It’s been the coldest week in California that I can remember in years - I know, nothing like the MidWest or the East Coast, but for us, it’s been freezing (yes, even going below 32 degrees). The lemon trees in people’s yards look very surprised and unhappy, and a photograph of an orange grove covered with icicles took my breath away. I can only expect that oranges will be more expensive in the next few months from crop damage.
Returning from a bundled up walk in the cold air and brisk wind, the image of holding a warm cup of hot cocoa in my chilly hands brought a bright smile to my face. I’m not sure what it is about hot cocoa that I love so much. It’s the perfect beverage: warm, creamy, milky, and filled with lots of chocolate. What’s not to love?
Fair Trade certification (from FLO, IMO/Fair for Life, or Fair Trade USA) provide third party certification to ensure the following criteria:
- Farmers are paid a fair and guaranteed wage,
- Child labor is prohibited,
- Healthy and safe working conditions are provided,
- Equal opportunities are afforded all people,
- Environmentally sustainable farming practices are used,
- Profits are reinvested into the community,
- The supply chain is open to public accountability.
The good news is that there are an increasing number of high quality, delicious, Fair Trade, organic, and Kosher hot cocoas to choose from! Here’s the low down on a whole bunch of ‘em:
Dean’s Beans offers a 12 oz. organic hot cocoa mix; ingredients include organic sugar, organic cocoa powder, and organic nonfat dry milk. They were the first company to offer Fair Trade hot cocoa in the US. Their website says that this was “field tested by a playgroup of wild 4 year olds over the spring and summer.” (Va’ad Kashruth of Springfield)
Equal Exchange offers two organic hot cocoa mixes - regular and spicy (cinnamon and cayenne pepper) mixes, that are available in 12 oz. tins and 10 lb. bags. Ingredients include organic evaporated sugar cane juice, organic nonfat dry milk powder, organic cocoa powder - processed with alkali, organic guar gum, sea salt, organic carob bean gum, organic vanilla powder (organic vanilla extract, organic maltodextrin, organic gum Arabic. The chocolate is from small-scale farmers in the Dominican Republic, the sugar from Paraguay, and the organic milk powder from the U.S. (Kashrut Council of Canada)
Frontier Natural Products Co-op offers a one pound organic hot cocoa mix; ingredients include organic cane sugar, organic dutch chocolate, organic non-fat dry milk, vanilla flavoring (gum arabic, organic vanilla bean extractives). (KSA Certified Kosher-Dairy)
Lake Champlain offers an organic hot Dutch cocoa in a 16 oz. can; ingredients include organic dutched cocoa blended with pure organic sugar - contains no dairy products. (Orthodox Union
Tcho Chocolate offers a 10.6 oz. tin or 1 kg. bag; ingredients include dark chocolate (cacao beans, cane sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla beans), sugar, and cocoa powder. Their “dark chocolate crumbles are formulated to create an intensely rich, deep fudgy flavor that is perfect for making a cozy cup of extraordinary hot cocoa, a refreshing iced chocolate drink or a velvety smooth chocolate sauce that can be used on anything!” (Earth Kosher Certified)
Theo offers organic chipotle and rich dark drinking chocolate in 10 oz. containers. Ingredients for both include organic cocoa beans, sugar, cocoa butter, ground vanilla bean; the Chipotle version also includes Ancho chile, nutmeg, Ceylon cinnamon, salt, allspice, clove, and chipotle chile. (Square K Kosher)
Ilana Schatz is the founding director of Fair Trade Judaica, www.fairtradejudaica.org. She lives in El Cerrito, CA and loves to hike, restore their backyard to its original oak tree habitat, and make wine and liqueur from the eight plum trees in their garden.