Pollo en Mole Poblano is a traditional Mexican dish of chicken simmered in a dark, spicy, chocolate-based sauce. This spring, Equal Exchange employees and our partners from Catholic Relief Services prepared three batches of mole — each slightly different — with fairly-traded and Organic ingredients. And the verdict was unanimous: ¡Que rico!
We love to cook almost as much as we love sharing stories. Read about our various mole journeys below. Then try out this authentic Mexican platillo in your own kitchen!
(¡En español aqui!)
EE worker-owners Sandy Davis, Kate Chess and Peter Buck teamed up to cook some mole in the kitchen at Equal Exchange’s Massachusetts headquarters. We used fairly traded Extreme Dark Chocolate, Natural Almonds and Palestinian Olive Oil. We referred to Peter’s much-used copy of Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz’s The Complete Book of Mexican Cooking, generously adapting Lambert’s delicious 50-year-old recipe to meet our needs.
First, cover the chicken with water and bring to a boil. Simmer for an hour, drain and dry. Reserve two cups of the chicken stock. Heat Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a frying pan. Brown the chicken in the oil and put the pieces in a large casserole or dutch oven.
While the chicken simmers, prepare and combine the ingredients for the sauce, starting with the dried chilies. Remove the stems and seeds, tear chilies into pieces and put them in a large bowl. Boil enough water to cover them. Pour the hot water over and soak them for about an hour.
As the chilies soak, chop the onions and garlic. Peel, seed and chop the tomatoes. Blanch and peel the almonds. Combine the onions, garlic, tomatoes and almonds with half a cup of Equal Exchange Organic Flame Raisins (available in bulk at many natural food stores) and with the cloves, cinnamon, coriander seeds, anise, and two tablespoons of the sesame seeds. Add the fresh coriander and the torn-up corn tortilla. Use an electric blender to grind all the ingredients into a coarse purée.
Now, cook the purée. Heat the oil again in the frying pan. Saute the purée in the hot oil for five minutes, stirring constantly. Add the chicken stock you reserved when you cooked the chicken, along with the Organic Extreme Dark Chocolate (88% cacao). Stir the mixture until the chocolate has melted. The purée should now be thicker than heavy cream.
Finally, pour the sauce over the chicken in the dutch oven and cook, covered, over the lowest possible heat, for 30 minutes. Sprinkle it with the remaining two tablespoons of sesame seeds and serve with tortillas and rice and beans.
We had a lot of fun making this dish and recommend collaborating on a complicated, multi-ingredient recipe as a bonding exercise! But how did it actually taste? Our coworker Scarlett de la Vega Ochoa said, “That’s good mole–and I’m from Puebla!”
Sergio Lopez is a San Diego, California-based Relationship Manager in CRS’s West Regional Office. He tried a tasty mole recipe he found on the internet. Sergio used Equal Exchange’s Organic Natural Almonds and our high-quality, versatile Organic Baking Cocoa.
While my wife and I both grew up in Mexican households, we weren’t always taught how to cook the amazing comfort food of our childhoods. Part of our “adulting” journey has been reclaiming the delicious parts of our upbringing so that we can one day pass them on to our children and grandchildren.
In this spirit, we recently decided to give a fair trade twist to the traditional mole recipe. It was the first time either of us made the mole sauce from scratch and I’m glad to say that it didn’t disappoint! A half chicken smothered in a sauce of six different types of chilies, roasted vegetables, Equal Exchange Almonds, and Equal Exchange Baking Cocoa served with a bed of rice made for a delicious and ethical dish that we will be looking forward to sharing with family and friends for years to come.
Here’s the recipe Sergio used:
Norma Valdez is a Relationship Manager in CRS’s Southwest Regional Office in San Antonio, Texas. She tried her great aunt’s secret family recipe, handed down for five generations. Like Sergio, Norma also used Organic Baking Cocoa and Organic Natural Almonds from Equal Exchange — a big departure from the peanuts the recipe calls for. Norma is under strict instructions not to share her recipe. It’s a secret!
