Let me tell you a bit about Kara’s Cupcakes. They are delicious. Incredible. Moist. Fluffy. Mighty competition for Sprinkles, which is also a chain. Something unique about Kara’s? They only use local products to create a locally-made cupcake and supporting their communities, and a business built on a sustainable model. They also use organic ingredients when possible, and try their best to be green in their building, recycling, and delivery.
My husband and I ate a S’mores cupcake that had a layer of graham crackers on the bottom and a toasted mallow on top, as well as a Chocolate Velvet cupcake along with a nice large glass of milk. It was divine.
One of the ingredients that Kara’s Cupcakes uses is Scharffen Berger. They host an annual chocolate contest that is really fun and has great prizes. But I did some research on Scharffen Berger to see where, oh where, do their cacao beans grow? And does it matter?
I hate to be the bearer of bad news of us food bloggers, especially on National Chocolate Day which also happens to fall right before Halloween- a holiday we are all passing out chocolate, or consuming it maybe more than usual. But shouldn’t these three factors be the very reason that we care where our chocolate comes from?
The bitter truth is that 60% of the world’s chocolate is from the Ivory Coast and Ghana, where pods are grown only 10 degrees from the equator, one of the only places in the world with the correct environment to grow such a product. One “pod” that is grown can make up to seven chocolate bars. Because of the demand for chocolate and the necessity for it to come from this region of South Africa, farmers will go to any length to produces these beans and export them.
Even child trafficking.
According to the ILO, the International Labor Organization, certain standards must be put into place to ensure fair treatment of workers. Of these standards, work must not interfere with children going to school, can not use harmful chemicals or weapons. In most farms in the Ivory Coast and Ghana, these rules do not apply. Some of these child workers are as young as 8 years old, and in a study done in 2002, 248,000 children were trapped in four South African countries in slave labor on cacao farms.
Things have been put in place to stop this terrible treatment of children, and the irony of it all is the sweet taste that comes from such bitter treatment. However, we are nowhere near stopping the trafficking, and big companies like Hershey’s chocolate, who is a favorite of the American market by 42.5%, are not certified slave-free.
What can we do? According to the Stop Chocolate Slavery website, both Fair Trade and Organic products have standards put into place that stop or diminish the chances of child slave labor in the production of their products. A list of these suppliers are here.
Writing a letter or calling Hershey will help. In addition, purchasing and baking with products that we know are fair trade or organic whenever we can will up the demand for these products and lessen the demand for the other.
Scharffen Berger is not organic or Fair Trade Certified. I ate a cupcake. I ate two. However, according to their website they pay a premium price for their cacao (something signature of most Fair Trade products) and are very aware of the issues. But, people like Kara’s Cupcakes endorse them because they are a local organization, which is a sustainable model for the environment and the economy.
And while I am not suggesting that we must choose the lesser of two evils here, when we purchase already baked goods where the chocolate is out of our hands, we still can choose wisely. We can bake with wise decisions, and we can alert big companies who have a big impact not only on the environment and the economy, but on the children who are growing these beans. And we can purchase wisely as well. If we purchase local products, supporting local businesses, the need for major exports will lessen and so will the need for child workers. I know it’s a small step, but it still is a step.
What are we doing to bake responsibly?
For more information please visit: