This Valentine's Day, Love Tastes Like Sustainable Chocolate

chocolate11Visions of Valentine's Day conjure up images of decandent food and red wine, and of course lots and lots of chocolate, in all forms. Traditionally, chocolate production is not very sustainable, inflicting scars on the environment and the people who live in cocoa producing regions of the world. However you can now find a growing number of chocolatiers who are concerned with both the people and places that produce cocoa and use sustainable practices to bring the very best and sustainable chocolate to the market.

When buying chocolate, there are a few key things to look for in order to ensure the sustainability of the bar. Perhaps the most well-known and apparent is the Fair Trade label. The Fair Trade movement supports sustainable development by connecting small farmers to global markets more directly, while also working to ensure that they are paid fairly for products like chocolate.  Unfortunately, chocolate stamped with the Fair Trade label currently accounts for only 0.1% of the market.

Fair Trade chocolate is often also grown in an environmentally sustainable way, as it supports small family farms versus large cocoa growing operations. Small farmers are encouraged to use organic agricultural practices that help to support the rain forest and biodiversity of cocoa regions. Other labels to look for on your chocolate of choice are the USDA Organic label, which certifies that the product meets US standards of organic production, and also the Rain forest Alliance logo, which sets standards for sustainable growing practices that help preserve water, soil, wildlife, and limit the use of agrochemicals.

While there are a growing variety of sustainable chocolate companies out there, here's a list of my top 3, rated for their commitment to sustainable agriculture, environmental sustainability, sustainable development practices, and, of course, their complete deliciousness:

1. Theo Chocolate is  based in Seattle and raises the bar by being  certified Fair for Life by IMO, which means their entire supply chain is totally Fair Trade and equitable. Also organic and have a line of single origin bars. Check out their unqiue fantasy flavors like Fig, Fennel, and Almond, and Coconut Curry.

2. Lillie Belle Farms Chocolatesin Oregon incorporates organic berries and flavors grown on site, like mint, raspberries, and lavander, while also sourcing chocolate and other ingredients from responsible  producers. Score some chocolate covered bacon for your special someone.

3. Kopali Organics'claim is that their chocolates are SUPERGOOD because they're good for you, good for farmers and good for the earth. All of their chocolates are certified organic by the USDA and most are Fair Trade or approved by the Rain forest Alliance. And they have lots of exotic, fruit-filled flavors to choose from.

This Valentine's Day, choose your chocolate wisely, and support sustainable agriculture and fair trade practices while indulging your loved one's tastes.

photo credit: http://library.thinkquest.org/06aug/02164/chocolate.htm

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