My Tía Bessie was loved by all, very family-oriented and loved to cook; you could never go to her house without eating. She learned this recipe while living with her great-grandmother in Puebla, Mexico.
Tia made this mole for all special occasions, such as weddings, baptisms, quinceñeras, church related events, just like her great-grandmother did. The smallest amount she would make was six whole chickens. Later on when she and my Tío retired, they started making her mole for other people, but charged for it. She guarded her recipe more closely because there was another lady in the neighborhood who also made mole for large occasions, and charged.
She wouldn’t teach just anyone how to make it. In fact, I don’t know any family member she taught this to except me. But when she saw that I really loved to cook, and even took classes and cooked for her, she really wanted me to learn how to cook her mole.
She told me that when she learned, it was a whole day event because they had to prepare the chickens, meaning kill them, and clean them. She never liked that part, but they lived out on a farm and back then there were no meat markets like what we have today.
I have never used almonds before—Tía’s recipe calls for peanuts—but it came out OK. Not as good as my Tia Bessie’s but it was good, even according to my nephew and niece who only eat Tía Bessie’s mole. The cocoa was also good in the recipe. I used less, because it was a good quality of cocoa.
Do you have a favorite mole recipe? Have you ever tried cooking a special dish with ethically-sourced ingredients? Tell us about it in the comments!
Happy May Day! International Workers’ Day is near to our hearts here at Equal Exchange. After all, we’re one of the largest worker-owned co-operatives in the U.S., and May 1st is our birthday. There’s no one we’d rather celebrate with than YOU, our discerning customers and passionate advocates.
Around the world, the first day of May is known as Labour Day or Workers’ Day. It’s a day for street demonstrations, speeches and parades. The holiday isn’t as well known here in the U.S. (where our less-radical Labor Day falls in September). But, in fact, the first May Day in history happened here in the U.S.
On May 1st, 1886, tens of thousands of people walked off their jobs to advocate for an 8-hour workday. In Chicago, the demonstrations began peacefully, but the size of the crowds swelled. A few days later protesters clashed with police in Haymarket Square, where an anonymous bombing led to a riot. Seven anarchists were later sentenced to death for “conspiracy,” though evidence showed that none of them had thrown the bomb.
Four years later, the Second International, an organization of socialist and labor parties, called for a coordinated international demonstration for workers everywhere to commemorate the Haymarket Affair and keep up the push for a shorter workday. Eventually they got it. And ever since, May Day has been a time to organize for a better world.
May Day lines up with Beltane, a festival of fertility and rebirth. At this time of year, ancient Europeans would typically revel in the return of warmer weather with dances, singing and cake. After three back-to-back March nor’easters here at our Massachusetts headquarters, we’re totally feeling that!
Plus, here’s another reason for cake: 2018 marks Equal Exchange’s 32nd birthday. We, the Worker-Owners of EE, own our company. Unlike many players in the rapidly-consolidating natural food and specialty coffee industries, we’re not beholden to anyone but one another. And it’s going to stay that way.
Every May, at our Annual Meeting and Party, we celebrate co-op togetherness and think of the future.
Since the beginning, Equal Exchange has worked with farmer partners to create direct supply chains. Our goal of connecting consumers to small-scale, democratically-organized producers remains the same. But the food system around us has changed in the last thirty years. And not always in the ways we hoped to see.
More people than ever before recognize the concept of fair trade. That should be good news, and it is! But because of consumer demand, big business wants to buy a piece of the movement. When corporate conglomerates swallow up natural food companies, the foundational principles — democratic engagement and responsible sourcing — erode. These corporations mostly care about the name, slapping a “Fair Trade” seal on products that haven’t earned it. The challenges to Authentic Fair Trade are serious. Read more about them here.
But we can push back! We believe that customers’ involvement is invaluable, which is why we’re calling for citizen-consumers to join our movement. By learning together, we’ll all figure out the best strategies for action. In partnership with small-scale farmers, we’ll defy corporate control and build up a fair and sustainable supply chain that benefits both those who grow real food and those who eat it.
