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Sara Fiore

Chocolate Recipes for Valentine’s Day

This Valentine’s Day, do something extra sweet: give chocolate that supports small farmer co-ops! Our organic chocolate products (from baking cocoa to chocolate chips to decadent full-sized bars) are made with cacao sourced fairly and directly from co-ops in the Dominican Republic, Panama, Ecuador and Peru. We’re proud to partner with small-scale farmers to bring you truly special and delicious chocolate, perfect for gifting to that special someone.

Here are a few chocolate recipes that we think you’ll fall in love with!

Dark Chocolate Truffles

Ingredients
2 bars Equal Exchange Organic Ecuador Dark Chocolate bars, chopped into small pieces
½ c. heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Equal Exchange Organic Baking Cocoa, for coating

Directions 
In a small saucepan, simmer the heavy cream over a low heat.

Place chopped chocolate in a separate bowl. Add the heavy cream and vanilla and let stand for a few minutes to melt the chocolate. Stir until smooth.
Let cool. Place bowl in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

When the chocolate mixture has solidified, use a teaspoon to roll out 1-inch balls. Roll them in your hands quickly to give them an even shape. Place rounded balls on a baking sheet lined with wax paper and let sit in the refrigerator for 8 hours (or overnight). Roll the chocolate balls in cocoa powder until evenly coated.

Keep the truffles refrigerated until ready to serve!

Yields 30-40 truffles

Adapted from simplyrecipes.com 

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

Ingredients
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups unbleached white pastry flour
1/3 cup Equal Exchange Organic Baking Cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
confectioners’ sugar for sprinkling

Directions
In a medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla until light. Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Stir the dry ingredients into the butter mixture and form into a thick dough. If the dough is soft, wrap it in plastic and chill for 1/2 hour. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and butter a baking sheet. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to about a 1/4 inch thickness and cut into shapes. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheet, sprinkle with confectioners sugar, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the centers of the cookies are firm. With a spatula, transfer the cookies to a cooling rack.

These crisp chocolate wafers may be rolled out and cut into shapes suitable for any festivity. Store the cookies in a tin with a tight-fitting lid to keep them fresh. (Yields 18)

From the Moosewood Restaurant Low Fat Favorites, published by Clarkson N. Potter, Inc. 1996.

Raspberry Truffle Brownies

Ingredients

Brownies

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
3/4 cup Equal Exchange Organic Baking Cocoa
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup raspberry jam
1 teaspoon raspberry flavor (optional)
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips (or chopped up Equal Exchange Organic Dark Chocolate bars)
Raspberry Fudge Glaze

1/4 cup raspberry jam
3/4 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips (or chopped up Equal Exchange Organic Dark Chocolate bars)
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon raspberry flavor (optional)

Directions
In a medium bowl, whisk together melted butter, sugar, cocoa, salt, jam and flavoring. Stir in the flour, eggs, and chips. Pour batter into a lightly greased 13 X 9 inch pan, spreading till level. Bake in a pre-heated 325 degree oven for 28 to 32 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. (Note: It takes a few minutes longer than this in my oven!) The brownies will look slightly wobbly in the middle. Cool them for 1 hour before glazing.

Combine all the glaze ingredients, cook over low heat, or in the microwave, until the chocolate and butter are melted. Stir until smooth, and spread over the bars. Cool for several hours before cutting the brownies with a knife that you have run under hot water.

Yields 24 servings

From Laurie Flarity-White, promoter of small farmers through the UMCOR Coffee Project with First United Methodist Church in Wenatchee, Washington.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Ingredients
Strawberries
2 bars of Equal Exchange chocolate (any variety, but we used Organic Very Dark 71%)

Directions
1. Wash your strawberries without removing the stems.
2. Chop your chocolate.
3. Bring a saucepan of water to a simmer over medium heat.
4. Place your chocolate in a heatproof medium sized bowl and place that over the saucepan.
5. Allow the chocolate to soften and stir until melted.
6. Remove the melted chocolate from the heat. Dip strawberries in the chocolate, then lift and twist slightly to allow excess chocolate to fall back into the bowl.
7. Place the strawberries on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and allow the chocolate to set for 30 minutes.
8. Serve or refrigerate, then share with your sweetheart.

Interview: Celebrating Día de los Muertos

In Mexico (where many of our coffee producer partners are located) and other parts of the Americas, many people are celebrating Día de los Muertos, also known as Day of the Dead! In honor of this holiday, we talked to former Equal Exchanger Hope Kolly and her mom, Emma Kolly, about how they celebrate. Hope is based in Austin, Texas, and Emma grew up in Cuernavaca, Mexico, giving us a unique take on traditions in both the U.S. and Mexico. 


What is Día de los Muertos about?

Hope:  To me, Día de los Muertos is about remembering friends and loved ones who have died and celebrating those lives and life in general with your friends and family who are still here.  Unlike Halloween, it’s not a scary or creepy holiday but an acknowledgement that death is a part of life and when we remember our loved ones, they continue to live in us.

It comes from a blending of indigenous beliefs of people mostly from southern Mexico and Central America with Christian beliefs spread by European colonizers.  It comes from a time when many indigenous people buried their families under their houses and decorated with their actual skulls to remember them and keep them close and safe.  They believed there was a time (originally in the summer) when spirits could come back to this world to visit so you would help guide them by decorating and lighting candles for them and put out things they liked and things to help them rest from their long journey.  That’s why many ofrendas (altars or offerings) have things like water and cloths to wash up, favorite foods and objects.     

