woman indulging in chocolate

Indulge With Organic Chocolate

Organic chocolate, regular chocolate either way I am a big fan. The rich, not too sweet flavor of dark chocolate is just perfect as far as I'm concerned. What can I say everything just seems better with chocolate.

Since so many of us love chocolate what better way to explore other organic choices and promote organic growing practices. Not just good tasting but it is a great opportunity to make our dollars count.

Chocolate does grow on trees.

Chocolate comes from a funny little tree with the cacao beans growing out of the trunk rather than from the branches. The best chocolate comes from cacao or cocoa beans that are grown on trees in the shade of rain forest trees in areas that are within 20 degrees of the equator. Shady areas provide the best growing environment for cocoa beans.

Shade grown cocoa trees share the space with trees of the forest and create a natural habitat that is good for animals and migratory birds. This is where they grow naturally. But shade grown trees have lower yields.

Unfortunately today most cocoa trees are grown on clear cut land. Clear cutting may be better for production but it is not good for the environment or the trees. More chemicals like fertilizers and pesticides are needed for trees to produce.

This has created a problem for many growers of chocolate who need to make an income and the only way it seems to do that is to clear cut the land to increase production.

Fortunately, people like researchers at the University of Georgia realizing the problems facing growers of shade grown plants are looking for solutions and have been working to develop a co-op of growers and facilities in the Cho Andean corridor of Ecuador to turn beans into chocolate.

They are encouraged to market their chocolate instead of just the beans, a higher value product while cutting out the middleman and creating more profits. This makes it worthwhile to them to continue growing shade trees while saving the surrounding forest. (Info above from their website.).

How it's made.

All good chocolate comes from a rather complicated process:

  1. Harvesting and allowing the organically grown pods to dry.
  2. Fermenting - beans left in the sun or under banana leaves for a few days before shipping.
  3. Roasting at temperatures between 250 and 350 degrees for about 1 hour. Outer shell splits open at this time. Hulls are discarded leaving the nibs.
  4. Grinding the nibs into chocolate liquor, the basis for all chocolate.
  5. Extracting the cocoa butter from the chocolate liquor leaves a powder called cocoa powder. The cocoa powder tends to be acid so one way to deal with this is to add alkali to mellow out the taste and the resulted cocoa is called Dutch Processed.

Organic ingredients make great chocolate.

Shade grown plants create great cocoa beans but that's just one ingredient in chocolate. What makes chocolate organic is the organic ingredients that are now used.

The best dark chocolates are made when the cocoa butter is added back to the chocolate liquor with sugar, vanilla and lecithin. While milk chocolate has the addition of milk solids.

White chocolate has no chocolate liquor only cocoa butter, sugar, vanilla and lecithin. It's interesting to note that better quality chocolate contains cocoa butter while cheaper brands will use cheaper vegetable butters. The reason for this is that cocoa butter is a more valuable butter on it's own so many times it is removed and sold, maybe to wind up in that skin cream you use.

After blending the above ingredients the mixture is conched, stirred for several hours. High quality chocolate is conched for as long as 72 hours. Conching gives chocolate its smooth, creamy melt in your mouth quality. You can see why really good organic chocolate costs more.

More and more companies are choosing to create organic chocolate. It takes a company committed to not only providing a great products but to do so while trying to make sure that their cocoa beans are not only organically grown, that fair trade practices have been followed and that all ingredients added are organic.

All that in one soul satisfying bar of chocolate.

Here are some links to a few of my favorites:

  • Newman's Own Their dark chocolate bar is one of my favorite treats. Look to your local natural foods store for this delicious chocolate.

  • Sjaaks Organic Chocolates Really nice selection of organic chocolates from bars to the traditional Valentines gift boxes. Plus vegan varieties are available.

  • Dagoba Chocolate Not just organic chocolate bars but chocolate for baking and drinking. Enough to indulge anyone's passion for chocolate.

    An organic chocolate bar will cost you more than a candy bar bought in the grocery store. One look at the ingredients and it's easy to see why. More than a quick sugar fix organic chocolate is a good for you indulgence. Isn't it great chocolate is now good for us. One time when I really like what researchers have to say.

    So the next time you're shopping for some good chocolate try looking for some environmentally friendly, people friendly, bird and animal friendly, good tasting, melt in your mouth, high quality organic chocolate.

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