Just Chocolate Cake and Ganache

Slice of chocolate cake with ganache
0 from 0 votes

Just Chocolate Cake and Ganache

Course Dessert
Keyword Chocolate, Cocoa


Just Chocolate Cake

  • 4 1/2 cups unbleached flour
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cup Equal Exchange Organic Baking Cocoa
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 Tablespoons vinegar

Just Chocolate Ganache


For Cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease bottom of cake pans. Sift and combine all dry ingredients into a mixing bowl. Combine all wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Gradually whisk wet ingredients into dry until smooth. Do not overmix. Pour into cake pans and bake for approximately 35 minutes. To test, gently and quickly, press your finger in center of cake. If the cake springs back, it is done. (Yield: 2 – 9"-10" layers)

For Ganache:

  1. Break chocolate bars into small pieces in a metal bowl. Bring cream to the boiling point. (As it comes to a boil, it will rise. Be careful to not to boil over top of pan.) Pour hot cream over chocolate. Allow to sit 1 minute. Whisk until smooth. If chocolate is not completely melted, bring a pot of water to a boil, remove from heat. Place chocolate mixture over hot water and continue whisking until smooth. If a spreadable consistency is desired, place a piece of plastic wrap over surface of ganache and allow to cool completely and thicken. If a glazing effect is desired, allow ganache to cool until slightly thickened, then pour over cake.

Recipe Notes

These two recipes come from Lilla Woodham, a seasoned Equal Exchange Customer Service Representative who, prior to coming to Equal Exchange, worked for 11 years as a baker in fine food establishments in the Boston area.

Hazelnut Coffee Brownies


Stack of Hazelnut Coffee Brownies
0 from 0 votes

Hazelnut Coffee Brownies

Course Dessert
Keyword Chocolate, Cocoa, Coffee
Servings 24 brownies



  1. Combine cocoa and baking soda in a medium bowl. Add coffee and half of melted butter and stir until mixture thickens. Add sugar, remaining melted butter, and eggs. Stir until smooth. Add flour, vanilla, salt. Blend completely. Stir in chopped chocolate and hazelnuts. Pour into greased 9 x 13-inch / 3.5-L baking pan. Bake in preheated oven at 350F / 180C for 35-40 minutes. Yields 24 brownies.

Recipe Notes

Contributed by Hollye Schwartz, San Antonio, Texas

From "Simply in Season" by Cathleen Hockman-Wert and Mary Beth Lind. Copyright 2005 by Herald Press, Scottdale, PA 15683. Used by permission. For ordering information call 1-800-759-4447.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge
4.67 from 3 votes

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge

Course Dessert
Keyword Chocolate, Peanut Butter
Servings 30 pieces



  1. 1/2 cup peanut butter (more or less)
  2. Stir sugar and cocoa powder together in large saucepan. Stir in milk. Heat at medium-high heat until boiling, then lower heat and let low boil continue. Stir occasionally. Have ready a greased pie plate or similar dish. Start checking temperature with a candy thermometer when bubbles get small and glossy. (Total cooking time will be 20 minutes or less depending on amount of milk.) Remove from heat when mixture reaches 235 F degrees or “soft ball”ù stage. Set pan in cold water to cool. Add vanilla extract. Let cool slightly and add peanut butter. Remove from cold water and stir quickly to mix in peanut butter. Pour fudge into pie plate. Let cool and cut into pieces.