Emma: It’s about celebrating life and remembering the people we love that went before us and keeping their memory alive. The first of November is the day to celebrate children and youth who have died, and it’s Día de los Santos (Day of the Saints, sometimes known as Day of the Little Angels, which coincides with the Christian All Saints Day) and the second of November is Día de los Muertos , which is for everyone else. It’s the circle of life.

What does it mean to you?

Hope: For me, a lot of the meaning comes in connecting to my Mexican heritage. I think about the generations before me, unknown because my mom was adopted and there is little in the way of information or documentation about them, but maybe known or felt a little bit through this celebration and ritual. I also feel like it expresses a very culturally particular way of looking at death not as something fearful or not talked about as is so often the case in the U.S. but something that is present, respected and part of the natural cycles and rhythms of life.

What are some traditions? Any that are particularly special to you?

Emma: We traditionally cook things for people that passed away, their favorite things they liked to eat and drink. You take the food to the cemetery or the altar and offer it to the spirits, to come taste what you made, and afterward you eat the food with your family. You also make calaveritas (little sugar skulls) with the names of the deceased written on the skull for the altar or ceremony.  Some people make chascarrillos, which are little sayings, poems or stories about death, making fun, remembering, saying loving words. Sometimes you make them for living people and they’re always fun.

What’s your favorite Day of the Dead tradition?

Hope: My favorites are the Sugar Skulls!  Usually in Mexico you can buy them at the market  and even have them personalize them with the name of a departed loved one but they’re harder to come by in many parts of the U.S. so I started making my own and inviting friends over to decorate them and to share this holiday with folks.  I started this when I moved to New England many years ago — I think I was missing home and was sad that no one seemed to celebrate the Day of the Dead.  Now that I moved back to Texas and closer to family I still like to make them and get my nephew and niece involved.

I also make an ofrenda or altar every year.  I love gathering pictures of my loved ones who have passed, remembering them as I put them out and decorating with papel picado (cut paper flags), flowers, candles, sugar skulls (of course) and treats.  I especially love it if someone is visiting and they ask me about someone on the altar so I can share a story.  

Emma: My favorite is that you tell stories about the people that are gone. You share experiences and keep the memory of the person alive. For example, my grandkids don’t know some people who have passed, like my sisters — so I tell them stories about them so they know they existed.

Sometimes the whole town gets together for parades or a party. In small towns everybody invites you to eat what they made — tamales, moles, all kinds of things. You have a lot of drinking. Some people take mariachis to the cemetery and take drinks and cervezas and tequilas… sometimes they go till all hours. Some people take candles and flowers.  Everybody express their own unique way.  

Are there differences between the way folks celebrate in the U.S. versus in Mexico?

Hope: I’m more used to what goes on in the U.S. but living in Austin, Texas, I’ve seen many non-hispanic folks embrace the holiday and bring their own spin to it.  Every year there is a Viva la Vida festival and parade to celebrate the Day of the Dead and there are folks dressed up as traditional Catrinas (skeletal fancy ladies) and then there is an Austin Weird category which can be a bit hipster, a bit western or a bit punk rock. I’ve definitely noticed an uptick in sugar skull imagery in decorations over the years.  It’s so great that folks are interested in this holiday, I just hope that they learn about the origin of the celebration and the cultures from which it comes.

Emma: There are some places in Mexico with a tradition of trick-or-treating, too. Little kids go around with a calabacita (little gourd) that they decorate and ask for candy and people sing, “La calavera tengo hambre, no hay un huesito por ahi?” (The skull is hungry, are there no bones for me?) and then they give them a huesito or pan or little treat. It’s not as much as here in the U.S., but some people do it on some streets and kids go and get things.

 

Do you have a memory or story you’d like to share from this holiday?

Hope: I remember when I was about 4 or 5 years old and my family was living in San Antonio, Texas that my parents got us some sugar skulls.  They kept telling us that they are supposed to be decorations and that we shouldn’t eat them but I couldn’t help myself and I started licking the back of the skull when no one was looking.  The next day I noticed that the ants had found my skull so we had to throw them out.  I also learned from the first ofrenda that I did as an adult that you should make sure you remove all the treats and food from the altar overnight if you have a cat.  Unless you like half eaten food and knocked over decorations the next day.

Emma: In my adopted house, we were more into praying and making the altar very simple. My parents were a lot more into the spiritual. And when I got to know my birth mother, I remember the first time I saw my mom and sister doing the altar of the dead — I was amazed! — because they got so much food and flowers. It was like a whole room was tamales and two types of mole, bread and salads — I mean it was like a crazy amount of food and candles and drinks. My mom had a lot of people that passed away and so it was like a humongous feast. I had never seen anything so elaborate. It was a different kind of celebration — different than what I was used to when I was little. But it was equally important and spiritual in their own way. It made me appreciate my roots and upbringing.

Is there anything else that you’d like to share or think that people misunderstand about the holiday?

