Monday, 17 April 2017

The Source of Chocolate

From the Amazonian rainforest comes the tree that gives us the raw ingredient from which we make chocolate, one of the world's most beloved foods. Its scientific name (Theobroma cocao) is loosely translated, from its Greek roots, as "food of the gods" (Theos meaning God & Bromas meaning food). Chocolate lovers the world over would surely agree it's an aptly named tree!

 Ripe yellow pods on a Chocolate Tree.
(Theobroma cocao)

On a recent trip to my city's Botanic Gardens, we found a Chocolate Tree growing in the warm and humid environment of the Garden's tropical dome. Inside the ripe, yellow pods, are the seeds (beans) which, once processed, will yield the nibs from which cocoa liquor  is made. This liquor (which contains cocoa mass and cocoa butter) is the basis for making the chocolate so many of us love.

The tree's sign in the Mt. Coot-tha Botanic Gardens, Brisbane.

The commercial production of cocao beans is very labour intensive. Growing and caring for the trees, harvesting and the early stages of processing the pods and beans, is done by hand. For example, the ripe pods are picked and opened by hand, the beans inside are scooped out by hand & dried beans are sorted by hand. Much of the world's cocoa beans are produced on small family farms in West Africa, where the farmers live well below the global poverty line of less than $1.90 per day. To me, that's a sobering "cut-off point"  given that a single chocolate bar can cost more than that here in Australia.

Recently, I have started learning about Permaculture & have been considering simple, practical ways/actions in which to integrate its three ethics of Earth Care, People Care & Fair Shares at our place. Choosing fair trade chocolate would make sense because it encourages the ethical growing and processing of cocoa beans and the provision of a living wage to farmers, farm workers and their families.  

Delicious dark chocolate ... the end product we buy.

Considering the source/production/impacts of the foods we buy, such as the chocolate that is made from the beans of these Chocolate Trees, can certainly raise some questions, issues and ethical dilemmas sometimes. 



  1. Interesting post and link Meg. We have a Fair Trade Cafe in our local area which I visit occasionally. I just love the whole atmosphere of it all and what it all stands for.

    I'm glad I read that link as I will admit that I really just hadn't thought about the process. Really does make me think now.


    1. Hi, Kylie. Seeing the tree growing in our Botanic Gardens, and having conversations with my son about how chocolate is made, really sparked my curiosity. Meg:)

  2. Well that is a thought provoking post.
    We are so removed from the source of what we consume, be it food or any consumable!

    1. I agree, Cheryl. I think if we traced back to the source of all that comes into our homes, we might be shocked about how it's grown/made and the impacts that its production has on the Earth, people and animals. Meg:)

  3. Meg, I don't think I have ever seen a chocolate tree. Thankfully chocolate is not on my 'To Buy' list. I have read about the wages the farmers get and it is very sobering.

    1. I really love very dark chocolate, Chel. I can get blocks of fair-trade chocolate at supermarket (when it comes on special) but chocolate chips are proving more difficult. That global poverty line figure of $1.90 per day was increased from $1.25 per day in 2015. It's hard to think how anyone could live on so little. Meg