We’re proud to commemorate 32 years together in the fight. We’ll never stop sharing our challenges, or our successes. As we go up against the big guys, enduring partnerships give us strength. And new strategies give us energy.
Take part! Join the Action Forum!
Show Your Support! Put your money behind Authentic Fair Trade products!
Keep Learning! Sign up for the EE Newsletter!
And another thing! We’re excited to announce that Equal Exchange is hosting two Summits this year — one in Easton, MA, down the street from our headquarters, and the other in Chicago! Join Action Forum Members, Equal Exchange worker-owners, and our farmer partners for two days of workshops, planning sessions, and celebration as we work together as a community to create positive change in our food system.
Want to attend one of the Summits? RSVP here!
Do you love fine chocolate and cocoa? You’re in good company. Many powerful and discerning people — from Aztecs conquerors in the New World to the Holy Roman Emperor of the Old — were all about it! Men and women have enjoyed this marvelous substance for hundreds of years. And you can tell a lot about a society from the art it leaves behind. Long-ago chocoholics honored their favorite treat with pictures, statues, and beautifully decorated serving dishes.
Mesoamericans began consuming chocolate as early as 500 B.C.E. Their craftspeople created special vessels to prepare and serve it. The Maya drank their chocolate unsweetened, as a paste formed of ground cacao seeds, water, and other ingredients like cornmeal and chili peppers. Some historians believe they consumed it for medicinal purposes. An artisan in around 400 C.E made the lidded earthenware basin pictured below, in what is today Mexico or Guatemala. The basin would have held the cacao mixture.
Maya people identified chocolate drinks with their deities. In this fascinating scene, painted in Guatemala between 670–750 C.E., the ruler of the Maya underworld sits in state, wearing his owl-trimmed hat. Behind him, one of his female attendants spills out chocolate from a drinking cup. Mayans who prepared the beverage would froth it by pouring it back and forth from a pot to a vessel like the one on which the scene was painted!
Though Maya of all social classes enjoyed chocolate drinks, elite members of society served these preparations from large urns like the one below. Modeled cacao pods ring the edge, and a cacao tree forms the knob on top of the lid. Glyphs confirm the vessel’s function as a chocolate drinking-cup. Nobles sometimes gave them as gifts to seal alliances.
The Aztecs mixed their cacao with vanilla, and drank it cold. After the Aztecs took over much of Mesoamerica, the rich reserved cacao beverages solely for themselves. In fact, in Aztec society, a person of low status drinking chocolate constituted a bad omen! Subject peoples even provided chocolate as tribute. So, it makes a lot of sense that chocolate would show up in Aztec art. Sometime between 1440 and 1521, an artisan crafted the statue below, which depicts a man carrying a cacao pod. The figure is made from volcanic stone.
Chocolate traveled to Europe from the New World via its Spanish colonizers. Members of the court of Charles V became big fans. Because of its distant origin, chocolate was strictly a luxury item. By the 18th century, Europeans prepared and sipped from delicate porcelain cups, like this one. It was made around 1720.
By the time chocolate reached England, it was still a drink, but Europeans began to add milk and sugar to the mix. Because of its expense — and because it made children excitable — only grown folks drank it. This silver chocolate pot was crafted in 1714-1715 and has a hinged finial to admit a swizzle stick called a molinet, used to stir the chocolate. A similar pot bought by a diplomat in 1735 cost a staggering twenty pounds and eighteen shillings!
Chocolate has been delicious for centuries. Enjoy a modern version of this treat, rich with history. Equal Exchange sells a great powdered Baking Cocoa, as well as a traditional Hot Cocoa Mix, a decadent Dark Hot Chocolate Mix, and a more adventurous Spicy Hot Cocoa Mix with cinnamon and cayenne. And all four are always fairly traded and Organic!
If chocolate doesn’t show up in our art too much anymore … well, maybe that’s something we should reconsider!
