Chocolate arrives in all shapes and sizes, and sadly, all levels of quality.
The cocoa market is a busy one for sure, and extremely competitive worldwide. When we were penciling out our map for Blendsmiths, the creation of chocolate products was our lengthiest discussion and possibly are most difficult task at hand.
Today, there are many terrific chocolate makers and brands out there who we highly respect. There is also a ton of really poor-quality chocolate on the market, consumed every single day. We didn’t want to come to the market with a range of chocolate products that weren’t at the top of their game and be accessible to all.
Like with all of our blends, we spend a lot of time sourcing what we believe to be the best ingredients around, our cocoa blends are no different – in our eyes, if it’s not the best tasting chocolate you’ve ever had, then we need to go back to the drawing board!
For the past 4 years, we have worked with a number of small holder farms in Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), West Africa and more recently Ghana, West Africa.
Most notably, we have a long-standing relationship with Lazare, a 56 year old family farmer in the village of Dagadji, San Pedro who has been producing cocoa for 30 years. Lazares farm is no more than a modest 3 hectares of land.
Pods containing the beans are harvested when sufficiently ripe, before being cracked open for the beans, separating the seeds from the pulp, before being dried naturally.
The Ivory Coast is highly dependent on the export of cacao, with 40% of the nation’s income reliant on the produce.
The country is at the very epicentre of the worlds supply of cacao but in recent years, the market has been turbulent. Producing some of the finest cacao in the world, our partners have designed and implemented a program to pursue a mutual goal.
This focusing on catalysing farmer livelihoods by improving their crop yields and quality of the crops produced to help generate more income. This is accomplished by providing farmers with better market access, farm inputs and extension training.
All of these initiatives have helped our farmers develop exceptional and consistent cacao crops. More importantly, for the future, the younger generations now see agriculture as a viable and appealing career.
Furthermore, through the importer supplier partnership we are a part of, the UN Global Compact, we are able to demonstrate responsibility to uphold the basic responsibilities towards people and the planet.
We are helping farmers to earn a living income by contributing to training, resources and support necessary to improve their farming practices. Most importantly, we can trace cocoa from the farmer, cocoa bean purchasing, transportation, processing facilities through to the ingredients that arrive at our production facility, information recorded in one centralised system.
This is by no easy feat; cocoa supply chain is long and highly complex making full traceability a challenge. Lack of basic infrastructure, internet connectivity makes getting reliable and consistent data required to measure the initiative steps difficult but the development of the traceability system makes everything possible and enables our partners to initiate sustainability interventions.
Our importer partnership also includes a supplier sustainability and ethical policy, in place for our suppliers covering such things as human rights, slavery, child labour, environment and quality standards.
Child labour is rooted in complex societal and economic issues ranging from migration and poverty, to proximity to schools and community infrastructure. Achieving our own traceability goal is a vital step forward on the road to eradicating child labour completely and putting children first in the cocoa supply chain.
The majority of children in cocoa are helping their own parents and relate to hazardous tasks such as using sharp tools to weed the farm or break cocoa pods, as well as carrying heavy loads. We have a number of chocolate blends, all designed specifically to show you what can be achieved with the highest of farming cultivation practices and blending techniques.