foods Market unless otherwise noted…
- Lake Champlain Hot Chocolate ($10.99/16 oz.) *Note, while their hot chocolate is Fair Trade, their chocolate bars are only certified organic and their heart-shaped Valentine chocolates are neither.
- Theo Rich Dark Drinking Chocolate($9.99/10 oz.)
- Green and Black’s Hot Chocolate Mix ( $5.39/5.3 oz.) (If you’re participating in the Traitor Boycott, skip this Kraft product to protest their support of the No on Proposition 37 campaign in California. The campaign succeeded in preventing the passage of a ballot initiative which would have made labeling GMOs mandatory in the state.)
- Taza Chocolate Mexicano ($19.99 at Fairfield Cheese Company). Uniquely packaged discs of Mexican chocolate. Nibble or dissolve in warm milk for a delightfully different drink. Flavors include: Vanilla Bean, Chipotle Chili, Cinnamon, Salt & Pepper (plus more).
…and finally, if you happen to have a Valentine who thinks outside of the heart-shaped box, try these fabulous finds, also from the Fairfield Cheese Company.
- Cupid’s Choice Camembert, Old Chatham Sheepherding Company ($9.99). This divine cheese is adorably heart-shaped. Perfect for the love who loves savory over sweet.
- Big Picture Farm Goat Milk Caramels ($12.99)….oh-so-creamy and sweet, with the perfect hit of tangy-ness. Your Valentine’s mouth will be grinning with happiness.
- Chocolate Covered Cacao Nibs from Taza Chocolates ($14.99, organic and Fair Trade). Nibble these nibs with your love while you sip a glass of your favorite red. The evening can’t get any sweeter!
April Guilbault is a graphic artist and illustrator turned freelance writer and blogger. After studying Communication Design at Syracuse University, she went on to work at NBC in Chicago and New York as a graphic designer on such shows as NBC Nightly News and The Rosie O’Donnell Show, which earned her several Emmy awards. These days she focuses on a new-to-her variety of creativity…words and writing. Her blog www.DailyFrosting.com is a daily pursuit covering all aspects of enhancing one’s life, namely focusing on the little things that make it worthwhile. Humor, recipes and observances rule the day. She is currently also a contributing writer to the FC Beat magazine.