Earl Grey Iced Tea with Clouds of Cream

Have you ever tried our fair trade Organic Earl Grey cold? Bergamot oil lends citrus notes to this elegant black tea. Serve it over ice with cream that’s whipped just enough to swirl with the tea in lazy curls. Nothing could be cooler.

Earl grey iced tea with cream
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Earl Grey Iced Tea with Clouds

One lump or two? If you take your tea with sugar, make sure to add it while the tea is hot for the best dissolve.
Course Drinks
Cuisine English
Keyword Cream, Iced Tea
Servings 1

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Brew tea at double strength for 3-5 minutes. Make sure to remove tea bags promptly!
  2. Add sugar or sweetener if desired.
  3. Allow tea to cool in the refrigerator.

  4. Using a whisk or a hand-mixer, beat the cream until it just begins to froth and thicken – before peaks begin to form. Stop!
  5. Pour cooled tea over ice in a tall glass, leaving room at the top.
  6. Spoon in the cream.
  7. Watch in amazement, post on Instagram, etc.
  8. Sip away!

 

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Building Community Through Shared Space

2019 Equal Exchange Summit

Equal Exchange has always been about building authentic relationships. We want people to reconnect to where food comes from, to engage around each product supply chain, to understand that there are people and ecosystems behind our tea, chocolate and coffee. Equal Exchange also believes in alternatives. We seek to share our cooperative business model- to resist against business as usual and that people can be put before profit.   

In 2017 we launched an organizing effort to build an Equal Exchange community. This has been our attempt at building an autonomous network of supporters, activists, consumers, teachers and advocates to have deep involvement within the Equal Exchange’s model. Who are the people supporting our farmers and our business model?

In our early days of launching; we often tasked our audience with the idea that we want to build this community together. One of the biggest ways we have built and sustained community is by hosting an annual summit. Each year, these summits have grown, more people are showing up, and more work has been done to make a positive impact on our food system.

In 2017, our summit was a rite of passage, our first take at bringing together citizen-consumers, worker-owners and farmer partners. We hosted around 100 people at Stonehill College, brought together friends, allies and convened over shared meals and breakout sessions. We had our first vote as a community, it was a vote of direction.To endorse a climate change campaign seeking to address the challenges many of our farmer partners face-or to choose to invest in building up our community through events, shared platforms and capacity building. The vote was a pivotal point in exercising our group’s ability to help us build a direction, together. In 2018, we experimented with reaching more people, by hosting two summits in two different locations. One summit was held in Easton, MA and one was held in Chicago, Illinois. We learned the pros and cons of two locations; how it offered ease of travel for some, but a slit in energy at both.

This year we held our summit in Norton, MA about twenty minutes from our West Bridgewater HQ and roastery. 2019 was a significant landmark in the development of our shared community. We maxed out our venue, put forth a governance path, held engaging workshop sessions, and launched two solidarity campaigns, Behind the Barcodes and the Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act of 2019.

On Friday June 21, we opened up the day with keynote speaker, Santiago Paz, the export manager of Norandino Cooperative located in Piura region of Peru. Santiago helped to set the stage for Norandino’s long standing relationship with Equal Exchange, their growth as a cooperative and what it means to be in true partnership. We then broke out into various sessions including the plight of US farmers, our alternative trade network and allies, a deep dive on our coffee supply chain, and a look into our family dairy farm cheese partnership. The afternoon was spent digging into our solidarity campaigns, Behind the Barcodes with OXFAM and  the Food and Agribusiness Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act of 2019with the Organization for Competitive Markets(OCM). Attendees were challenged to grapple with action in the context of our community and two very different strategies. 

Saturday we opened the morning with a keynote from Rink Dickinson, one of Equal Exchange’s three founders on building an Alternative Trade Organization for the future. Joined by Rob Everts, Equal Exchange’s co-director, Rink and Rob spoke of our challenges and successes and what it will take for Equal Exchange to survive going forward for the many challenges ahead.