Emma: I think there is some misunderstanding. I think some people think the holiday venerates death, the kind of dark side, which is not true — it doesn’t come from that. It celebrates life and the ones that are not here and it gives us a better understanding of death.  That it’s just a natural thing that’s going to come, it’s something that you can’t get away from and not to be so afraid of it. It’s sad and it’s hard, but it’s also a part of growing, a part of the circle. And people think, “oh, they get drunk in the cemeteries” and they think it’s like a pagan festival and it’s not — it’s really not. It’s more about spiritual, about connecting to the people that are gone in different ways, and looking for that spiritual togetherness that we always know we have with the people that are living.

One of Hope’s homemade sugar skulls.

 

Our Favorite Halloween Recipes

 

Halloween is all about the sweets, and if you’re like us, you’re getting creative in the kitchen this month! If you’re looking for the perfect shareable treat for your costume party or spooky soiree, try some of our favorite recipes below. Each features our fairly traded, organic chocolate or cocoa, sourced from co-ops in the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Panama and Peru. We’re proud to offer delicious ingredients that support small farmers and an alternative cacao supply chain, and we hope you’ll enjoy sharing them! Tell us your favorite Halloween or fall recipe in the comments.

Chocolate Apples
5 from 2 votes
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Chocolate-Covered Apples

Course Dessert
Keyword Chocolate, Halloween
Servings 1 apple

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Wash and dry apple. Stick a candy-apple type stick (or something similar) into the stem. Make sure it is stable.
  2. Melt chocolate and oil in a bowl for 60 seconds, stirring every twenty seconds, until fully melted. The chocolate and oil should be evenly combined and the texture should be smooth. If the chocolate seems dry or clumpy, add a bit more oil- though there will be tiny caramel and sea salt crystals in the chocolate.
  3. Place the apple in the bowl with melted chocolate. Using a spoon, cover the apple in chocolate and smooth out as best you can. Take apple out of bowl and make sure it is evenly coated.
  4. Set apple down on wax paper or a plate, with the stick pointing up. Refrigerate for at least half of an hour.
  5. Eat soon after refrigeration.

Recipe Notes

Multiply the ingredients for desired quantity.

 

cupcakes on a plate
5 from 2 votes
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Halloween Cupcakes

Course Dessert
Keyword Cupcakes, Halloween
Servings 24 cupcakes

Ingredients

For the cupcakes:

For the frosting:

  • 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter softened
  • 1/3 c. vegetable shortening
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 4 to 5 c. glazing sugar or confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract Pure Vanilla Plus, or a mixture of both
  • 1/4 to 1/3 c. milk
  • Natural Food Dye

Instructions

Cupcakes:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two standard 12-cup muffin pans with paper or silicone muffin cups, and grease the cups.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cocoa, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and chocolate chips. Set aside.
  3. In a large measuring cup or medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, oil, and vinegar. Stir this mixture into the dry ingredients, mixing until everything is well combined.
  4. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pans, filling the cups about 3/4 full.
  5. Bake the cupcakes for 20 to 22 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center of one of the middle cupcakes comes out clean.
  6. Remove the cupcakes from the oven, and as soon as you can handle them, remove them from the pan, and transfer to a rack to cool. Store cooled cupcakes airtight.

Frosting:

  1. Beat together the butter, shortening, and salt.
  2. Add the sugar, vanilla, and ¼ c. milk, and beat until fluffy. Add additional milk if the frosting seems too stiff to spread.

 

5 from 1 vote
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Pumpkin Chocolate Muffins

Course Dessert
Keyword Halloween, Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 2/3 cups flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 15 oz pureed pumpkin
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup butter melted
  • 1 cup Equal Exchange Organic Chocolate Chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease muffin pan(s) or line with muffin papers. 

  2. Mix flour, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. 

  3. In another bowl, break eggs and add pumpkin and butter. Stir rapidly until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour over dry ingredients and fold in. Do not over mix.

  4. Scoop into pan and bake 20-25 minutes. They should still seem a little underdone when removed from the oven – test with a toothpick.

5 from 1 vote
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Black Magic Brownies

Course Dessert
Keyword Brownies, Halloween
Servings 9

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease an 8x8 square baking dish.

  2. Combine all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. 

  3. Bake until the top is dry and the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 30 minutes.

Recipe Notes

Recipe courtesy of Katrina Morales from Rollin' Oats Market and Cafe, from a Cooking with Equal Exchange Chocolate Class.

Our Sisters in Coffee

by Equal Exchange Quality Control Manager Beth Ann Caspersen. Pictured above: Beth Ann with participants in the Gender Equity Training hosted by Coffee Quality Institute in 2015. 

I first started talking about the role of women in coffee production in 2010, after I participated in a women’s coffee producer meeting in Uganda. Since that time, I have met countless women farmers that have both prospered and found themselves stuck in a society without a voice. Some of these women have created strong networks that reach deep into their communities, united by weekly meetings, song and a sisterhood that is based on where they are physically located. Many of these same women also struggle to find their voice at home in their families and through their coffee businesses. Coffee farming is a difficult job; women are intimately involved in their coffee farms along with caring for the home, preparing the meals, caring for the animals and raising the children.  I have listened to women’s stories of starting the day as early as 4am and ending as late as 10pm at night. Their work is hard. Many women have felt left out of trainings due to their familial responsibilities — if they leave for the day, who will watch the children, prepare the meals and take care of the home?  