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Happy National Poetry Month! And thanks to everyone who entered our recent social media Coffee Haiku Challenge. We savored all your responses, each and every delicious haiku! But since we promised #braggingrights to a select few, we’re reposting our favorites here (in no particular order).
Brew a cup of fairly-traded coffee and prepare to be impressed, because these haiku have many good qualities. We found them to be:
Sunrise breaks the night
Morning coffee breaks the fast
Fair Trade breaks the chains
Thanks to playful goats,
Coffee beans were discovered.
Every cup is joy.
crimson hued cherries,
harvesters roasters abound,
blissful hot liquid
I am a do-nut. 🍩
You are a cup of coffee.☕️
Start your day with me.
Coffee, java, joe.
Cuppa, brew, octane go juice.
Life force from a bean.
I love my coffee
My coffee awakens me
My coffee loves me
A warm thanks to every single poet who participated! Read more Coffee Haiku here, or by searching for #eehaiku.
With organic and fair trade coffees so reasonably priced, there’s no reason not to brew ethically sourced coffee for every meeting, gathering and event. Start serving today with these five tips — we break it down for you!
You won’t find a better price for fresh-roasted gourmet-quality coffee that’s fairly traded and Organic-certified. It’s just about 10 cents per serving, so covering the cost is easy. Consider asking folks to contribute pocket change when they pour themselves a cup!
Do you sell Fair Trade items at cost? Consider rounding up to the next dollar, and use the profits to pay for coffee to brew and serve.
Ordering coffee shouldn’t be a chore. Our speedy web store is easy to browse on your computer or smartphone.
Do you miss the personal connection? Our customer service team is happy to answer your questions and process telephone orders from 9-5 EST, Monday-Friday. Give us a call at 774-776-7366.
Some groups order a new case when they open the last bag. It’s simple to remember!
Others keep track of how many pots they brew in a given month, and use that information to estimate when they’ll need more. Once you know how often to order, write a note to future-you in your agenda or on your calendar. Or set a digital reminder that repeats. That way, you’ll never go dry!
Sometimes, you need a little help from your friends! Get members of your group excited about Fair Trade coffee by using our Fair Trade Talking Points and free educational resources. Many hands make light work.
Ordering and serving Equal Exchange coffee can also be a meaningful way for youth to contribute at your club, school or church. Consider getting them involved.
It’s time to let people know! If you’ve ever sold our packaged coffee at a holiday sale or used Equal Exchange for a fundraiser, your community already knows how good fair trade coffee tastes! Broadcast the news by putting up signs, by sharing pamphlets, and by using Airpot Labels to show that you’re proudly brewing Equal Exchange coffee. All these materials are free! Find everything you need here, or call Customer Service at 774-776-7366.
At Equal Exchange, our concern for the quality of small-scale producers’ lives is matched only by our attention to the quality of our finished coffee. From farmers to cuppers, we’re professionals. And every choice we make contributes to the exceptional character of Equal Exchange coffees. We’re proud of how good our brews taste. And we want you to know about it!
Yes, Equal Exchange’s Authentic Fair Trade model makes a positive impact on small scale farmers’ livelihoods and on the health of the earth. But it also improves our finished coffee’s quality! EE coffee buyers communicate regularly with producers. Because we’ve built these direct and longstanding relationships, we stay up-to-date about growing conditions that may affect the beans. Our partners grow on land that they control, so they have a vested interest in using sustainable and organic methods, avoiding chemicals, and keeping the soil rich for many years to come. Agronomists within the farmer co-ops bring specialized technical training to bear. And the cooperative structure encourages farmers to share information about cultivation practices that improve harvest and yield.
In the coffee industry, international buyers dominate conversations about quality, too often leaving producers in the cold. The people who grow coffee for other companies might not know how much their crop is worth on the market or how they can produce better coffee. Our model is different! Equal Exchange works directly with producers to communicate our expectations. We pay bonuses – higher still than the high floor price for Fair Trade – when product is especially excellent. We promote opportunities for producers to learn sensory analysis techniques. This knowledge enables farmers themselves to make minute adjustments as they grow and process their crops.