We opened up the mid-morning with continued learning about the food system, a panel highlighting the challenging landscape for food cooperatives, a deeper look into small farmer coffee cooperatives in Peru, building cooperatives in immigrant communities in New York City, and how to engage more deeply in our interfaith program at Equal Exchange.

In the afternoon, we put forth a new model for this community, exploring the possibility of a citizen-consumer seat on Equal Exchange’s board of directors. In anticipation of hopefully amending our bylaws to embrace this role, we had a competitive election with 10 citizen consumers who ran and were nominated. The candidates ranged from committed buyers, local activists, fair trade academics, and a leader of a small independent spice company. The process felt like another landmark for this community as the group did indeed elect a prospective member to our board.

Democracy takes effort, commitment, collective responsibility and dedication to an often slower and messier path. We believe that in an attempt to build a democratic food system that is truly transformative, it is not enough to focus on the buying and selling of a product. Likewise, for true change to occur, involvement cannot begin and end with a purchase. Voting with your dollar is not enough, and this is what we hope to foster throughout our Citizen-Consumer community for years to come.

Interested in attending next year? Visit: equalexchange.coop/summit

Freekeh Porridge with Dates, Coconut, and Almonds

Gram for gram, freekeh has more protein and fiber than steel cut oatmeal, with an earthy and nutty flavor that works in both sweet and savory preparations. While Palestinians generally add freekeh to their soups and chicken dishes, freekeh makes an excellent and hearty breakfast porridge. This recipe calls for cooking the freekeh in plant milk, and soaking the freekeh in advance quickens the cooking time. If the freekeh dries out while cooking, feel free to add more liquid, and stir occasionally to prevent from sticking the way you would cook a risotto. The dates and almonds from the farmers’ box add more sweetness, chewiness and crunch that pairs well with the freekeh. This recipe makes four servings, which you can cook and store to eat throughout the week.

Bowls of freekeh porridge with nuts
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Freekeh Porridge with Dates, Coconut, and Almonds

Course Breakfast
Keyword Palestinian Products
Servings 4 bowls

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Equal Exchange Freekeh
  • cups plant milk almond, cashew, or any kind of plant milk
  • ¼ cup coconut
  • Pinch salt
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 4 tbsp maple syrup, date syrup, or honey
  • 4 Equal Exchange Dates chopped
  • 4 tbsp almonds chopped

Instructions

  1. Soak the freekeh in water for about 30 minutes.
  2. Drain, then place in a saucepan with the plant milk, salt, and cinnamon. Boil over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer for 35 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Stir in the coconut and either maple syrup, date syrup, or honey.
  4. Serve in 4 bowls, top with the dates and almonds and serve.

Recipe Notes

Recipe & photo courtesy of Blanche, feastinthemiddleeast.com

Cucumber Peppermint Iced Tea

Time to chill out! Cool down our already-cool Organic Peppermint Tea by infusing it with fresh mint and cucumber and serve it over ice!

 

A jug of tea with a cup and some cucumbers
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Mint and Cucumber Infused Peppermint Iced Tea

Extra minty and cool as a cucumber -- and naturally caffeine-free! Infused tea can remain in the refrigerator for several days.
Course Drinks
Keyword Cucumber, Iced Tea, Mint
Servings 5

Ingredients

Instructions

Preparation:

  1. Bring water to a boil and pour it into a pitcher
  2. Tie the strings of the tea bags together and add to the water
  3. Let it steep until the water cools to room temperature, then put it in the refrigerator to cool fully.
  4. 2-3 hours before serving, add half of the sliced cucumber and a few sprigs of mint to the tea in the pitcher.

To serve:

  1. Add ice to the pitcher (tea bags can remain or be removed)
  2. Pour into glasses
  3. Garnish each glass with a fresh cucumber slice or two and fresh mint.

 
 

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Organic Cacao: Bean to Bar

Do you know where chocolate comes from? Have you ever seen a cacao bean or a cacao pod? Most people have only experienced the end result, like a chocolate bar or a cup of hot cocoa. These divinely delicious products can be magical – inspiring our palates, bringing back fond memories, and simply making us happy.