This has to change. The future of coffee depends on women and there are many women in coffee that are moving forward, attending meetings and ascending the cooperative management ladder. For example, at PRODECOOP in Nicaragua, you will see Dona Alexa Marin, a coffee farmer and gender equity champion and Fatima Lopez, who started out as the quality assistant in the cupping laboratory and now manages one of the most successful coffee mills in all of Nicaragua. The question is, what is gender equity and how are these women different from the women that are struggling? It’s a complex question.

I had the opportunity to participate in a gender equity workshop in 2015, and one of the many lessons I learned in this mixed group training was that ongoing training, education and communication are a continuous need. The reality is that many of the successes I have seen are separated by training, education and support. While women are the center of the home, being gender-inclusive and providing these same tools to husbands and families will make coffee farming families stronger. Equal Exchange has supported the Coffee Quality Institute through their Gender Equity Program to research gender issues, design programs and train hundreds of people. While there are countless case studies of women in agriculture who are successful leaders and have decision-making power in their work, we will continue to strive to do more.  Each woman I have met is different, and many of them I would call my sisters in coffee.  This spans the supply chain, from farmer to co-op manager to buyer to barista. Let’s continue to tackle some of the complex questions that arise. There are no easy answers, but I do know that our sisters in coffee are the future.

 

Ligia Lopez, Commercial Manager at PRODECOOP

Equal Exchange Green Coffee Buyer Carly Kadlec in the Quality Control Lab at PRODECOOP in Nicaragua with cuppers Ligia, Fatima, Agueda and Iris.

In honor of our sisters in coffee, and the work of women in co-ops and communities around the world, we bring you Organic Sisters’ Blend. It’s a rich Full City blend of Nicaraguan and Peruvian beans, and we hope you’ll share it with people who inspire you.

How to Make: Autumn Spice Hot Cocoa

 

We have the perfect treat for fall! This easy-to-make spiced hot cocoa tastes like chocolaty pumpkin pie, and you’ll want to drink it all year long. This recipe makes enough for 16 servings, which we recommend storing in a mason jar. These jars make great gifts or items to sell at your harvest fair, fall fundraiser, or your congregation’s usual table sale. Watch the video to see how it’s made!

Holding mugs of autumn spice hot cocoa outdoors
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Autumn Spice Hot Cocoa Mix

Course Drinks
Keyword Cocoa
Servings 16

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Simply sift ingredients together in a bowl to make sure they are evenly mixed. Then, transfer to a jar and you’re ready to gift it, sell it or just keep it on hand in your kitchen.
  2. To make a single serving, take 3 tablespoons of cocoa mix and combine with 1 cup of hot milk or milk alternative. Stir well, and add marshmallows!

The key ingredient in this recipe is our Organic Baking Cocoa, which is made with organic cacao from CONACADO co-op in the Dominican Republic. This co-op is unique because the farmer members own their own cacao processing plant, which puts a key step of cocoa production into the hands of co-op members and farmers themselves. We’re proud to have partnered with CONACADO for over 10 years!

We hope you enjoy this fun fall treat. Thank you for supporting small farmers!

Understanding Olive Oil Terms

When shopping for olive oil, you might notice a few terms commonly used to describe it: extra virgin, unrefined, cold-pressed, organic — but what do all these words really mean? Here, we’re going to define a few key olive oil terms to help you understand the way your olive oil was grown and processed, and what that means for you.

Extra Virgin
One of the most common terms you’ll see used to describe olive oil is “extra virgin.” This means that the oil is a product of the first pressing of olives. Olives are pressed to extract as much oil as possible, producing different tiers of quality. So, the first batch of oil that’s produced is “extra virgin” — after that, the olives are further pressed and processed to extract more oil, but the flavor and quality decreases from there. Extra virgin olive oil has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 0.8 grams per 100 grams. Finally, extra virgin olive oil must taste like olives and must not have any negative tastes that professionals refer to as “defects.” It is considered the highest quality olive oil, and you’ll want to use it in ways that highlight the inherent flavors and characteristics of the olives.

Cold-pressed
Extra virgin olive oil is made using a process called “first cold-pressed.” This means t
hat the oil was extracted (“pressed”) from the olives without exceeding 81.9 °F. No heat or chemical additives are used to extract the oil from the olives, which can alter and destroy the flavors and aromas of the olive oil. Without adding heat to the processing, the olive oil also retains its full nutritional value. Lower quality oils, on the other hand, are the products of a process which adds heat to the olives in order to extract the most oil possible, but the resulting product is diminished in flavor. Something to keep in mind: all extra virgin olive oils are cold-pressed.

Unrefined
Unrefined olive oils are the immediate result of oil pressing, and have not been processed or treated. These oils may have visible, tiny pieces of olive flesh or visible sediment — this is normal and desirable for flavor and nutrients. Refined olives oils have been processed to make them easier to blend with other oils. All extra-virgin olive oil is unrefined, but you might still see this quality called out on labels.

Organic
Organic olive oil, like other organic products, is grown and produced without the use of chemical pesticides, fertilizers or other harmful additives. Instead, farmers use alternative, sustainable methods to ward off insects and invasive plants, and develop natural, biodynamic fertilizers to encourage growth. These methods allow olive farms to flourish while preserving the surrounding ecosystems. Because olive oil is a raw food, and high quality olive oil is minimally processed, the potential for chemical exposure is high in conventionally-grown olives. With organic olive oil, you can feel better about avoiding these chemicals.

