Premium chocolate is something we just can't get enough of here at Joonbug, especially when it supports social and environmental causes. Our latest infatuation is with a company that is both organic and fair trade - Theo Chocolate. Many of their bars are gluten free, dairy free, soy free and vegan. So even those on the strictest of diets can enjoy their delectable creations.
The Single Malt Scotch Ganache is unlike anything I've ever tasted. Each ganache in the four-piece set has a distinct flavor -from woodsy to fruity. The flavor profiles of chocolate bars ranging from the intense 85% Dark Chocolate Bar to the more playful, sweet and savory Bread & Chocolate Bar, are as complex as any wine.
New spring confections include flavors like revitalizing mint, vibrant lime coriander, and calming pearl jasmine. In developing new confections, Theo uses the freshest local ingredients, like basil, to accent its chocolate. Once you've tasted Theo, you'll never be satisfied with a Hershey's Kiss again. Before Theo, all of the organic chocolate in the world was made in Europe.
Debra Music, V.P. of sales and marketing at Theo, says that Theo may be a small company, but they are actively building fair trade relationships with suppliers in countries in East Africa and Central America. Fair trade hopes to create greater equity in international trade and support farmers in developing countries to bring a quality product to market. For fair trade to be viable, it all comes down to you - the consumer.
"This is a consumer movement," Music says. "Consumers have to make the choice with their wallets. They have to be willing to pay $3 for a Theo chocolate bar, versus paying 99 cents for a cheaper product filled with emulsifiers with a much lower cacao content."
Factory tours are available every day at Theo's Seattle factory, where all of the chocolate is made. Music says tours are a great way to educate customers about the production process, and help them understand chocolate as a food, not just a highly-processed candy. Many chocolate consumers have never seen what a cacao fruit looks like!
"Chocolate is a food that people have a real emotional connection to," Music says. "It's an important part of our celebrations, an expression of love, a comfort food. When people start to understand where chocolate comes from and that potentially people are hurt in the process of making chocolate, they want change."
Theo currently uses the IMO Fair for Life certification system, because it's more flexible for smaller independent farmers to obtain. Music says the most gratifying part of her job is genuinely having an impact on farmers and improving their lives - enabling them to send their kids to school and protect their farms from environmental degradation.
"With coffee or chocolate, there's no such thing as local," Music says. "You can have a local chocolatier but the cocoa still came from really far away."
It's because the farmers are so far away that consumers are unaware of many of the social issues and exploitation that surrounds the cacao industry. However, Music describes herself as "incredibly idealistic" and she is hopeful that as more consumers become educated about chocolate, the demand for fair trade products will increase.
Theo Chocolate is available at Whole Foods stores nationwide, specialty grocery stores and directly from their website.