Equal Exchange’s worker-owned coffee roasting operation is the largest in the U.S., with two machines in use. The members of our production team have a unique skill-set – they’re scientists of coffee as well as artists. Roasters observe the precise times and temperatures that keep our coffees consistent. But they also analyze on the fly, making adjustments when needed, with a goal of bringing out the innate qualities of the green bean – balancing acidity with sweetness, accentuating certain flavor notes, or enhancing mouthfeel. Roasters check each batch of coffee with a ColorTrack Laser Color Analyzer — using a rating system common across the specialty coffee industry — to scientifically test the classification of the roast. Our machines fire five days a week, which ensures the freshness of the coffee we ship out.
Cupping is the analysis of a coffee based on its sensory qualities — its aroma, taste, mouthfeel, cleanliness and balance, as well as our Quality Control testers’ general impression. Our QC team cups coffee every day in an on-site lab here at our headquarters. They prepare multiple uniform samples of the coffees to be assessed, measuring out freshly-ground coffee and steeping it in water that’s just under the boiling point. Each cupper appraises the aroma of the wet and dry samples, taking meticulous notes. They also aspirate, or slurp from a spoon, in order to fully experience the flavor of the brewed coffee. Equal Exchange cups three times – a sample before import, another sample when the coffee arrives in Massachusetts, and a sample of each batch after roasting. We use internationally-recognized cupping standards set by the Specialty Coffee Association of America.
Learn more about cupping!
We’ve been in the business for over three decades. Our scrupulous standards ensure that the flavor profiles of our coffees are always on point and that the roasts are consistent. Equal Exchange hosts quality seminars and our worker-owners attend specialty coffee industry events whenever we can. Our gourmet blends and single origins appear on many top-coffee lists – and they’re endorsed by discerning coffee lovers like you!
Can one coffee be fairly-traded, Organic AND gourmet quality? We say yes! Each of us takes pride in doing our part to bring expertise, attention to detail and love to every cup!
It’s easy to make Easter egg dyes with foods – including our favorite, fair trade organic coffee! This year, we decorated our natural eggs using a wax-resistance method and then colored them sky blue and warm, earthy brown. These dyes are non-toxic and use ingredients you probably already have at home.
First, hard boil your eggs. Place them in a single layer at the bottom of your pot, cover with two inches of hot water and bring it to a rolling boil. Then turn off the heat and let the eggs cook in the water for twelve minutes.
Once the eggs have cooled enough for you to handle them comfortably, draw a pattern or design on each one with crayon, making the lines as thick and solid as you can. The dye won’t stick to any area of shell that’s covered by the wax of the crayon. (If you use a colored crayon, it’s possible to remove the colored wax later! See final step.)
For brown dye, bring twelve cups of water to a boil and add the ground coffee and vinegar. Simmer for fifteen minutes. For blue dye, boil twelve cups of water and then add chopped cabbage and vinegar. Allow to boil again, then simmer for half an hour.
Turn off the heat and gently add the crayon-decorated eggs to your dye baths. The longer you allow the eggs to soak, the deeper their color will become. For the brightest blues and richest browns, leave them overnight.
Once you’ve achieved the color you want, remove the eggs and let them dry fully.
If you don’t like how the crayon-marks look, you’ll want to remove the wax. Place your eggs of a foil-lined baking sheet in an oven you’ve preheated to 250 degrees. After about ten minutes, the crayon-marks will become shiny and you can wipe off the wax with a soft cloth or paper towel.
Ta-dah! Beautiful, natural eggs for Easter!
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International Women’s Day is March 8th. We hope you’ll join us by raising a cup of your favorite brew to women producers, leaders and advocates all over the world!
Coffee farming is hard work, and women face special challenges. A 2015 report issued by the Coffee Quality Institute found that even when women growers do more than their share, “coffee is often considered to be a ‘man’s crop.’” Female producers don’t have equal access to land or resources. Moreover, they often balance their duties on the farm with family expectations at home. But women in the industry persevere! And the report, entitled “The Way Forward: Accelerating Gender Equity in Coffee Value Chains,” found reason for hope that conditions can improve. The CQI report shows that systemic changes, like training and support, empower women.
