People rarely consider the work that goes on behind the scenes when they see a new product. We only just see the fancy packaging, the cool tagline and the enticing commercial that makes us want to make that purchase. As a business owner and entrepreneur, I always consider who I am talking to and want to meet people’s needs and wants.
A few years back when I re branded my business and started to walk into many cafes around Melbourne, I discovered that there are a few brands that saturate the market but weren’t offering their customers a quality product. Many of the drinking chocolate brands available contain chemicals with numbers on the end and words that are long and hard to spell, all very confusing and scientific. Others contained milk solids that I know would have been given to lactose intolerant people and the packaging had nothing about where the cocoa had come from. The lack of traceability is very common in the coffee industry also, where people may even write “ethically sourced” but there is no information on their websites. To me this is more of a marketing stunt, but when you dig deeper there is nothing there.
Cocoa for drinking chocolate was a new thing for me, something that I had only recently considered and saw the problems with. Did you know that depending on the source you are reading from, that conservatively, over 890 thousand children to 1.5 million are involved in the cocoa harvesting industry in West Africa? Many of these children are exposed to heavy lifting and exposure to hazardous operations. These children come from Ivory Coast, Ghana & Burkina Faso. The Children are as young as 12 and are bussed in with other passengers for work. The children earn around $9 a week for their slave masters to take half of that. When the Washington Post interviewed one of the Ivory Coast farmers he said “I admit that it is a kind of slavery. ... But they bring them here to work, and it’s the boss who takes the money.”
To get a clear in depth look at the conditions they work in see the attached article link.
For this to be a thing in 2023 this blows my mind! And to be honest I find sickening, I know these things happen in the coffee industry too, but that is for another time.
When choosing a partner to do business with I consider their ethics and what they have in place to safe guard people, especially children from being exploited. That’s why I have chosen to work with Barry Callebaut and Minas Hill.
I love the stories of the farmers that produce our cocoa at the end of the day they are real humans, with lives that are empowering and inspiring. Take the story of Elijah for example, a young man who as a child dreamt of becoming a banker, but when he and his brother inherited a cocoa farm, they worked to rejuvenate it and make it a success.
Or the story of Naomi who struggled to provide a living for her family to join the ‘Cocoa Horizons” program where she uses agroforestry training to gradually transform her farm and finances. Today she proudly harvests quality cocoa but also grows cassava and plantain for extra income to feed her family. She has also grown to become a purchasing clerk in her district and has further ambitions to expand the business and become financially independent.
Barry Callebaut, is also a major force with being a leader in corporate action and transparency when it comes to deforestation and climate change. When harvesting to produce chocolate the major environmental impact to the land is deforestation and forest degradation this is due to the land being sued to produce soy, palm oil and cocoa. These changes to the land cause carbon emissions, so under the “Forever Chocolate “program they are working to make sustainable chocolate the norm.
Minus Hill is a cocoa and coffee importer that shares the same values that I hold. The company supports small farmers cooperatives, that are harvesting in the Amazon in Brazil using non toxic practices and preserving the environment.
They source their cocoa from 3 main regions : Altamira, Sao Felix do Xingu and Bahia.
For my business I predominantly use their natural process cocoa that has a more bright, caramel flavour to it, when blended with alkalized cocoa it brings a deep rich contrast and is super delicious. The cocoa butter I use also comes from the Amazon and Atlantic Forest, it is used in my White Chocolate and brings a real silkiness to the drinking chocolate. It makes me so happy that I am supporting these amazing businesses that bring a great future to people abroad, that help enrich lives and give children a better future.
It has taken me some time to find great cocoa suppliers that shares my vision of have a traceable, sustainable and direct trade connection I will be working with these great businesses in the future and be looking to grow this concept/theme with the sugars used.
The birth of Cocoa bliss
During lock down #2 yes, I know if you are from Melbourne, you can almost feel the shrill again as it wasn’t a pleasant time for any of us no matter what state you live in. The lockdowns gave me an opportunity to play around with different recipes to achieve the best results, the objective was simple, create the best premium drinking chocolate using ethically sourced cocoa powder and cocoa butter that could be enjoyed by everyone. This concept was the birth of what is known today as “Cocoa Bliss – premium drinking chocolate” a rich drinking chocolate that is Lactose free, gluten free, vegan friendly and direct trade. All killer, No filler! But, I wanted to take what I had started and take it to the next level. I know I could have just stopped at replicating a done to death 24% cocoa and a 40% cocoa blend , but I wanted to create a brand that was not only ethically sourced but dynamic and changed the way we look at drinking chocolate. So, I put my creativity and love for innovation to the test, creating a product line that was unique, delicious and iconic.
The following are some of my creations:
· “White chocolate” - Has real cocoa butter in it and with no anti caking agent…. I’m still not sure if that’s a good idea or bad, but I know that creating something that is as natural as possible is where I wanted to go. The taste is super sweet and smooth, buttery with a huge hint of vanilla, kind of like a liquid version of “ Lindt” white chocolate balls.
· “Cinnamon Spice” - Is really unique, as it has a deep rich chocolate body, but has this cinnamon spice aftertaste that would be delicious with a hot crossed bun during Easter.
· “Azteca” - I know this is not available yet, but it is being worked on behind the scenes. This is my take on the Mexican spicy chili chocolate, deep rich cocoa, smooth and silky with a hint of cinnamon and spice from the chili, perfect to have with some Churros or on a cold winters night.
· “Sicilian blood orange”- a rich deep drinking chocolate with a citrus finish, if you like Jaffa chocolate this is a must.
· “Liquid Panettone” - is something that I thought up one day, “how cool would it be to create a drinking chocolate that tastes like my favourite cake?!” This one will be a ripper come Christmas time 😊
To taste some of these delicious drinking chocolates please visit my website on www.melbournecoffeeroastingco.com/shop