We hope that this guide has helped demystify olive oil just a bit! Once you understand these key terms, understanding what you’re getting (and how it got to you) becomes a lot easier. If you’re looking for an organic, fairly traded, extra virgin olive oil, try Equal Exchange’s special Nabali olive oil from our partners at the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee in the West Bank.

How to Host a Coffee Tasting

Tasting coffee is a full sensory experience, from the moment you grind your freshly roasted coffee through to your last sip.  This guide (written by our Coffee Quality Control Manager, Beth Ann Caspersen) will show you how to hold your own coffee tasting to celebrate the hard work of the coffee producers who grow these special beans. 

What do you need?

Brewing your coffee is quick and easy! All you need is the coffee of your choice, coffee grinder, fresh filtered water, your favorite coffee brewing device and ceramic mugs to savor the delicious flavor. (Look to our brewing guide for tips and advice on preparing the perfect cup of coffee).

For the optimal coffee tasting experience, use ceramic mugs or thick glass cups with a wide mouth. This will allow the participants to enjoy the aroma of the coffee and their experience with the coffee. The natural elements you find in a cup of coffee can be best experienced if they are unadulterated, too — in other words, try the coffee black first and follow our lead on your tasting experience (but feel free to add milk and sugar at the end of the tasting)!

Step 1: Savor the Aroma

Once you have brewed your coffee, fill each person’s cup halfway and pass out the mugs.  We recommend using ceramic mugs to enhance your experience, and filling the mug halfway will allow the coffee to cool down quickly and provide everyone with ample space to fully appreciate the aroma.

Now encourage everyone to place their hands around their mug and inhale all that the coffee has to offer. Take a moment to think about the aromas you are experiencing.  What do you smell? Does the aroma remind you of something?  A different food or drink?

Step 2: Take a Sip

As the coffee begins to cool, continue to smell it and take a sip.  Now ask the participants about their experience. What does the coffee taste like now?  What are some of the flavors you are enjoying?

Before you reveal the flavor notes we’ve noticed, explore the many characteristics the coffee has to offer by using the Specialty Coffee Association coffee taster’s flavor wheel to help guide your conversation.  It’s fun and really helps everyone to learn about the complex world of coffee.

Step 3: Reveal the Flavors

After you taste the coffee for a few minutes and guide the conversation, reveal the flavor notes we find in the coffee, which are listed on the online product page. How was your tasting experience similar or different?

Explore our full line of coffees and taste them all! Comment below to share your coffee tasting experience.

Coffee Roast Levels: What’s the Difference?

When you’re making coffee, what’s your go-to roast level? Do you prefer the bright, milder flavor of a Guatemala Medium, or the sweet smokiness of Love Buzz? Have you ever wondered what really makes them different? Here we’ll break down the differences between coffee roasts, from light to dark! Watch the video below to hear an overview from Mike Mowry, our Coffee Quality Coordinator, then read on for more details.

 

 

First, it’s important to understand what a “coffee roast level” really means. When we roast coffee, we take raw, mostly flavorless and odorless coffee beans and heat them to bring out different characteristics. The length of time spent roasting the beans determines its roast level, which begins to determine how the coffee ultimately tastes. Different roast levels and methods bring out different characteristics in coffee beans depending on their origin, varietal and seasonality, so every roaster must use their creativity and judgment to bring out the best in every distinct batch.

Coffee roast levels can be judged at a glance by the color of the beans, from light to very dark brown. As you might expect, the darker the beans are, the longer they have been roasted. While there is a wide range of roasts that are possible, at Equal Exchange we offer coffees at the Medium, Vienna, Full City and French roast levels.

Medium: Medium roast coffee is medium brown in color with a non-oily surface. These roasts tend to highlight well the inherent characteristics of the beans, having not yet been overtaken by flavors of the roasting process itself.

Full City: Full City roast coffees begin to take on more of a caramel flavor, with an underlying complexity of taste from the roasting process. We find that the most desirable characteristics of a particular country or region are exemplified in our Full City roast, with the beans at their most complex and most flavorful.

Vienna: Roasted even darker, the Vienna roast coffees start to show light surface oils brought out by the roasting process, with the beginning of dark chocolate flavors and a smoky aroma for a smooth and rich cup.

French: French roast coffee gets into really dark chocolaty and caramelized sugar flavors, with the beans roasted for a longer period of time to bring out a deep richness and intensity of flavor. The beans are a dark brown, with visible oils on the surface.

So what’s the best coffee roast of all? The one you like the most! Coffee is all about preference, so we encourage you to try as many roasts as you can to find your perfect cup.

From the Field: Chiapas, Mexico

Earlier this summer, Green Coffee Buyer Carly Kadlec traveled to Chiapas, Mexico to visit our farmer partners at Comon Yaj Noptic Cooperative. Here she shares her thoughts on these farmers’ inspiring efforts to preserve local biodiversity:

Back in 2013, during my first visit to our partners at Comon Yaj Noptic (CYN) in Chiapas, Mexico, I learned about an incredibly interesting community-led effort to monitor biodiversity in and around members’ coffee farms.  CYN’s farmers live in and around the buffer zone of El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve. El Triunfo is an incredibly important and biodiverse mix of tropical and cloud forest in the Sierra Madre de Chiapas mountain range. After a massive hurricane impacted the region in the mid-2000s, conservation non-profits in the area looked for community partners to participate in monitoring projects to study the impact of climate change on this ecologically significant biologic corridor.  Luckily, the non-profit coordinating the project found CYN and engaged the farmers in the design and implementation of this project. The goal of the project was to monitor migratory bird species over the course of several years and track the impact that increasingly significant climate events have on this ecosystem. Farmer members of CYN were trained by wildlife biologists on how to perform bird counts and learned the scientific names of local and migratory species. The farmer-biologists then completed their species monitoring every month and reported their data back to a project coordinator at the cooperative.

