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Organic, Vegan, Handcrafted, Ecological and Activist chocolate
Welcome in an universe of chocolate where respect and kindness are the main ingredients
Chøkolade produces its chocolate directly from cocoa beans, sourced from cocoa producers and imported by sail boat. Here, there is no blend: each chocolate is made from a single variety of cocoa to obtain chocolates with their own characteristics. Only high quality cocoas are selected.
The production comes in chocolate bars, jars of small chocolate hearts, nuts-chocolate spreads, pralines, truffles and seasonal chocolates.
The bars are made of dark chocolate (pure or with hazelnuts, cocoa nibs, …) or raw chocolate (unroasted cocoa). The little chocolate hearts are made of dark chocolate or raw chocolate. Chocolate is made only with cocoa beans and unrefined cane sugar. There is no additional cocoa butter, lecithins or other additives.
The spreads contain nothing but my dark chocolate and nuts (hazelnuts or almond to choose from).
All pralines and truffles remain in the spirit of simplicity: a minimum of ingredients, without additives, for high quality and pronounced tastes.
I believe high quality chocolate can only be made from high quality cocoa beans. So I try to use the highest quality as I can find.
There are many kinds of cacao grown nowadays. But the best qualities are the less cultivated ones. They are the original kinds of cacao, found in central America, and used for centuries by old aztec and mayans civilisations. Those have amazing flavor properties. Cacao have been sprayed all around the equator. Most of the farmers grow now new kinds of cacao, more productive but at the expense of quality.
My sourcing is from a cooperative of small farmers in Dominican Republic, growing Organic and Fair Trade certified cocoa. Soon, I will also start to source cocoa beans from a very special cacao farm in Colombia, growing amazing cacao… All of it is sourced on a sailing route so they can be shipped by sailboat over the Atlantic Ocean (read more here : fair transport).
When the cocoa beans arrive in my workshop, they have been already fermentated few days in wooden boxes, and then dried by sun. This fermentation process is very important, it’s when starts the flavoring process, and depending of this, chocolate will be totally different. I want to say THANK YOU to the farmers, because I believe they are responsible of most of the final product, my part of the process is nothing comparing to what they achieve !
The farmers of this cooperative are organized into small regional groups. Each of those groups has centralise fermenting and drying area, which gives them the opportunity to add value to the beans.
The cooperative provides education to the farmers, which is very valuable for them : when they understand the global process of grading, trading and making chocolate, they can understand what they have to do if they want to make higher quality, and increase the value of their product. This is definitly not a common practice in cocoa production, however it is the way to get greater returns on very hard work.
Education part, and future for the children is very important. In many places, children are made slaves, and then trade as free workers to the farmers. This is a very common practice, specially in West Africa, from where comes most of the world cocoa production (70%). The danish journalist, Miki Mistrati, made 2 reports about this (Chokoladens Mørke Side, 2010 and Lyssky Chokolade, 2012). If you don’t know those movies, please have a look at them.
Chocolate business is mostly shared by very few big companies in the world, they all signed the Harkin-Engel Protocol, created to remove child slavery from the chocolate industry by July 2005… well, I don’t think they did more than put their stamp on it. This is probably the way of success : make unbeatable prices by stealing farmers’s work, children lives, and customer’s confidence.
When we speak about quality of chocolate, cocoa is the first thing that comes to the mind. What about sugar ? This is definitly a main ingredient of chocolate as well !
Sugar is probably one of the worst ennemy of public health nowadays… sorry, I meant WHITE and REFINED sugar ! Proper sugar, as any other natural food, should keep all its natural contents. The process to refine everything (and specially cereals and sugar) is a very bad habit of our society. As it seemed to be luxuary products in the past, it became a source of huge public health trouble !
I naturally decided to use pure whole and unrefined cane sugar (called rapadura, panela, or else depending of the area).
This sugar is the pure cane juice that had been only dried by evaporation process. Unlike white sugar, it contains a lot of vitamins, minerals and trace elements.
It comes from a cooperative of small farmers in Peru very focused on social projects which is certified Organic and Fair Trade.