At the end of February, Equal Exchange’s Quality Control Manager, Beth Ann Caspersen, will visit Nicaragua for a two day Gender Equity workshop sponsored by CQI. Over the last three years, the Gender Equity Project has worked with various actors — from farmer households to producer organizations and end-market companies — by researching and creating tools to better include women and families. Women’s involvement in coffee doesn’t stop after the harvest, The Nicaragua workshop will focus on importers and roasters. The goal is to provide clear methodologies that are inclusive and collaborative.
At Equal Exchange, we advocate for increased gender equality at every stage of the supply chain. We salute our sisters around the world who work as agronomists and cuppers. We cheer those who take on leadership roles in their coops, despite the challenges of sexism. And we appreciate our women coworkers in the U.S. — successful buyers, roasters and baristas — as well as the women who lift up Fair Trade within their churches and community groups.
Watch the video:
It’s time to take action about gender-based inequality! People are speaking up about sexual harassment, bias in the workplace, and violence against women and girls. We’re sharing our stories and standing up for each other. And we show our solidarity through ventures like the Congo Coffee Project.
At the Panzi Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country that has struggled with sexual violence for generations, survivors find a safe place to heal. Equal Exchange began a partnership with the Panzi Foundation in 2011. EE donates $1-2 to the project for every bag of Congo coffee sold. We source the coffee from Congolese co-op farmers at SOPACDI. And the money raised – over $60,000 since 2011 — goes to vocational skills training for women recovering at the Maison Dorcas aftercare center.
In 2016, Panzi Hospital constructed a small clinic known as a One Stop Center in the Eastern Congo town of Bulenga to provide basic medical services to the community and to provide survivors of sexual violence with treatment. Bulenga is located along the shores of Lake Kivu. It’s home to our coffee producer partners at SOPACDI. Although the town is located next to an important water source, transporting and storing clean water for the clinic has been challenging. In 2017, Equal Exchange contributed the $11,000 raised through the sale of Congo Coffee to the construction of a water pump and collection system. “Fresh and clean water are basic human rights,” Beth Ann notes. “The vision for the future will be to construct additional water stations to bring these benefits to the rest of the community as well.”
Thank you for championing Fair Trade. Happy International Women’s Day!
We’re pretty sure that chocolate made under fair conditions tastes the best! That’s why we only buy cacao and sugar from democratically-organized farmer collectives whose members have a say in business decisions. A new tool — Co-op Profiles — now makes it easier than ever to get to know the individuals whose hard work comes together in Equal Exchange’s tantalizing bars, chips and cocoas.
Equal Exchange is an employee-owned co-op. And we’re proud to partner with farmer groups around the world who operate the same way we do – sharing rights and responsibilities, and taking part in collective decision-making. We purchase Fair Trade cacao from AGOPAGRO and Oro Verde in Peru, Fortaleza del Valle in Ecuador, and CONACADO in the Dominican Republic. The Fair Trade sugar in our bars comes from Manduvirá, in Paraguay. Our Chocolate Team compiled profiles on these co-ops.
The Co-op Profiles make facts about our partners easy-to-see. Sidebars show the groups’ certifications, as well as volume produced and income earned. And Cristina Liberati, EE’s Grants Projects Manager, points out that the profiles will be updated regularly. That means they’ll serve as a tool to look at changes with our partners over time. She says, “We might answer questions such as — How much are they producing now versus three years ago? What amount of their product were we purchasing then versus now?” Through the profiles, Cristina says, we’ll “highlight the stories of particular farmers and staff and the great work that they do to provide us with quality ingredients for our chocolate and cocoa products.”
And we have our own Co-op Profile! Using a similar format, the Chocolate Team created a Spanish-language overview of Equal Exchange, so partners can learn about us, too!
We’re delighted to share these co-ops’ stories – and their fantastic chocolate – with you.