The manufacturing of chocolate is a precise and scientific process, and yet, it still holds some of this magic and inspiration. From the cacao farms that can feel like enchanted forests, to the manufacturing plant, each step impacts the final quality of the chocolate and each step is a combination of science and art. Due to the great care and pride that our producers put into their work, these beans can be transformed into chocolate that will wow the senses and put a smile on your face.

So, sit back, bite into a delicious piece of Equal Exchange chocolate, and read about how it was crafted – from bean to bar.

Growing

Rows of cacao seedlings

Cacao or cocoa comes from the cacao tree or Theobroma cacao. Theobroma is a Greek word that means “food of the gods.” The cacao tree is an evergreen found in over 50 tropical countries, and estimated to be grown by 2 million to 2.5 million producers, 90% of whom are small-scale farmers with 12 acres or less.

The tree can grow up to 30 feet but is often pruned to make harvesting easier for the farmers. Once a tree is planted, it can take up to five years before it produces cacao pods, and it can continue to produce pods year round until it is 25 or 30 years old. Every year, cacao trees grow thousands of flowers on their trunks and branches. Only a small percentage (as low as 1%) of these flowers will actually produce a cacao pod or masorca. This pod, which is the fruit from the tree, can be similar to the size and shape of a football and grows out of the trunk and branches of the tree. Pods can be found in a range of colors from dark brown to orange, red, yellow, and green. A cacao pod will begin to ripen 5-6 months after it flowers. Each pod contains beans, the seeds of the fruit that are shaped like a flat almond, surrounded by a sweet pulp. There are roughly 30-50 beans in a typical pod. These beans are what ultimately get transformed into cocoa powder or chocolate.

 

Harvesting Cacao Pods

A smiling man cuts a cacao pod from the trunk of a tree

Once the pods are ripe, they are cut down from the trees, typically with machetes or, for the higher pods, using long poles with a cutting edge. They are cut with care so that the stalks are not damaged and can produce fruit the following year. Though pods can be harvested year round there are two major harvest times: the main harvest and the mid-harvest, which falls about six months after the main harvest.

 

Removing Beans

A group of people sit on the ground with piles of cacao pods. A man cuts into one.

Once on the ground, the pods are graded for quality and placed into piles. The pods are then opened with a machete or a wooden club by cracking the pod so that it can be split in half. The beans, still surrounded by the sweet pulp, are removed and piled on top of large leaves, often from banana trees.

 

Fermenting

Cacao beans ferment in cement bins, stirred with a giant wooden paddle.

Once the cacao beans have been removed from the pods, they are fermented to remove the mucilage, stop the bean from germinating, and to begin flavor development. Many farmers traditionally ferment the beans in a large pile on the ground in between banana leaves or sacks. Some producer groups, such as our producer partners in the Dominican Republic, the farmers of CONACADO Co-op, bring the beans to a central fermentation area where they are fermented in wooden boxes for a period up to six days. Fermentation is essential to the development of a high quality cacao bean that will be transformed into gourmet chocolate.

 

Drying

Caaco beans dry on beds inside a tent

After fermentation, the beans are dried, bringing the humidity of the beans down to between 6-8% for storage and export. Cacao beans are often dried in the sun, which can happen on tarps, mats, or patios. They are continually raked so that they will dry more evenly. The drying process can take up to a week. However, if the beans are dried too long, they will become brittle. If they are not dried long enough, they run the risk of becoming moldy. Some producers also have access to automatic driers, which are used when the weather is rainy or cloudy and they are unable to sun-dry the beans. Once dried, cacao beans can be stored for four to five years.

 

Roasting, Winnowing and Grinding

A stainless steel funnel and a machine with a lot of tubes in a chocolate processing facility

When the dried cacao beans arrive at the processing plant they are first cleaned to remove any debris. Next, the beans are roasted to darken the color and to further bring out the flavor characteristics of the cacao. The beans can be roasted at different temperatures and for different lengths of time, depending on different variables such as humidity, size of the beans, and the desired flavor.