Comparison between whole cane sugar, real brown cane sugar and white sugar. Content of minerals and trace elements (mg per 100 g) (source : « L’assiette aux céréales », Claude Aubert, from analyses of nutrition institut laboratory of Amboise – France)
|mg per 100 g||whole cane sugar||real* brown cane sugar||white sugar|
*”real” refers here to natural brown sugar, not white sugar that have been colored and then called “brown sugar”.
Engineless cargoship for an emission free transport
The new harvested cocoa beans (Trinitario Hispaniola) coming from Dominican Republic, cross the Atlantic Ocean onboard the TRES HOMBRES.
The 32 meters schooner Tres Hombres has been sailing since December of 2009. She will maintain a shipping route for transport of cargo between Europe, the Islands in the Atlantic, the Caribbean and America.
This is a great opportunity for Chokland to make a step forward and use the most sustainable way to transport its cocoa beans !
I have been visiting the Tres Hombres and meeting her crew while sourcing cocoa beans in Dominican Republic, and I can tell you, the cocoa beans are in good hands. THANKS to them !
A part of the crew is made of professional sailers and the rest are trainees. The trainees have none or very little sailing experience and joined the trip to learn by helping the professional crew. For example Mickael, a farmer from north USA, left everything and sold his business to learn sailing along the Tres Hombres. It’s a real adventure for all of them, more than a simple occupation or job, it’s a passion and a challenge. 24 hours a day. Thibaut, an other trainee, says : “It’s a real lesson of humanity : there’s no way of escaping on the boat so you have to learn being 24h/day with the rest of the crew”.
It’s a hard job, exhausting, very little sleeping time, watches during the night, … but at the end none of them regreets the trip.
Unloading the ship from its cargo when it arrives in Europe is one of the most exiting step of the whole process of making chocolate from bean to bar ! And I wish to every single chocolate maker to experience this. It’s like enjoying something you have been waiting for long time. The crew sails almost 8 months to finally bring back the best cocoa beans filled with the energy of the ocean. And tradition is tradition, it has to be unloaded by hand and with music !
Not even 100 years ago, there were still a lot of those boats, sailing and shipping all around the world just using the power of the wind. Some needed no more than 13 days to cross the atlantic ! They are now just part of museums. I wish our grand childrens are going to visit museums with useless big cargoships while the oceans will be full of sailing boats back on duty !
First of all we could avoid most of importations by producing locally.
Then we could import only products that cannot be produced locally. Those should be considered as luxury, and consumed in small amount.
Am I a dreamer ?… For the Earth, for the life, and for the next generations, I hope I’m not.
BEAN TO BAR
FROM BEAN TO BAR
I get the cocoa beans directly from farmers, and then I manage the whole process from those beans to the final chocolate.
Chokland is an organic chocolate handmade from bean to bar. Althought it’s very uncommon practice, this is the way to know what I’m doing and what I’m dealing with.
Most of the world’s chocolate is industrial coming from one of the giant cocoa grinders. Their priorities are consistency and low cost. It’s amazing to think that chocolate can be so inexpensive and can have such a consistency in flavor : that’s the magic of the industry. It shouldn’t be that way ! Think about wine : will you prefer a blend of all kind of grapes to find a consistant taste, or the wine that is made in a way to reveal all the characteristics of that specific grapes, in that specific area, with that specific ground, and the weather of that specific season ?…
Once the beans are in my workshop a long process starts:
First of all, beans are checked to put away any defect bean. I use only first quality beans to make the chocolate.
Roasting beans depends of the desired flavor. I prefer a low and slow process that keeps the taste of the beans than a strong roast. Like wine, chocolate can reflect the “terroir”, as every single combination place/tree will give unique characteristics to the chocolate. But the way of processing the chocolate can destroys it, like overroast does.
A part of the cocoa beans are kept raw to make raw chocolate and enjoy the pure taste of the cocoa beans.
Beans are then separated into nibs and husks. Only nibs are used for the chocolate.
Mill and mix
Cocoa beans are milled by stone mill. It’s during this process that the sugar is added. It can take up to 3-4 days to get the desired consistance. The aim is to breakdown the beans and the sugar into very small particules so the mouth cannot detect them.