This is a unique project for a couple of reasons. One of the common weaknesses of biodiversity conservation efforts is the lack of local input in project design and execution. In this project, the farmers directly contributed to the data collected, received compensation for their work as field monitors, and increased their knowledge about international birding tourism.  Comon Yaj Noptic now offers tourism packages for bird-watching in El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve and has attracted birders and photographers from around the world. I love traveling to Comon Yaj Noptic because I get to learn directly from farmers about the incredible biodiversity of the region as well as see an example of how community-centered conservation efforts can be successful scientific studies and add value to the local economy.

We’re proud to partner with this co-op and support their environmental stewardship efforts. In honor of this work, we roast Organic Bird of Paradise, a blend which includes beans from the coffee farms bordering these spectacular protected lands.

Our Favorite Summer Recipes

When the weather gets warmer and the days get longer, it’s time for backyard cookouts, sipping cold drinks, and frosty desserts. Here are a few of our favorite summertime recipes, each featuring organic, fairly traded ingredients!

Cold Brew Coffee
Ingredients:
Your favorite Equal Exchange coffee! Try Organic Cold Brew or Organic Love Buzz.

Directions:
1. Using a Toddy brewer, combine 12 oz of ground coffee with 7 cups of cold water.
2. Let the coffee and water combination stay at room temperature for 12-24 hours and filter the grounds when the brew cycle is complete.
3. Store as a concentrate for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.
4. Serve with ice!

For more detailed instructions, click here.

Favorite Ice Tea Recipes

Iced Tea Concentrate
Ingredients:
Try your favorite tea iced! Try Organic Vanilla Rooibos, Organic Black or Organic Mint Green.

Directions:
1. Boil 8 cups water and pour into a heatproof glass pitcher.
2. Add 15 tea bags of your choice (with strings, tags and staples removed) and let steep for 5 minutes.
3. Remove the tea bags and let cool to room temperature.
4. Transfer to sealable containers and refrigerate.
5. When you’re ready to drink, add 1 part concentrate to 3 parts water and ice in a glass or pitcher.

Simple Syrup
Sweeten your tea or iced coffe without the sugar crystals lingering at the bottom of your glass! Simply combine 1 part sugar with 1 part hot water just off the boil and mix well. Add to your glass or pitcher to taste.

Grilled Lemon Pepper Chicken
Ingredients
4-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 c. Equal Exchange Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2/3 c. lemon juice
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 medium onion diced
½ tsp. pepper
½ tsp. salt

Directions
1. Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, salt and pepper. Then add the diced onion.
2. Transfer marinade to a gallon sized plastic bag or container and add the chicken. Place in the fridge and marinate overnight.
3. Place the chicken on a preheated grill and sprinkle with pepper. Cook for about 20 minutes or until cooked through, with no pink in the center.
4. Grill additional lemon slices, for garnish.
5. Serve and enjoy!

Adapted from The Recipe Critic

Citrus Collards with Raisins
Ingredients
2 large bunches of collard greens, chiffonaded, rinsed, and drained
Coarse sea salt
1/3 c. fresh orange juice
1 Tbsp. Equal Exchange Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2/3 c. Equal Exchange Chilean Flame Raisins

Directions
1. In a large pot over high heat, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon salt. Add the collards and cook, uncovered, for 8 to 10 minutes, until softened.
2. Prepare a large bowl of ice water to cool the collards.
3. Remove the collards from the heat, drain, and plunge them into the bowl of cold water to stop the cooking and set the color of the greens. Drain.
In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the collards, raisins, and ½ teaspoon salt. Sauté for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
4. Add orange juice and cook for an additional 15 seconds. Do not overcook (collards should be bright green). Season with additional salt to taste if needed and serve immediately.

This content is from the book Grub by Anna Lappé and Bryant Terry.

Ice Cream Cookie Sandwiches
Ingredients
½ c. unsalted butter, room temperature
½ c. granulated sugar
½ c. light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. salt
1 ¼ c. all-purpose flour
6 Tbsp. Equal Exchange Organic Baking Cocoa
½ tsp. baking soda
2 c. of your favorite ice cream

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Add butter and sugars to a large bowl and mix on medium speed with a hand mixer until light and fluffy.
3. Add egg, vanilla extract, and salt. Beat until well incorporated.
4. Combine flour, cocoa powder and baking soda in a separate bowl. Whisk together until well combined.
5. Switch the hand mixer to a low speed and slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. The batter will be thick – mix only until everything is combined.
6. Spoon the cookie dough onto your baking sheets and bake for 9 to 12 minutes. Cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.
7. While the cookies are cooling, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and scoop ice cream into balls – as many sandwiches as you want to make. Once you have all your scoops, immediately put the baking sheet in the freezer.
8. When the cookies have completely cooled, remove the ice cream from the freezer. Using a piece of parchment paper and your palm, gently push down on each ice cream ball to flatten it slightly and fit the width of your cookies.
9. Place the pressed ice cream balls between two cookies, firmly but gently enough not to break the cookies.
10. Serve and enjoy! Or you can wrap them in parchment paper, plastic or foil to preserve them in the freezer until needed.