After roasting, the beans are “winnowed” to remove the shells from around the bean, leaving only the roasted cocoa nib, which is the key ingredient for making chocolate.

Next, the cocoa nibs are ground into a paste called chocolate liquor, also sometimes called cocoa mass. Despite the name, chocolate liquor has absolutely no alcoholic content. Chocolate liquor can either be used directly in the production of chocolate bars or further processed to separate the fat, known as cocoa butter, from the cocoa solid, leaving cocoa presscake. Cocoa butter is used in chocolate bars and beauty products. Cocoa presscake is milled into cocoa powder to be used for baking cocoa and hot cocoa.

 

Conching

Chocolate is agitated within a conching machine

Once the beans are processed into chocolate liquor and cocoa butter, the manufacturing of finished products can begin. To make chocolate bars, chocolate liquor and cocoa butter are blended with other ingredients such as sugar, vanilla, and milk (for milk chocolate). These ingredients are then refined. For Equal Exchange chocolate bars, this means the particle size of the ingredients is refined to such a small size that they cannot be felt by the human tongue, giving the chocolate much of its smooth texture. This mixture is then “conched,” or mixed and aerated at high temperatures. This process thoroughly blends the ingredients, taking out some of the acidity of the cacao and further developing the flavors that will appear in the final bar.

Traditionally, conching has been an extended process of mixing the ingredients for long periods of time, often for days. It is now common for companies to use soy lecithin, an emulsifier, to help blend the ingredients, allowing them to drastically cut down on conching time and costs. We are proud to say that Equal Exchange does not use soy lecithin in any of our products. Instead, our bars are crafted using extended conching for a period of 24-72 hours depending on the bar. It is our belief that this method creates a superior chocolate that is both incredibly smooth and full of well-balanced flavors. Read more about soy-free chocolate.

 

Tempering and Molding

Finished chocolate bars roll out of a machine in their molds

After the conching is complete, the chocolate is then “tempered” through a slow, stepped decrease in temperature. During this process, the chocolate is cooled and then warmed, then cooled further and warmed once again, and so on until it reaches the correct temperature, creating an even crystallization of the ingredients throughout the chocolate. If done well, tempering is what gives the chocolate its smooth texture and snap when broken in two. After the chocolate is properly tempered, it is ready for additional ingredient inclusions such as almonds, coffee beans, or sea salt. The chocolate is then poured into molds, which form the shape of the bar. The chocolate cools until it becomes solid and is then removed from the molds as chocolate bars. Once the bars are cooled, they are wrapped in their inner wrapper to keep the chocolate fresh for 12-24 months. They are then labeled, packed in cases and stacked on pallets ready to be shipped to and eaten!

 

Quality Analysis

A man buries his face in a bowl to take in the aroma of a chocolate sample

We want to make sure every chocolate and cocoa product that leaves our warehouse is of the highest quality. Our Chocolate Tasting Panel meets weekly (and sometimes more) for intense product evaluation. Tasting Panel is a hand-picked group of the best mouths at Equal Exchange, from various departments. The members have undergone extensive sensory training and calibration as a group, honing their skills and continually developing their palates. Panel often compares a new shipment of chocolate to a previous shipment, to ensure consistency. Another task is to write a descriptive analysis of a product’s aromas, flavors, aftertaste, mouthfeel, and so on, using a special “intensity” scoring system.
Ready to try fair trade chocolate?

 

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Organic Sugar: Cane to Table

The sugar we use in our chocolate and cocoa comes from fair trade and organic sugarcane! Our co-operative partners work hard to provide a quality product. From the farmers who plant the cane to the mill workers who package the sugar, the transformation from cane to table takes an incredible journey. So, mix up a cup of our hot cocoa, take a sip, and while you allow its subtle caramel sweetness to cover your senses, read about how this sugar was formed – from cane to table.

Growing

an illustration of organic sugarcane growing

Sugarcane is most commonly planted from using cuttings of the cane as seed. Each cutting segment contains a bud that will sprout the new cane. It takes about one year for the cane to reach maturity.