This step will give to the chocolate its shine and consistance. Chocolate has to be heated and cooled down in a very special way, following accurate temperatures. Depending of this step, chocolate will be able to last very long (in dry place between 15 and 18°c).
Tempered chocolate is put into molds, and cooled down.
Ready chocolate bars are checked and then packed, one by one, into handmade packages.
No aluminium foil.
I’m not a scientist, I will not make any research about plastic and foil, so I will probably never know how harmful they are (or not) for health but I just don’t trust them… So I won’t use any in my packages. This is without to think about how much both plastic and aluminium manufactures can contaminate our environnement… No more comments about this.
Bars are wrapped into a layer of naturally compostable “transparent paper” (a film made of wood).
A paper made from recycled cocoa husks is used to cover it and show the informations about the product.
HOPE YOU’LL ENJOY !
A philosophy can not be summed up in a slogan or an advertising hook, I will allow myself here to develop the reflections which are at the origin of this project.
RESPECT is the starting point, the basis of my philosophy.
I think that respect must be a sine qua non condition at the origin of any project.
What are the actions that come into play in the production of chocolate? And what are the direct and indirect consequences to take into consideration to ensure the production of a respectful and respectable chocolate? A quick list of the elements to be respected would be: the Earth, the farmers, the chocolate makers, the consumers. I will then introduce other elements.
I am often called an extremist. Yes, thank you, that’s right. I am for extreme respect and extreme common sense. Do not stop in the middle of an idea, but go all the way! Do not just hit my neighbor a bit but do not hit him at all…
The Earth being our home to all, without exception, like a huge common house, it seems logical to respect it. If we break a piece of wall here and a part of framework by there, without repairing the damage, it is our comfort to all who is in danger, even our survival because damage after damage there is a threat of collapse. To avoid the double effort: that of breaking then that of rebuilding, it is easier not to affect the Earth and to respect it as it is. Especially since unlike a house, the Earth does not require any maintenance, it is autonomous to keep itself in good condition, provided not to affect its natural functioning.
Cocoa must therefore come from a non-destructive farming, called organic farming. I’m not talking here just about the organic label, which does not by itself ensure the farmer’s good intentions towards the Earth. Indeed, a farmer certified organic can participate in destroying the Earth, and conversely a farmer not labeled organic can very well have non-destructive biological practices. Respect goes much further than just a label.
By the way, why was the BIO label invented, should not we instead introduce a NON BIO (or NON-RESPECTFUL) label, which would be fee-based and mandatory. The amount of the fee would correspond to the cost of cleaning up poisons used, land recovery after use for future generations, and participation in social security costs for the health problems generated? We would soon realize that organic products are cheaper… much better, right? Indeed, all these costs that result from non-respectful agriculture, are nowadays the responsibility of all, through taxes, social charges and health problems. What a great lesson for our children: Theft is encouraged and lucrative, and even called CONVENTIONAL.
My vision of a respectful agriculture is the absence of use of any product of synthesis, without exception, the respect of the ground (its nature and the life which composes it) as well as the respect of the local biodiversity (fauna and flora). All these elements, when they are respected, work for the Earth and its inhabitants (including the human being, who persists in domesticating and controlling his entire environment, wasting energy for very negative results).
I would have been treated as an extremist a few years ago, I dare to hope that respectful agriculture, called organic, no longer shocks today.
Farmers (employers and employees) also deserve respect. Slavery is unfortunately still relevant today. A few hundred years ago, wanting to give rights to a slave would have been considered madness, even terrorism. Today, fortunately, people who have stood up for the abolition of slavery have gone from being terrorists to being heroes. How to explain that a cocoa farmer earns only 1% of a chocolate maker’s salary? Does he work less hard? Is it not a cooperation?
Again a label HARVESTED BY SLAVES, or HARVESTED BY UNDER-PAID MEN should exist! There is trade, called fair trade, which provides so-called fair revenues. Let’s analyze this a bit. A work day will bring the farmer an income of the order of one euro. The remuneration of other stakeholders (carrier, processor, chocolatier, distributor, consumer, fair trade controller,…) will be of the order of one hundred euros. The so-called fair trade provides a little better income to farmers, say on average, no more than double, which is good you say… but far from what I would call equitable. I would call it “little less unfair trade”.