Adapted from Inspired Taste 

Classic Fudge Pops
Ingredients
6 oz. Equal Exchange Organic Very Dark Chocolate
2 c. whole milk
½ c. cream
¼ c. sugar
2 Tbsp. Equal Exchange Organic Baking Cocoa
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. kosher salt

Directions
1. Break chocolate into pieces and put into a blender. In a saucepan, bring milk, cream, sugar and cocoa to a low boil, then immediately remove from heat. Pour the milk mixture over the chocolate in the blender, add vanilla and salt and let sit for a few minutes until the chocolate is softened. Blend on a low speed until the mix has emulsified and is smooth.
2. Pour the mixture into ice pop molds. Let sit in the freezer for about 1 hour before inserting wooden sticks, if needed.
3. Freeze well for 24 hours. Enjoy!

Adapted from the New York Times

Co-op Spotlight: Fortaleza del Valle

We’re proud to work with Fortaleza del Valle, a 935-member cacao co-op in Calceta, Manabí, Ecuador. We use their distinctive and delicious cacao in our Organic Ecuador Dark Chocolate and our Organic Extreme Dark Chocolate! Read on to find out more about the co-op, our partnership and the farmers who grow the cacao.

 What makes this co-op special?

Fortaleza del Valle is one of few Fair Trade and Organic certified cacao producer organizations in Ecuador. They place a strong focus on offering a quality product to their customers, and the emphasis on quality starts with the genetics of the trees. Ecuador produces 70% of the world’s cacao designated as “fine and with aroma,” and Fortaleza will only purchase from members who grow the Nacional Arriba variety that falls under this designation. In 2012, we began working with the organization and co-financed a laboratory that allows the staff there to make small batches of chocolate. We also helped them to form a tasting panel that has tasted more than 200 samples to date! This allows Fortaleza to evaluate their product in the way their buyers do, to improve their post-harvest processing, and to recognize the true value of their product. From 2012 to 2014, they were able to increase their quality premiums from $800 per metric ton above market price to $1,150. In 2016, they plan to produce chocolate bars for sale on the national market.

What makes our relationship to this co-op special?

The partnership between Equal Exchange and Fortaleza del Valle over the 3 years of the USAID Co-operative Development Program (CDP) allowed the two organizations to develop a much closer working connection than before.

Fortaleza del Valle is also the first cacao producer organization in Ecuador to have implemented a member savings program, akin to the patronage program that Equal Exchange’s worker-owners participate in. With the help of co-op experts in the US and Ecuador, our USAID CDP project introduced the concepts of member equity to gain member loyalty and capital to help support the growth of their organization. Farmers understood quickly that this savings approach was not just about themselves but about their whole family and their greater community. Right now they save $0.75 per kilo of cacao delivered in their name in an account at FDV

From Grant Projects Coordinator, Cristina Liberati:

“One of my personal favorite outcomes of our collaboration in quality is the change in fermentation protocol at the Quiroga post-harvest processing center. The Calceta center is the primary post-harvest center for FDV, and Quiroga is secondary. They were using the same protocols for both, with 4 days of fermentation. We visited Quiroga and noted that the
elevation and climate varied significantly from Calceta, and the delivery of beans in some cases is a multi-day process via boats. Through tasting samples in the lab and some experimental trials, the team there established that the quality of the beans from Quiroga would benefit significantly from an additional day of fermentation. After making this change to
the processing, the quality of the beans from Quiroga did improve significantly.”

Meet Guadalupe Intriago Mera:

“Lupita” and her family manage a 4 hectare farm with just over 3,000 cacao plants. They also harvest banana, orange, lemon, and sapote. They have installed an irrigation system which has helped to increase the productivity of the plants. In addition, they have chickens and a tilapia pond. Lupita’s farm mainly features Ecuador’s well-known Nacional Arriba cacao, famed for its fine flavor and floral aromas. Lupita has also served many years on the Board of Directors of the organization.
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Meet Cruz Alvarado Arturo:


Don Cruz is a member of the FDV Oversight Committee at Fortaleza. He was also selected to participate in the Model Farm Program as part of our USAID CDP project. Don Cruz has three hectares of cacao. He mainly works the farm by himself but sometimes his son also helps out. In 2012, he harvested 29 quintals of cacao and through participation in the Model Farm program he increased to 38 quintals per hectare. In addition to the cacao, Don Cruz also grows mandarin, banana and coffee, and raises chickens.

Want to experience Ecuadorian chocolate? Try our Organic Ecuador Dark Chocolate and our Organic Extreme Dark Chocolate!

Organic Chocolate vs. Conventional: What’s the Difference?

Chocolate is undeniably one of the most popular treats around, and one of the most widely available. But do you ever stop and think about where that chocolate comes from and how it’s made? While you may be used to choosing organic produce, you might not be familiar with the differences between organic chocolate and conventional chocolate. What’s really the difference? Let’s dive into some of the details of what makes our organic chocolate worth reaching for!