Harvesting

An illustration of harvesting organic sugarcane with oxen

As harvest season approaches, co-operative extensionists will test the sucrose level of the sugarcane. Once levels are high enough, the farmer is authorized to begin harvesting. Most of our farmer partners harvest their sugarcane by hand with machete, and gather the sugarcane into bundles. From the bundles, it is transported, often by ox teams, to a co-operative collection center. There, the bundles are weighed out, tagged with the farmer’s code, and the farmers are given a receipt which they can cash in at the co-op on a weekly basis. From the collection center, farmer members split the cost of transporting their cane collectively to the mill.

Milling

an illustration of organic sugarcane on a conveyer belt being milled

At the mill, the bundles are recorded by their tags, opened, and sent first through a chopper and shredder. From there, the sugarcane is passed through a series of 3-6 mills, often in the shape of rollers in order to squeeze out as much cane juice as possible.

Clarifying

An illustration of organic sugarcane being clarified in a tank

Cane juice is acidic which creates favorable conditions for the rapid decay of sucrose. In order to prevent this decay, limewater is added into the cane juice. Next, the juice is heated causing any dirt and sediments to chemically bond to the limewater and separate from the juice for easy extraction.

Evaporating

The clean cane juice is heated to evaporate excess water until it reaches the consistency of syrup.

Crystallizing

Once the sugarcane reaches the right syrup consistency, a “seed” is introduced in the boiler. The “seed” is an established sugar crystal that begins the rapid growth of other sugar crystals until the whole boiler is full of sugar crystals.

Drying

The sugar crystals are then passed through a centrifuge which draws all of the liquids away from the sugar crystals. The liquids left over are a cane syrup called a “mother liquor.” This liquor typically is passed through a boiler two or three more times until all of its sucrose is extracted in the form of sugar crystals, and the syrup leftover is sold as molasses. After the centrifuge, the sugar crystals are passed through a dryer that lowers the temperature and humidity of the crystals.

Packing

The dry sugar crystals pass through several magnets to detect for further impurities before being packaged. Our partners package the majority of their sugar in bulk quantities from superpacks (one ton bags) to 50lb brown paper bags.

 

Quality Analysis

We test each incoming sugar shipment to ensure that it is of utmost quality. Our Chocolate Tasting Panel meets weekly (and sometimes more) for intense product evaluation. The members have undergone extensive sensory training and calibration as a group, honing their skills and continually developing their palates. Panel will compare an incoming shipment of sugar to a previous shipment to make certain that there are not any off flavors or problems with the new sugar.

 

And that’s how it’s done! Ready to taste the results?

 

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Mint Blackberry Green Iced Tea

Dress up a cup of Organic Mint Green Tea with extra mint, plus juicy blackberries. This vibrant iced tea has a fresh, summery flavor!

A mug of iced tea on a table with fruit
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Mint Blackberry Iced Green Tea

For a stronger fruit flavor or a cleaner-looking glass,  skip step 3. and use a blender to juice the berries and strain the liquid into your tea instead.

Course Drinks
Keyword Blackberries, Iced Tea, Mint
Servings 1

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Brew a double-strength cup of tea, using two tea bags but otherwise following the instructions on the box.
  2. Allow tea to cool, or continue on if you're in a hurry - the ice at the end will cool things down.
  3. Add a handful of blackberries and muddle them to release flavor.
  4. Add honey or agave to taste.
  5. Add ice and allow to cool.
  6. Garnish with fresh mint and enjoy!

 

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See all our new iced tea recipes!

Shade-Grown Coffee

Shade-grown coffee is as natural as it comes — the low-to-the-ground plant thrives as part of a healthy ecosystem surrounded by other species of plants and wildlife.  Equal Exchange’s mission to work with small farmer cooperatives has led us to work in regions with extensive landscape degradation. The market access we provide to producers in these regions is critical to restoring these landscapes. Because we’ve been working with our co-op partners for so long, we’re able to source outstanding beans. And much of the coffee we buy is shade-grown. The plants that shade the coffee give shelter to birds and insects, sequester carbon and serve as a source of food for local communities. That’s not all. Shade actually helps make for a sweeter cup!

