There are few things I love more in life than dark chocolate and Earl Grey tea. I think a fresh, ripe, in-season, local peach would win out over both these things, but a bar of chocolate is a most reliable treat. Even better, I’ve recently found a French brand of dark chocolate infused with Earl Grey, and it’s fair trade!
Although I might as well admit that chocolate is a staple of my diet, it’s not vital in a nutritional sense. Because it is a luxury, my first priority, to be perfectly honest, is that I really thoroughly enjoy the chocolate. However, as it is a luxury, I also feel more committed to making an ethical purchase. I shouldn’t have access to luxuries that cause or worsen poverty conditions for others.
Unfortunately, fair trade and organic production isn’t “normal.” In many grocery stores, fair trade and organic products are not even on the same shelves as the ‘standard’ versions of the same products. For example, the Equitable chocolate was in the organic/fair trade/(let’s just call it “hippy”) aisle; my other two favorite kinds of chocolate were two aisles away.
It’s not surprising that stores are organized this way; on the one hand, if you are only going to buy fair trade, all of the products you might want are right there grouped together. On the other hand, isolating all the more ethical choices also makes it difficult to compare prices. While you might automatically assume this would actually help organic/fair trade stuff–the reputation for these kinds of production methods is that they are always more expensive–that’s not actually the case.
These are my two other favorites, and the Equitable chocolate bar was almost exactly in the middle of the price-range, not at the top. The Café bar on the left is about 50 cents more; the Côte d’Or bar is about 40 cents less. A related sidenote–while I love the taste of the Côte d’Or brand, they’re getting kicked out of the local Carrefour, probably because they weren’t willing to go any cheaper with their prices.
All three bars are roughly the same dimensions, although both the Côte d’Or and Nestle bars are thicker. They’re not directly comparable in terms of taste because they are very different flavors. The café bar does have a strong coffee taste; the truffé noir one is a very, very sweet, creamy, soft-centered bar. By contrast, the Ethiquable-brand Chocolat Noir (+ Thé Earl Grey) is thinner, crispy, and very light and almost spicy tasting (that’s the bergamot talking).
I’m likely to continue buying all three types, because I like them for different reasons and different appetites. As I said, my first priority is taste. The Equitable chocolate certainly measures up, but it’s a different taste–and sometimes what I’m really looking for is the thick, creamy coffee of the Nestle bar! However, I’m excited to have an option that seems like a better ethical choice without being economically unfeasible.
The real advantage of fair trade products is that they’re not just paying workers a higher wage, they’re often involved in specific projects meant to organize and multiply the impact of whatever additional financial resources they can provide. Ethiquable cacao producers and their families benefit from social projects, such as water sanitization, scholarships, and medical centers brought to isolated areas; and microcredit loans, especially those to assist women’s entrepreneurship.
Fair trade isn’t perfect. However, market forces too often force producers into selling their products at a price that is too low to keep them above poverty. One of the issues with agriculture is that you often have a product that is ready to be sold at a certain time; you also have good years and bad years. In the U.S., we have many programs devoted to flattening out some of these issues so that (the hope is) farmers can have slightly more security from year to year (there are a lot of issues with some of these programs, to be sure, but that was the intention).
When we import products that won’t grow in our climates, we’re already taking advantage of another culture’s natural resources. The least we can do is pay fairly for the effort and knowledge that has gone into producing such delicacies! It’s a shame that we have trade that isn’t fair at all, but the fair trade label at least seems like a step in the right direction–and one that often will not break, or even jostle, the bank.