On a cold winter’s day in Harvard Square, L.A. Burdick Chocolate shop teems with lovers, poets, university students and chocolate aficionados. Customers sip from dainty cups filled with liquid hot chocolate bearing such tantalizing descriptions as deep Brazilian with a smoky essence of vanilla and Madagascar with a undertones of lychee.
Cacao is grown in tropical zones around the world, yet to most consumers its cultivation and production process are not part of the purchasing decision. As the Slow Food movement spreads, buzzterms such as Fair Trade, Organic, and single-estate have become not only a marketing device but also an ideology. Shoppers may pay an extra fifty cents in exchange for the psychological gratification of supporting cacao farmers thousands of miles away. But do they think twice about how chocolate is actually made? I urge them to ask: What is the reality of small-scale family operations that form the backbone of the cacao industry? How might landscape and climate change influence the sustainability of the industry? Is it more important to focus on consistency or character when it comes to flavor?