Directions in Mom’s Own Words

  1. In a large saucepan, put about 2 1/2 to 3 cups of white granulated sugar. Add 4 tablespoons of cocoa powder. Stir the two together until evenly blended. (Part of the fun is seeing the white sugar turn brown.)
  2. Pour in some milk. There is no measure for this. You want enough that the mixture is “runny”, yet if you put in too much, it will take forever to boil down. I usually judge the amount to be right if, when I drag the spoon across the diameter of the bottom of the pan, the mixture closes in behind it fairly quickly.
  3. Set the pan on medium high heat. If your pan is small, watch to see that it doesn’t boil over. If it threatens to, lift the pan off the heat. Eventually, it will boil down to where this isn’t a problem. It’s much easier to start with a big pan in the beginning. (2 1/2 – 3 quart size) At first when it boils, the bubbles will be light brown and “fluffy”. It’s okay to stir occasionally. While you are waiting, butter a pie plate and put cold water in the sink.
  4. When the bubbles start getting glossy and brown, it’s time to check the temperature.
  5. Before candy thermometers, we used a small glass of cold water to check when the fudge was ready. You wanted a small drip from the spoon to hold together and form a soft ball in the cold water. Not ready and the fudge would never harden. Cooked too long and the fudge would harden like a rock before you were ready for it.
  6. Now, with a candy thermometer, you can get just about perfect fudge most times. Take it off the heat when it is fully and exactly at “soft ball” stage. Set the pan into a sinkful of cold water (about 2 in. deep) to cool.
  7. Add a teaspoon or two of vanilla extract directly into the hot fudge. Let the fudge cool briefly and add a big dollop of creamy peanut butter.
  8. Lift the pan out of the cold water (dry off the bottom by setting it briefly on a dish towel laid on the counter) and stir. Stirring will blend in the peanut butter and cool the fudge. You want to be ready to pour it into a buttered pie plate just as it begins to hold its shape (harden). Perfect is when it hardens just as it spreads out in the plate and holds the decorative swirl you put on top. If you got the temperature right when you took it off the stove, then it will harden in the plate if you pour it in a little early. Early is better than late because otherwise it hardens in the pan, or as you are trying to pour it, and then you don’t get nice pieces. It tastes just as good either way though. If for some reason, it doesn’t harden in the plate, just eat it with a spoon.

Recipe Notes

Yields 30-35 1.5 inch servings

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

Heart-shaped Chocolate Sugar Cookies
0 from 0 votes

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

Course Dessert
Keyword Cocoa, Cookies
Servings 18 cookies


  • 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


  1. 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.
  2. 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)

Recipe Notes

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

An Organic Solution

It’s a Friday morning at Equal Exchange and one day short of the official start of Spring. A truck backs into one of our loading docks. But it’s not here to take away boxes of Equal Exchange products. It’s here to pick up chaff.

“Chaff is a skin that comes off the coffee as it roasts,” said Lead Coffee Roaster Thomas Lussier. “As the coffee dries out and expands during roasting, it sheds this skin.” Each week, we produce about 30-40 tall garbage bags – about 430 pounds of chaff. That could be a lot of waste. But fortunately chaff has another use – in the garden. Coffee bean chaff adds helpful nutrients to a compost mixture, and is especially good for the growth of vegetables.

In the fall of 2008, Rodney North, Equal Exchange’s “Answer Man,” started looking for ways to distribute chaff to local farmers. Eva Sommaripa, a certified organic grower of fresh culinary herbs, cut flower bouquets, edible flowers and specialty greens, took interest. Her business, Eva’s Garden, is based in South Dartmouth, MA. They make deliveries to markets and restaurants in the Boston area and could easily pick up chaff on the trip back to South Dartmouth. “As an organic farmer she was more interested than most in making her own compost and getting an organic compost ingredient was a plus,” North said.

So since then, about once a month from early spring until fall, the Eva’s Garden truck pulls up to the dock. This week, Ted Perry is behind the wheel. Perry has worked at Eva’s Garden for two years. He’s the Technical Equipment Director, which means he oversees the maintenance and repair of all tools and machines used at the garden. He’s also heavily involved in the planting and growing aspects of Eva’s Garden, and helps manage farm projects, irrigation projects and sometimes makes deliveries to Boston. It’s after one such delivery that he’s come to Equal Exchange to load the empty delivery truck with chaff and burlap bags.

At Eva’s Garden, chaff is used in the compost mixture. “Chaff absorbs the moisture and dries the pile out,” Perry said. “It’s a great way to bulk up the compost, which in turn becomes soil used for planting.”