Shade-Grown and the Environment

Coffee is a shade-loving shrub. But in recent decades, people have developed sun-tolerant varieties of the coffee plant. These varieties, grown on plantations in a mono-culture system, do what they’re meant to — produce large yields. People clear forests of native plants to plant these large fields of coffee. And a growing environment without crop variety doesn’t support biodiversity. Over 98% of Equal Exchange coffees by volume are certified organic. (Our few non-organic coffees are clearly labeled.) The overwhelming majority of these organic coffees are shade-grown. Shade trees and various types of crops and plant-life are an important part of the ecosystem for birds and pollinators.

Some of the non shade-grown coffees that Equal Exchange sources are produced in locales where deforestation has occurred. The land in these areas is in transition; it’s still in the process of being restored with agroforestry systems using coffee as the principal crop.

Want to learn more? Watch our documentary about farmer partners who grow coffee in buffer zones around protected biospheres in Peru:

Shade and Sweetness

The coffee beans we roast are the seeds of the plant. They’re found in its small round fruit, its cherries. Some fruits, like bananas, can be picked when green; they’ll continue to ripen after harvest. Coffee is different. It will not ripen any more once the fruit is off the bush. For that reason, skillful growers wait until the cherries are mature, when they’ve developed as much sucrose as possible. The sucrose in the cherry flavors the coffee in the cup — and it depends on factors like altitude and shade cover. Coffee plants needs sunlight to develop, of course. But they thrive when they grow in partially shady conditions.  According to the Coffee Quality Institute, shade-grown coffee will have 3% more sugar than coffee that is grown in full sun.

What about Certified Shade-Grown?

While the shade-grown certification system is appropriate for some growers, it comes with costs.  We don’t believe it provides sufficient additional benefits for us to ask our producer partners to go through this process on top of the fair trade and organic standards they are already meeting. It’s important to note that both organic and fair trade standards have environmental components that cover much of what shade-grown certification requires. From our perspective, shade certification doesn’t alter in a significant way the practices of farms that are already fair trade and organic certified.

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Shade-grown coffee with conifer trees
Shade-gown in Honduras at the COMSA cooperative.

Pineapple Coffee Fizz

This effervescent coffee cocktail matches cold brew with sweet pineapple and gin. Mix it up for endless summer vibes! We like it best with fruity Ethiopian coffee.

 

A cold brew cocktail with a wedge of pineapple
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Pineapple Coffee Fizz

Bubbly and sweet with a serious kick.
Course Drinks
Keyword Coffee, Cold Brew, Gin, Pineapple
Prep Time 5 minutes
Servings 1

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup coffee, prepared as cold brew, Equal Exchange Organic Ethiopian.
  • 1 (1.5 oz) shot gin
  • 2 tsp simple syrup
  • 2 tsp fresh pineapple juice
  • tonic water
  • fresh pineapple chunks

Instructions

  1. Add cold brew, gin, simple syrup and juice into shaker
  2. Shake with ice
  3. Strain into a glass and add fresh ice
  4. Top with tonic water
  5. Garnish with pineapple

Here’s to summer!

Coffee Scrub for Face and Body

Why pay for a fancy scrub when you can make one at home using fair trade ingredients?

To make this scrub, we mixed Equal Exchange’s Palestinian Organic Virgin Olive Oil and ground Organic Coffee (both known for the antioxidents they contain) with brown sugar (for exfoliation).  For little extra tingle, you can add a few drops of tea tree oil, too.

 

Coffee Scrub Proportions:

  • 1/3 cup ground coffee
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1-2 drops tea tree oil (optional)

 

A bowl of ground coffee and sugar sit next to a measuring cup of oil and some measuring spoons.

Instructions:

  1. Mix coffee and sugar.
  2. Stir in olive oil and tea tree oil to form a paste.
  3. Get your skin wet and apply the scrub to your face or body. Rub it in, using a gentle circular motion. (Sensitive skin? Test your scrub on a small patch of skin first.)
  4. Rinse well with cool water. Ahh!

 

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