One of the big problems with the way we have traditionally celebrated, is that excess is culturally a sign of wealth, health and good-will. But our increasing awareness of the many impacts of waste is increasingly exposing the ridiculousness of that out of date notion. Better still, thinking more about how we consume often delivers us more interesting, healthier, and considerate options.
Here are five chocolate giving (or eating) tips on how to easily celebrate more responsibly - at home, work, school and together.
Many chocolates, especially mass produced supermarket chocolates contain palm oil. It's the thing that helps give chocolate its silky texture. But it isn't the only way of doing it and these days even the likes of Darrel Lea have removed Palm Oil from their supermarket chocolates.
Read the label and make sure palm oil or one of its derivatives isn't listed. Buy locally made fresh chocolate.
In many households come Easter Sunday, the pile of plastic, foil and paper packaging that surrounded Easter eggs, bunnies and other surprises, will be way higher than the chocolate that was inside them. Packaging is usually designed to sit well on a supermarket shelf; to present hollow eggs that would otherwise break and survive unrefrigerated without poisoning anyone. That generally means the packaging costs more than the chocolate.
There are many ways to minimise packaging. First, if you do buy supermarket eggs and can't find any with zero packaging, at least go for those with only one layer, like foil - without the moulded plastic outside layer. Foil is at least recyclable. (When recycling foil, ball all your little pieces together.)
Alternatively, there are many many makers of beautiful chocolates right down the street or across town, like Manuko in Melbourne who are local organic chocolate makers who offer fresh chocolate eggs with or without foil. Junee in NSW sells solid eggs, stuffed with all kinds of yum.
Finding organic chocolate - vegan or non vegan is now very very easy. Chemicals are used in the main to increase shop shelf life, decrease cost of goods or enhance taste. The fastest way to ensure limited chemicals by volume in any chocolate is to buy organic. The second is to buy local.
fyi - Vanillin is synthetic vanilla. Milk fat is butterfat. The more milk in your chocolate, the less room for chocolate. White chocolate is made with cocoa butter (fat) and no cocoa solids. Many mass chocolate makers use soy lecithin s it creates less viscosity and moves chocolate better through the machines. (Better chocolates don't have it, thereby avoiding the GMO or soy allergy debate.)
Australia makes some of the best chocolate in the world. Cocoa is the key ingredient of chocolate and most of the world's cocoa comes from 2 countries - the Ivory Coast and Ghana. It is however also sourced from small plantations in many other countries as well, but most chocolate 'made in Australia', has cocoa content which has to be sourced from offshore. We celebrated 10 makers in this week's Fresh Traders.
Australia has only a couple of 'Tree to Bar' chocolate makers - the older Daintree Estates, and more recent Charleys Chocolates - both in Far North Queensland.
We do however have many 'Bean to Bar' makers who import beans and grind them in a similar way to roasting coffee. Beans are firstly sourced (often single origin), then roasted and ground before the entire artistry of chocolate making even begins. 17 Mile Rocks Chocolate makers explain how it's done.
Because cocoa is largely grown on small plantations, the issue of exploitation of cocoa farmers is a global problem. A lot of work has been done to ensure that farmers are paid and treated fairly and it's actually relatively easy to avoid supporting the slave and low paid labour industry. Look out for the Fair Trade Logos and declarations on the chocolate or online.
HOW DO YOU KNOW CHOCOLATE IS FAIR TRADE? USE THE SIMPLE RULE OF THUMB. IF IT DOESN'T SAY IT'S FAIR TRADE, IT PROBABLY ISN'T. MOVE DOWN THE AISLE, THERE ARE PLENTY WHO ARE.
If you are buying something already packaged, there are plenty of Certified Fair Trade chocolates on the market. The cocoa beans used to make fair trade chocolates are purchased from farmers who are paid a fair price and can afford to properly employ and pay staff.