It is widely accepted that a person living in a so-called developed or northern country needs a higher income than a person living in a so-called third world or southern country.
Indeed in the northern countries, spending is higher: housing, car, education, health … than in the southern countries. It would therefore make sense that incomes are also higher. But in fact, if we really compare, a car of equivalent quality is often much more expensive in the southern countries, the same for housing, education, health,… It is actually just accepted that the comfort of life is tied to the standard of the country, so that a southerner does not need the same comfort as a northerner. Is it fair? My concept of comfort is far from what is considered standard in the northern countries, I would need much less (or say different), so I will not go into the debate about what should be the level of comfort, but at least let everyone have the freedom to choose for themselves. If we allow ourselves a certain income, can we agree to give our southern colleagues 100 times less? I am not in favor of a strict control system, which would spend (waste) a lot of human energy, but at least that the benefits of the cocoa trade should be distributed more equitably and according to the work provided, and not according to the geographic or hierarchical position of the work provided.
It also seems important to me to point out that a large number of slave children have been observed coming from kidnappers who trafficked children in West African cocoa-producing countries. This is a repugnant practice, to be banned altogether, but which, in my opinion, is the result of the price forcing down by the giants of cocoa trade and processing, which operate quasi monopoly on the market and therefore have the opportunity to set prices as they please.
To stop slavery, it would redistribute this monopoly to an infinity of small artisans, in direct contact with farmers to organize a trade respectful of all, without possibility (nor willingness) of blackmail.
I will quickly pass on the respect of chocolate makers, I will just say that like farmers, they deserve good working conditions and income according to the work provided and energy spent, rather than according to the stock market and the “competition”, by the way, I dream that this word is transformed one day in cooperation. Competition might help to push some people to give the best of what they can, but from a global point of view, it is very inefficient because this is a waste of human energy : different people with the same goal are working against each other to become the first or the best, when they could achieve so much more by sharing and working hand in hand.
This brings us to the respect for the other chocolate makers. By doing low quality and/or cheap products, we impact the perception of the whole chocolate world. By doing cheap products, it lowers the global value of chocolate. Too cheap products are becoming the standart, the reference. A normal priced product is then called expensive when it’s supposed to be the reference if we wish to live in a fair world. Large retailers champions at pushing producers to sell them their products at a very low price, giving them the opportunity to sell a larger amount. The same happens with the quality, as low quality chocolate is now the standart. Respecting the other chocolate makers means to me giving the fair price, doing high quality products and refuse to sell throught large retailers.
Respect for the consumer is the result of this whole chain of respect. The Earth being respected, will give the best to the farmer, who is also respected will do his best to produce the best quality of cocoa possible for the chocolate maker, who also being respected will do the same to produce the best chocolate to, at the end, delight the consumer, who will enjoy a healthy chocolate, good and full of love, that will be gracefully given back to the Earth after good use. The cycle is complete.
To this I would add the crucial step of importing. As cocoa is an exotic fruit, growing only around the equator, we therefore resort to the transport of goods over long distances. Nowadays, it is common practice to import almost everything we eat, food or otherwise. Each region of the globe specializes in production to meet the demands of the rest of the world. This results in an infernal and continual coming and going of all sorts of goods traveling thousands of kilometers before reaching their destination. We come to bring from the other side of the world what we already have on the spot. This is often due to the difference in the price of labor between different regions of the world. A certain amount of working hours + transportation over several thousand kilometers cost less than the same amount of local working hours without transportation. It doesn’t make any sense to me. We come back to the above: do not allow disproportionately higher incomes to our partners in the rest of the world (or in other words: do not allow us to compensate the work of our partners disproportionately less than ours), and this problem will be from the past. Locating the production of what we can, and keeping the imports only for products impossible to produce locally, and consider these products as luxury products. This is exactly the case with cocoa. The current means of transport are very harmful for our environment. By locating production, it is quite possible to reduce imports / exports to a fraction of what they are today. For the rest, nothing is better than the wind, clean and inexhaustible energy, to move the goods on long trips at sea. The sailboat is the solution that seems to me the most suitable for the transport of cocoa.