James Reynolds of The Dahlia Farm in Middleboro, MA, has also utilized chaff from Equal Exchange for the last year. The farm is an organic CSA producer of vegetables and cutflowers. “We’re regularly experimenting with alternative means of production,” said Reynolds. “Initially I used the chaff as a general additive to the farm’s clay-loam soil, but soon began to specifically target mulch and bedding, mixing the chaff with soil to make a lighter backfill for both leeks and potatoes – both of which require a series of stem-covering during the growing season. The chaff is a good substitute for foul bedding as it absorbs excess moisture and ammonia, which is later turned into compost.”

In organic cultivation, weeds are one of the biggest time consumers. So burlap sacks – something else we have plenty of at Equal Exchange – can be used as a suppressant for invasive root species and weeds. “[The bags] block light, so it prevents weeds from growing,” Perry said.

The bags can also be used in winter to protect things like dahlia bulbs or tulips. “You bed them down as insulation,” Perry said. They also work well in raised beds, especially with tomatoes. “Just cut a hole in the bag and put a plant in it. It retains moisture and keeps weeds from growing,” Perry said.

Don’t have access to chaff? Instead of throwing out your coffee grounds after brewing, put them in your garden! Coffee grounds are high in nitrogen, and can be sprinkled around plants, added to compost piles, or mixed into soil for houseplants or vegetable beds.

Our very own Banana Coordinator, Nicole Vitello, is also an organic farmer, and has used coffee grounds in her compost pile for years. “As an organic farmer, compost is a key ingredient in soil fertility but also in improving soil tilth,” Vitello said. “Tilth is the structure of the soil and relates directly to its ability to aerate plant roots and both hold and shed moisture. In New England, farmers often have to contend with high clay concentrations in the soil which can make it heavy and difficult for plant roots to penetrate and access available nutrients.”

Since working at Equal Exchange, Vitello has had access to a lot of coffee grounds. “I have been composting our communal kitchen waste which contains a high concentration of coffee grounds,” she said. “I also add coffee chaff to the mix as a carbon component and to lighten the amount of vegetable matter. What I have noticed most from the higher concentrations of coffee grounds is the structure of the compost. It is finer and lighter with better texture. With this composition, I feel I am not only adding nutrients to my soil by composting but also providing better structure to my soil and encouraging soil microorganisms, all elements of better tilth and ecology.”

Just like with coffee roasting, gardening is a mix of art and science!


Ask the Dietitian: Hydration

Recently at Equal Exchange, we received the question, “Is it true that coffee dehydrates you?” Water is one of the most essential nutrients for your body. So, pour yourself a glass of your favorite chilled Equal Exchange drink and read on!

First, let’s talk water basics.

Why is hydration important to my health?
Drinking water or water equivalents has many health benefits. Water equivalents is a term I use to refer to any liquid substances that are not 100% water, but provide water/hydration to the body. These include: 100% fruit juices, decaffeinated coffees/teas, caffeinated coffees/teas (up to three cups), coconut water, electrolyte drinks, fruits and non-starchy vegetables (ex: leafy greens, peppers, etc). Staying hydrated helps to:

  • decrease appetite and control food cravings
  • maintain the balance of body fluids (up to 75% of your body is made of water!)
  • rid the body of waste products
  • keep your energy levels high
  • avoid constipation
  • keep your skin healthy

How much do I need?
Most people need about 8 glasses of water or water equivalents a day (one glass = 8 ounces or 1 cup). This amount varies, though, depending on your weight, gender, age, activity level, diet, health, pregnancy, and the climate you live in.

Do all liquids count?
Not all drinks are created equal. Caffeinated drinks (such as coffee, caffeinated tea and regular and diet soda) and alcohol (such as beer, wine, and spirits) actually cause water to be lost from your body if you drink more than three cups per day. If you are like a lot of people at Equal Exchange who drink more than three caffeinated beverages per day, do not despair! Although moderation is best, remember that the fourth cup of coffee you drink does not count toward your water or water equivalent recommended cups for the day. If you are having less than three cups per day, the antioxidant and other benefits of coffee and tea outweigh the slight diuretic affects of caffeine.