First, organic chocolate is healthier for farmers.

Behind every bar of chocolate are two key agricultural products: cacao and sugar. Conventional chocolate uses cacao and sugar can be grown with the aid of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and more. These chemicals have been linked to numerous negative health effects, and most farmers lack the kind of protective gear that would help mitigate some risk of exposure. Organic chocolate, however, means that cacao and sugar are produced without the use of these harmful chemicals. Instead, farmers use biodynamic and organic fertilizers and pest deterrents. These natural agricultural products are better for both the crops and the farmers who grow them, allowing their work to thrive without putting their health and the health of their communities at risk.

Second, organic chocolate is better for the environment.

The chemicals involved in the cacao and sugar production for conventional chocolate have a negative effect on the environment, too. Pesticides, fungicides and herbicides are designed to kill unwanted insects and plants, but usually end up eliminating important complementary species from farms, throwing off the delicate balance of local ecosystems. Chemicals leech into the soil and water, affecting plant and animal life even beyond the treated area. Organic chocolate is made from cacao and sugar that is grown without these synthetic chemicals, on farms that use natural, organic and biodynamic tools to cultivate these crops. Organic methods are good for biodiversity, ecosystems and the environment — and choosing organic chocolate means supporting these alternative means of production.

Lastly, organic chocolate is better for you!

In choosing organic chocolate, you are choosing to eat a food that is made without synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides and other chemicals. While we may not think of chocolate as an agricultural product in the same way as the fruits and vegetables in the produce aisle, we can think of the benefits of organic production in a similar way. Why consume the added chemicals of conventional chocolate when you don’t have to? Enjoy the chocolate made from cacao and sugar grown with care by small farmers.

It’s important to make informed decisions about the products we buy, the things we eat and the systems we support. Choosing organic chocolate means giving your purchase power to a system that values your health, the health of farmers and the health of the environment. Now unwrap a bar and enjoy!

Shop for organic, fairly traded chocolate here!

 

The Inspiring Women of ASPROCAFE Ingruma

Women’s voices are a growing force within our supply chain, and we’re proud to honor them with our seasonal Women in Coffee series. Organic Crescendo comes to you from Colombia, where coffee farming is deeply rooted in the culture. ASPROCAFE
Ingruma is one of the leading farmer co-ops in organic production, and we’d like to spotlight four dynamic women who are not only coffee farmers, but are also professionals employed by the co-op in influential positions. Their work demonstrates their commitment to mother earth and to empowering farmers.

Rocio Motato Suarez, General Manager
Rocio (top right) is a grassroots activist, on the ground working with farmers. She is one of the architects of el Dia del Campo, an annual event that brings together coffee farmers in their communities for training, education and community building.

Luz Marina Garcia Ruiz, Social Program Coordinator
Luz Marina  (left) manages the social
programs that are funded by Fair Trade premiums. She is an active supporter of the organic movement and organizes countless farmer trainings. Her work also includes managing the co-op’s women’s program, food security program and a project to serve school lunches.

Yaneth Taborda Morales, Coffee Cupper
Yaneth manages the Coffee Collection Center, where the co-op buys the coffee from its farmer members. As manager, she talks to farmers
about their coffee’s quality and sorts and grades their coffee right before their eyes. She is also teaching other farmers to cup and analyze coffee.

Angelica Arroyave Cordoba, Quality Ambassador and Primary Coffee Cupper 
Angelica (far right) is a skilled cupper and is engaged in coffee quality both within and beyond her co-op. She competed in Colombia’s National Cupping Competition in 2015, and won! She went on to finish ninth in the world. Angelica is on a professional path to become a Q Grader Instructor. She apprenticed with Equal Exchange Quality Manager Beth Ann Caspersen in January this year in Piura, Peru.

We’re proud to work with these amazing women through our trade partnership with ASPROCAFE Ingruma. Try Organic Colombian Crescendo, a seasonal light-medium roast with notes of cocoa, raisin and fig!

2016 Year in Review

Last year, we celebrated the 30th birthday of Equal Exchange — and so much more! In this video, Equal Exchange worker-owners share just a few of the moments that made 2016 great. Thank you for your support, and please join us in creating big change in 2017!

 

How to Make Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner! You know what that means: sweets for your sweetheart. Celebrate the day by making these easy, delicious chocolate covered strawberries. The best part? We make them with organic, fairly traded chocolate! Show your love for that special someone with a thoughtful alternative to conventional chocolate.

Watch the video above for step-by-step instructions, or follow the recipe below.

 

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

What you need:
Strawberries
2 bars of Equal Exchange chocolate (any variety, but we used Organic Very Dark 71%)

What to do:
1. Wash your strawberries without removing the stems.
2. Chop your chocolate.
3. Bring a saucepan of water to a simmer over medium heat.
4. Place your chocolate in a heatproof medium sized bowl and place that over the saucepan.
5. Allow the chocolate to soften and stir until melted.
6. Remove the melted chocolate from the heat. Dip strawberries in the chocolate, then lift and twist slightly to allow excess chocolate to fall back into the bowl.
7. Place the strawberries on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and allow the chocolate to set for 30 minutes.
8. Serve or refrigerate, then share with your sweetheart.

Happy Valentine’s Day