I would like to finish on a very important point in my eyes. I’m talking about a sensitive subject. Surely as sensitive, if not more than the abolition of human slavery a few hundred years ago. All the more sensitive because these are traditions that have not been questioned until now, and therefore accepted by all as normal since childhood, as an integral part of our society and of ourselves. It is not uncommon for a tradition to justify horrors, as we have observed in all periods of history. At each period its challenges. We are no longer burning witches, racism and sexism are not what they used to be, plastic is starting to make people talk and people are starting to get rid of it. I fully understand this mechanism that drives us to protect traditions. We are products of our traditions, how to question a whole life? How to question entire generations, centuries, millennia of traditions? I have a regret with the traditions: it is that the practices are transmitted, but not the reasons which are at their origins. We therefore have no choice but to accept them by forced and unconscious practice since birth. If we would focus as much in transmitting the history of tradition as the practice of tradition itself, then we would have a real free will to accept the acceptable and reject the unacceptable.
This subject that I want to talk about is that of the condition of our cohabitants on Earth: the rest of the animal world; whose living conditions depend mainly on the human will. They became submissive beings with no self-determination of their lives. I wish for myself to be free and independent, not to be the private property of anyone. In the same way, I wish it to all, human or not. Human is almost omnipresent on Earth, everything is organized to serve its function, without the knowledge of other living beings.
So to the other respects stated above I would add respect for animals. In the manufacture of chocolate, this involves the exclusive use of plant based products, so as not to be involved in the massacre or slavery of innocent people who have done nothing wrong and do not deserve their deprivation of freedom or even the death penalty.
I’m aware that the tradition of eating, killing and using animals for the pleasure of our taste buds is firmly rooted in our traditions. But for all animals, I hope that in the near future these traditions will be considered as prehistory.
From a purely egoistic point of view, and to the dismay of the pharmaceutical industry, the abolition of this slavery would lead to a revival of vitality and a much better public health. So in addition to saving tens of billions of animal deaths, we would save millions of sick and premature human deaths, as well as all the health costs they incur.
The long-term project is to create a cooperative of chocolate makers and cocoa farmers for direct cooperation. The idea is to enable everyone to achieve their goals: by being in direct contact, the cooperators could explain what they expect from each other and try to adjust their working method to better meet the expectations of others. To give just a few examples: chocolate makers, even the smallest, could see their quality wishes raised and cocoa farmers could free themselves from the influence of market prices.
This cooperative would be open to all those whose aims are as follows:
-Only an agriculture based on the principles of organic farming will be allowed (including non-cooperative production), certified if possible, and a method of cultivation and work as transparent as possible so that the final consumer is able to understand his purchase. It is important to note that even certified organic farming can contribute to soil degradation. Cooperators should take this into consideration and ensure that soils are used taking into account future generations.
-Favor local exchanges. Cooperators must be invested locally, so at least 50% of their total production (including non-cooperative production) should be distributed locally. Farmers will therefore have to allocate half of their land to local production, or at least keep half of their land being wild as this is also a way of preserving local ecosystems. Chocolate makers will focus on a local clientele for at least 50% of their production. Up to everyone to understand “local” as he wishes, the national scale being the threshold limit set by the cooperative, with a possibility of extension for cooperators located in the border area.
-Means of transport will be thought together and cocoa beans will be transported in the most ecological way possible. Ideally a sailboat would make one trip a year between the different cocoa producing countries, and deliver all the chocolate makers cooperators as close as possible to their facilities. This would limit the financial (shared transport) and environmental (wind use) costs of transportation.
-All cooperators have the same rights. The exchanges will have to be fair. Really fair. The remuneration of all cooperators (and their employees) involved in the production, for example, of a chocolate bar, should be of the same order of magnitude and based on the work provided and not on the geographical position.
-All cooperators have the opportunity to participate in the decisions of the cooperative where each voice has the same value.
The idea is not to create a strict control system because it would use (waste) a lot of human energy. This energy should be used to produce chocolate, not to control the chocolate production… But transparency and willingness to publicly share work methods should be promoted by cooperators to inform consumers, to show that they can be proud of what they have to offer, and to allow consumers to consume responsibly.
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