Paying a price that matters
We purchase real chocolate from reputable producers who purchase their cacao beans directly from the farmer or at the very least at cooperative level. Crucially we want to know where the beans come from, that the farms are being regulated and inspected and in most cases assisted in other areas - providing access to better quality tools, more effective irrigation, soil testing, the latest farming know-how and better understanding of their crops through education. And last but definitely not least we want farmers to be paid justly for their beans and earn a decent enough living so that he/she can employ local people and put their children through school.
It’s why we choose to work with some of the most ethically conscious and caring producers in the world. But it doesn’t come cheap. For a bean to bar producer such as the brilliant Duffy Sheardown to secure a regular supply of quality beans from a farmer who has spent time properly fermenting and drying them – two key components in developing bean character and essential to the quality and vibrancy of real chocolate – he can pay anywhere between $7 to $10 per kilo of beans. That’s (at times) up to $8 per kilo more above the base rate of Fair Trade and way above any rate given at the port which can be bought for below $2 per kilo.
Check the trading policies of the likes of Duffy's, Pump Street Bakery and Akesson's - they set the benchmark for how trading should be done.
Unlike unethical and unsustainable chocolate making often on an industrial scale, where cheap, poor quality, unfermented, artificially dried, untraceable, mixed variety and origin beans are very quickly made into chocolate to save time and therefore money (some pride themselves on being able to do this in 24hrs) for smaller scale, small batch, bean to bar producers it’s a very different story. Once the purchased beans have arrived in their country of production, the bean to bar producers get to work on the lengthy and meticulous business of turning cacao beans into chocolate – sorting, grading and washing them, roasting and tasting, cracking and removing the brittle outer shells, grinding and conching the nibs (a process in itself that can take up to four days) resting and maturing – re-melting and tempering – molding – wrapping, package and despatch. The whole process takes many weeks if not months. As it should.
Consequently the chocolate we finally get to purchase at Ottar is costly but it reflects the true price of cacao. Because real and ethically produced chocolate can only come to be if the right elements are fully aligned. And this, of course, means that our chocolate and pastry is /can be more expensive than mass-made chocolate.
But knowing how cheap, unethical chocolate is made and the human cost involved, it's no great surprise that we wouldn't want to be a part of such a destructive and exploitative industry.