Pieces of chocolate and mint leaves Photo © Africa Studio \ Fotolia.com

Canadians can help contribute to the growing success of the ethical, sustainable chocolate trade. Advice from local farmers in Peru’s booming region of San Martin enlightens us on how best to indulge.

1. Investigate the source. Familiarizing yourself with where your favourite chocolate products are sourced can be an eye-opening experience. Have investigations led to exposure of child labour issues on the farm? How about slavery? Try to get the story straight before taking a bite.

2. Look for quality. Did you know that understanding different chocolate qualities is as important as knowing the difference between a good wine or good beer? In Peru, it’s not chocolate unless it contains at least 35 per cent cacao, but even that is considered “low.” Many companies get away with calling their product “chocolate” with just as little as 0.1 per cent cacao content. Find out what you are eating and always remember: the higher cacao content, the better!

3. Go for organic. Eating pure, chemical-free chocolate is a totally different experience. Not only are you consuming only the delicious, natural elements of chocolate, you are not harming yourself or the tropical rainforest where it comes from with unnecessary, harmful chemicals.

4. Support co-ops. Farmers are joining co-ops to ensure fair prices, resource-sharing, social protection and stability from corporations that take advantage of market price dips. Seek out companies that support co-ops, ensuring fair practices and trade. This does means spending more, but it’s worth it.

5. Read the packaging – and beyond. First, look for certified organic and fair trade labels. But also check the packaging or the company’s website for more details: some farmers may not have the means to become officially certified (yet) due to monetary restrictions, despite using completely organic methods. For instance, cacao cultivation in Peru is 90 per cent organic, but not all of it is certified. Don’t judge a chocolate by its [lack of] labels!

6. Choose a mindful company. In addition to selling good quality and ethically sourced chocolate, does the company have environmentally friendly packaging? This indicates corporate responsibility and overall care for our environment.

7. Share. Share your newly discovered chocolate delicacies with your friends and family, along with the story of production behind it!

It may be difficult to resist your cravings but taking time to think about where your chocolate comes from before you grab your next bar will most definitely make for a sweeter chocolate indulgence!

Daniella Quarrey is completing her Bachelor of Environmental Studies in International Development and Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and Latin American Studies at the University of Waterloo this semester. She is currently living in the Amazon jungle working at the Peruvian Amazon Research Institute helping foster sustainable development for cacao and coffee crops as a research assistant for bio-protection of tropical crops.

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