Tips to Help You Stay More Hydrated

  1. Make an iced or hot tea with any of the non-caffeinated Equal Exchange teas: Peppermint, Rooibos, Vanilla Rooibos, Rooibos Chai, Ginger or Chamomile.
  2. Drink a glass of water right when you get up in the morning.
  3. Keep a glass at your desk and refill it throughout the day.
  4. Keep a water bottle with you in your car, at your desk, and in your bag.
  5. Eat more fruits and vegetables. (They have a high water content that contributes to your hydration needs.)
  6. Feeling hungry? Drink a glass of water or iced tea and see if you are still hungry. Sometimes thirst can be mistaken for hunger.


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Ask the Dietitian: Iron and Chocolate

Question: A fellow Equal Exchange chocolate lover pointed out to me the surprisingly high amount of iron per serving, thus giving us an excuse to consume more. How does chocolate get so much iron and is it readily absorbable? – Rachel Tybor in Madison, WI

Excellent question! Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutrition problems worldwide, most often present in young women and children. Iron is essential in the diet as it is involved in many important body functions. For example, iron carries oxygen throughout the body helping cells to produce energy. When levels of iron are low, individuals may experience decreased energy levels and weakness. Fortunately, iron is found in many foods and comes in two forms: heme and non-heme iron. Heme iron is easier for the body to absorb and is found in foods such as meat, fish and poultry. Non-heme iron is a form of iron that is less absorbable by the body. Non-heme iron is found in plant-based foods such as spinach, beans, molasses, quinoa, tempeh, and Equal Exchange chocolate bars.

The main source of iron in our chocolate bars comes from the cacao bean. Although the non-heme iron found in the cacao bean is less absorbed by the body, some iron is still absorbed. You can enhance how much iron your body absorbs by eating foods rich in Vitamin C with your iron-rich foods. Next time you reach for a few pieces of your Equal Exchange chocolate bar (9 squares = 1 serving), eat it with an orange for better absorption. Not only can you feel better about eating chocolate because you are getting helpful vitamins and minerals, but also because the chocolate is organic and fairly traded from small-scale farmer co-operatives – meaning that everyone along the supply chain (even the environment) was fairly treated in the creation of your Equal Exchange chocolate bar.

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The Art (and Science!) of Chocolate and Coffee Pairing

Chocolate and coffee offer a variety of flavors that are nurtured through the cultivation and processing of the finished products that you enjoy every day. Both products are incredibly complex in flavor independently, but can also provide us with delicious flavor combinations when paired together. Enjoy a few of our pairing selections by yourself – or invite a few of your friends over for a pairing event!

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We’ll provide you with the tools to learn about tasting a few of our recommended pairings, but let’s begin by talking about flavor.

Elements of Flavor

Fragrance/Aroma: the power of fragrance is directly linked to the elements of flavor beginning with the olfactory bulb at the back of the nasal passage. It’s common to identify a smell like vanilla and also taste vanilla during a tasting. Fragrance and aroma are intrinsically linked.

Flavor: There are many levels of flavor in a cup of coffee. Focus on these two elements:

  • Four traditional flavors: sweet, sour, salt, bitter and their combinations
    Begin tasting by focusing on the four basic flavors of sweet, sour, salt and bitter. These flavors may present themselves immediately or may appear in combinations. Try to identify the sensation and describe it as a positive or negative. For example, think of the flavor of a ripe orange as opposed to an unripe orange. Oranges have a combination of sweet and sour as the base of the flavor, positive in the case of the ripe orange, with sweetness being the dominant flavor – as opposed to a sour flavor, which will dominate in the case of the immature orange, exhibiting an astringent and slightly sour flavor. These flavors can be straightforward and in many cases combined, with sweet and sour being the most prevalent. In addition to these four basic flavors, recent evidence suggests that a fifth flavor called “Umami” should be added to this group. Umami is the savory flavor you may taste, referred to as brothy, savory or meaty.
  • Level of complexity: intensity, balance and dimension in the cup
    Many coffees will be naturally well balanced, with the mouthfeel and acidity being in perfect harmony. Other coffees will exhibit deep layers of complexity with pungent flavors like black pepper complimented by dark chocolate. High quality coffees can be very complex in flavor or very simple. Sumatran coffees can be extremely complex with a flavor profile that is earthy, sweet, pungent, peppery and reminiscent of dried cherries. However, a high quality coffee from Bolivia may exhibit chocolate and citrus with excellent acidity. Both are high quality coffees with different flavor profiles.

