|suitcase sized sweeties – sadly not real|
The first people to grow cacao trees were the Mayan, one of the oldest civilizations on the American continent. They used the cocoa beans as a barter currency to exchange for food or clothes, as well as for preparing a bitter drink, known as Xocoatl, which was nothing like the hot chocolate that we drink today.Chocolate beans used as money – I'm not at all surprised. More useful and a fuckton more tasty than gold – amirite or amirite! Special cups were made for drinking Xocoatl. Hell, we've got special glasses for martinis, brandy and wine, of course the Aztecs had specific chocolate quaffing grails.
The Aztecs, who at the time were among the most advanced nations of central America, seized the Maya people’s land and their economy. So, they too went into trade with the help of cocoa beans. (source)
And then the Spanish invaded. They fell in love with Xocoatl and the magical cocoa beans, enslaved the native peoples (those who survived the intro of European diseases, that is) and the global chocolate market was born.
*sigh* Now I feel guilty for my deep choco love. (Guilt – one of my more highly developed superpowers)
Interesting factoid – chocolate was emergency food – D-rations – for WWII troops.
Col. Paul Logan developed the bar in 1937 with the intent that it not taste too good, for fear the men would consume it rather than carry it until an emergency arose. He gave these requirements to Hershey: "...a bar weighing about four ounces, able to withstand high temperatures, high in food energy value, and tasting just a little better than a boiled potato. (source)
There were displays which showed how the cacao trees are now grown – what’s the best environment. Small family farms in West Africa supply most of the world’s cacao.
A recent report commissioned by the US government found that more than 1.8 million children in West Africa were involved in growing cocoa.I now know that cacao trees are best when grown, like coffee, in shade and that the major brands don’t worry their big ol’ corporate brains about sustainable farming or exploited workers (including kiddles!). Gee, quelle surprise, huh?
Many were at risk of being injured by machetes, pesticides or through other hazards.
The Ivory Coast exports nearly half the world's cocoa. After years of civil war, the new government says ending poverty and child labour is a priority and the chocolate industry must be involved.
There is a moral obligation," said Gilbert Kone Kafana, minister for labour and social affairs. (source)
The Rainforest Relief folk have a handy dandy list up of who NOT to buy (like Nestle, Hershey and M&M, etc.) and who’re cool, down and happening (such as Green & Black's, Newman’s, Cocoa Camino). Check them out – there are more smart, good choco companies listed at the link (also a few more baddies).
Conveniently, my local hippy/groovy grocery sells the good stuff but it can be bought online too. I think today's a bonbon day!