Mouthfeel/body: Commonly referred to as “body,” the mouthfeel is measured by the weight and the texture of the coffee. Roll the coffee around in your mouth to settle in the center of your tongue, and then move it to the sides and the back, only to bring it back to the center. Is the texture velvety smooth like fresh cream? Heavy and dense like whole milk?

In the case of chocolate, feel free to chew on the chocolate to break it up or leave it on the center of your tongue to dissolve, so that you can feel the weight and texture. Is it dense and creamy or light and gritty?

Acidity: The bite, snap or sparkle found in a cup of coffee. Different acids will produce different sensations on the edges of the tongue. We refer to perceived acidity, as opposed to the level of pH, which is approximately 5.7 (7.0 is neutral) in the coffee. The perceived acidity in coffee is a direct result of the coffee growing conditions and more specifically the altitude of the coffee. However, the way that the coffee has been roasted may enhance or degrade this acidity.

Aftertaste: The flavor that remains in your mouth after you have sipped your cup of coffee or tasted chocolate may linger or fade away. The aftertaste is just that.

What kinds of flavors can you taste in your mouth after you have swallowed the coffee? Whatever the flavor is, don’t forget to ask: is it a positive or negative experience?

The Recipe

Pairing chocolate and coffee is like stepping into your kitchen to make your favorite recipe; you are the creative genius and you work to combine flavors that pull your recipe together! Think about the basic flavors that make up a fresh pasta sauce. Garden fresh tomatoes can be really tangy on their own, but when they are combined with the bitter herby flavor of oregano, the sweetness of sauteed onions, garlic, a pinch of sugar and a dash of salt, you have created much more than cooked tomatoes! The combined ingredients add flavor, texture and dimension to the sauce. Obviously this is a simplistic example, but I think you get the idea. Different flavor combinations produce different results; the goal is to find the tastiest combinations!

Different Strokes for Different Folks

Everyone has a complex system for tasting in their mouths, commonly called taste buds. We are all born with these fabulous flavor receptors and they help us decide what we do and do not like to consume. Everyone is different; some of us like a very sweet tomato sauce and others enjoy a more tangy tomato sauce. Food preferences are related to the kinds of food we are accustomed to eating and our ability to taste different flavors. Do your best to open your mind and let your taste buds do the talking! Feel free to try something new or stick with a familiar favorite. Here are a few tasty treats to try, courtesy of the Equal Exchange Quality Control team:

Our Fair Trade Chocolate and Coffee Pairing Recommendations:

Child Labor in the Cocoa Industry

For many, Halloween is all about candy, and A LOT of that will be chocolate. In fact, in the U.S. alone adults will spend over a billion dollars on millions of pounds of candy to be handed out on Halloween.

And, unfortunately, that means many large corporations will sometimes profit – albeit indirectly – from forced child labor in West Africa.

West Africa grows 70% of the world’s cocoa, but corporations of the global cocoa/chocolate trade – companies like Hershey’s, Mars, Nestle, Russell Stover, Cargill, and ADM – have been slow to seriously tackle this problem.

In the period 1900-1907 the world’s then leading cocoa and chocolate manufacturer, Cadbury’s, was caught up in a scandal over their reliance on West African slave plantations for their cocoa. Therefore it was all the more unnecessary that the problem should re-emerge a century later. In 2000 and 2001, chocolate lovers around the world were jolted when British and American journalists documented the enslavement of adolescent and teenage boys on cocoa farms in Ivory Coast. Most of the children come from Mali or Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast’s poorer neighbors. Traffickers rely on the economic desperation of Malian and Burkinabe families and entice naive adolescents and teenagers with the promise of good jobs in Ivory Coast. Even the prospect of buying a new bicycle or modest scooter can be enough to motivate a boy to sign up for a season of hard work.

Later, once over the border and separated from their community or others who speak their language, the children are trafficked to cocoa farmers. Some farmers will pay the children a small sum at the end of the cocoa season. Some will not. But more importantly, some farmers will exploit the children’s vulnerability, forcing them to perform long, hard and dangerous work, while providing only minimal food and shelter. Some will beat and threaten those who try to escape, and at night lock the children in sheds or huts. It is these children, held captive and forced to work against their will, that are the focus of this ongoing crisis.

Since Ivory Coast alone produces 40% of the world’s cocoa, and 50% of the cocoa consumed in the U.S., its beans are mixed into almost every brand of mass-produced chocolate. Further, a handful of western corporations control approximately 85% of Ivorian cocoa exports. Therefore, these corporations have both the responsibility and the opportunity to use their unmatched power in the cocoa industry to resolve this unacceptable situation.

In 2001, after six months of public and government pressure, representatives of the largest corporations in the cocoa and chocolate industry signed the Harkin-Engel Protocol, championed by Sen. Tom Harkin (IA), and Rep. Elliot Engel (NY), wherein the companies promised to work “wholeheartedly” to “eliminate the worst forms of child labor” and to create by June 2005 a certification system to verify that this was being accomplished.

The protocol gave the industry years of relief from pressure or scrutiny as they repeatedly assured the public that they were dedicated to solving the problem and that their work was proceeding on schedule. Unfortunately, very little was actually accomplished as the years ticked by. Even Sen. Harkin and Rep. Engel had to publicly admit this when it was apparent the industry would miss the Protocol’s July 2005 deadline.

Subsequently, Sen. Harkin and Rep. Engel granted the cocoa/chocolate industry another three years – until July 2008 – to tackle the problem. However, as part of those negotiations with industry the legislators’ demand for eliminating forced child labor was dropped. Instead there is only to be a monitoring operation. And even that was intended to cover only half the cocoa grown in the two key countries: Ivory Coast and Ghana. In 2006, the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) provided a comprehensive update and analysis of the profound lack of progress toward the goals of the protocol. In March, 2007 BBC TV documented that even some of the few projects held up by the industry as proof of their commitment to the children of the region, and of the progress made up to that time, in fact proved the opposite.

Fortunately one victory achieved by Sen. Harkin and Rep. Engel was to engage the U.S. Department of Labor, who commissioned Tulane University’s Payson Center to give an annual, impartial assessment of efforts to implement the Protocol and provide scientific evidence of the phenomenon of the worst forms of child in the cocoa growing regions of the Ivory Coast and Ghana.

During the 2007-2008 Winter, the journalist Cristian Parenti, writing for Fortune magazine, also traveled to Ivory Coast and he, too, found little evidence of any serious effort to tackle the twin problems of forced child labor and chronic poverty among the regions cocoa growers.

In July 2008, the industry again failed to meet the protocol’s deadlines, even though the bar had been significantly lowered. One more time the deadline was extended, to the end of 2010. However, when the Payson Center issued its fourth and final annual report on the problem in the Fall of 2010 there was still only minimal progress to be found. For example, despite billons in annual profits and repeated claims of their deep commitment, in eight years (2001-09) the large cocoa/chocolate companies had only spent a total of $5.5 million (less than $700,000 per year) on the problem in West Africa. The report also found the industry to have fallen short of key objectives across the board and was still far from establishing a substantive certification process to identify which cocoa was or was not produced with forced child labor. In fact, the mechanisms that had been established by industry seemed to have abandoned that goal and represented a distortion of the concept of product certification.

Meanwhile, groups like the ILRF, Global Exchange, and Equal Exchange continued to push the industry and to educate the public about this issue. For example, our three organizations have worked with others like Green America and the Organic Consumers Association, and thousands of families, school and faith-based groups for each of the past four Halloweens to distribute door-to-door over 600,000 “Reverse Trick-or-Treat” cards nationwide. These cards and accompanying activities help educate the public about this overlooked issue and to promote existing solutions like Fair Trade and creation of democratically organized small farmer co-operatives. We also jointly drafted and pledged ourselves to a Commitment to Ethical Cocoa Sourcing that other organizations and businesses are encouraged to endorse.

A key demand we’ve been making is that the large corporations begin buying certified Fair Trade cocoa in significant quantities – and to then gradually increase those purchases – as it offers critical protections for workers and directly addresses the underlying problem of chronic poverty amongst cocoa farmers. Under Fair Trade standards, the farmers and co-operatives must abide by key covenants of the International Labor Organization, including those forbidding inappropriate
child labor, and forced labor. Also, unlike the proposals in the Harkin-Engel Protocol, the Fair Trade system is up and running today in most cocoa growing regions, and enjoys popular support in consuming countries.

Also, through the third-party certification label that appears on the product right on the grocery store shelf Fair Trade gives the consumers – at the time of purchase – the information needed to make an informed choice.

However, less than 5% of the world’s cocoa is currently purchased according to Fair Trade standards. Overall, Equal Exchange and our allies like the ILRF are disappointed that the industry has refused to support Fair Trade through their cocoa sourcing, and that the Protocol process fell so short of its original 2001 goals.

At Equal Exchange we will continue to try to set an example for other companies and to speak out on this issue. All of our cocoa is sourced from Fair Trade, organic small farmer co-operatives in the Dominican Republic, Panama, Ecuador and Peru. Even our sugar is fairly traded, and sourced from a small-farmer co-op in Paraguay.

Have something to say about child labor in the cocoa industry? Click on these links to share your views with the Chocolate Manufacturers of America.

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Chocolate to Warm the Body and Heart

Over the centuries, cultures have used cacao as a base to mix with other ingredients and flavors to make delicious drinks. European or classic drinking chocolates (made with chocolate and not just cocoa powder), spicy or Aztec, and Mexican traditional are all styles created in different regions of the world with different influences. Read on to learn a more about the history and inspiration behind the hot cocoas we love today.


Chocolate, which comes from cacao beans, is native to lowland tropical South America, where it has been cultivated for over 2,000 years in Central America and Mexico. Researchers believe cacao was originally domesticated around 1000 B.C. by the Olmecs, who lived from around 1500 B.C. to 400 B.C. in the modern day Mexican states of Veracruz and Tabasco.

Mesoamerican peoples, including the Mayas and Aztecs, made chocolate beverages known as xocolātl, a Nahuatl word for “bitter water.” Mayas drank their chocolate hot with flavored vanilla, ear flower, or chili peppers.

Throughout its history, chocolate has been seen as an elixir of love. Long before chocolate was given on Valentine’s Day, chocolate was associated with the Maya god of fertility. Aztecs associated chocolate with Xochiquetzal, the goddess of fertility.

Aztec chocolate was usually served cool and unsweetened. When the Spanish were introduced to chocolate in the New World, they started sweetening it with sugar cane and serving it hot rather than cold.

A tasty and healthy treat

Even in its earliest days, cocoa was praised for its potential health benefits. It’s rumored that Montezuma II, the Aztec Emperor of Mexico from 1502-1520, drank 50 cups a day. He reportedly said of cocoa, “The divine drink… builds up resistance and fights fatigue. A cup of this precious drink permits a man to walk for a whole day without food.”

The Aztecs even used chocolate to strengthen patients and improve digestion. Theobromine, the primary alkaloid in cocoa, is partly responsible for chocolate’s mood-elevating effect. Chocolate also contains phenylethylamine (PEA), a chemical released by the brain when we fall in love. Recent studies have shown that dark chocolate can also have positive effects on the heart.

Get back to cocoa’s roots and try drinking your chocolate!

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