Forum Activity for @Langdon Stevenson

Langdon Stevenson
@Langdon Stevenson
12/29/10 01:54:58AM
51 posts

Is there such a thing as GREAT Fair Trade chocolate?


Posted in: Opinion

Frank,

Your lack of sympathy for, and understanding of poor cash crop farmers (and what motivates them) seems as limited as your lack of understanding of what Fair Trade is and why it exists, (and what can be achieved with "bulk" forastero cocoa).

Some of the best cocoa I have ever tasted (properly fermented and dried, with strong chocolate aroma and other flavour notes) is forastero cocoa produced by isolated, uneducated South Pacific farmers. Those people are literally forced to accept low prices for their cocoa (because the buyers work together to keep the price to growers down) despite its high quality.

So to say that poor grows who seek Fair Trade certification:

"try the argument of "look I am poor, I should make some more money""

... is arrogant and wrong and neatly deflects responsibility for the problem (their poverty) from the people who actually cause it (that is us in the developed nations of the world).

What Fair Trade is actually saying is: "These people deserve to get a living wage for the work that they do and it is our responsibility to pay ".

It's also wrong to say that Fair Trade (with all of its acknowledged flaws) just trades off the story of poverty. Fair Trade is meant to be a safety net for poor people that prevents exploitation. It's not intended to be a driver of quality, or quantity of product. How first world manufacturers choose to use the Fair Trade story of their product has nothing do to with the farmers who rely on it in an attempt to get a fair income from their labour.

I will agree with Duffy's post above. Power imbalances (like in the English milk industry which is also happening in Australia) are not the fault of the farmer. And dismissing Fair Trade for its efforts to try to restore some balance in poor nations is wrong.

Langdon

Langdon Stevenson
@Langdon Stevenson
12/22/10 07:51:20PM
51 posts

Cocoa butter and cocoa solids


Posted in: Tasting Notes

"I wasn't arguing the amount or intensity of the flavor of a cocoa butter, just that cocoa butter has flavor."

Forgive me for misunderstanding, Clay, because I thought that was precisely what you meant when you said here that "If the cocoa butter is pressed from the same beans that the chocolate is made from and the butter is not deodorized then the flavor isn't diluted."
Langdon Stevenson
@Langdon Stevenson
12/22/10 06:13:10PM
51 posts

Cocoa butter and cocoa solids


Posted in: Tasting Notes

"I was pointing out that cocoa butter does have flavor."

Even so, Clay, x amount of cocoa butter has much less flavour than the same amount of cocoa liquor. So it's fair to say, as Lowe did, that extra cocoa butter weakens the flavour.

In some bars, where only a small amount of cocoa butter is added, the weakening effect might be negligible, but in other bars (like Choklat 70%, for example, which contains 30% added cocoa butter) the effect is undoubtedly significant, whether the cocoa butter is deodorized or not.

Also, much chocolate is made with deodorized cocoa butter anyway - e.g. milk and white chocolates.

It also seems safe to assume that origin bars would often contain deodorized cocoa butter, too - because no serious chocolate maker would want the flavour of their "Chuao" (or whatever) beans competing with flavourful cocoa butter from a completely different origin (very few artisan manufacturers press their own cocoa butter).
Langdon Stevenson
@Langdon Stevenson
12/22/10 03:05:09AM
51 posts

Cocoa butter and cocoa solids


Posted in: Tasting Notes

Glad you found my reply useful.

I call the part of the cacao nib that isn't fat "non-fat cocoa solids", or NFCS for short.

Langdon Stevenson
@Langdon Stevenson
12/21/10 04:46:48PM
51 posts

Dark Chocolate and migraines, some thoughts


Posted in: Opinion

Lowe asked: "my current understanding is that there is some debate about whether or not cacao seeds actually even contain caffeine. Can you confirm that cacao seeds really do contain caffeine?"

Lowe, according to data collected by Minifie from multiple sources and tabulated on p.21 of "Chocolate, Cocoa, and Confectionery", cocoa nibs contain 0.07-0.7% caffeine. The same table puts the theobromine content of nibs at 0.8-1.4%

Also, Criollo beans have been found to contain more caffeine than Forastero beans (Kaspar, 2006). Furthermore, the theobromine/caffeine ratio has proved to be a clear indicator in differentiating Criollo and Forastero cocoas (INIAP, 2007).

This is interesting because it contradicts the common comparison of Criollo cocoa with Arabica coffee, and Forastero cocoa with Robusta coffee. (One of the characteristic differences between Arabica and Robusta coffees is that Arabica has about half as much caffeine than Robusta).

Hope this helps. You might also like to take a look at our database of scientific abstracts for more references:
http://chocolatereview.com.au/studies/index

References:

Kaspar (2006) "Identification and Quantification of Flavanols and Methylxanthines in Chocolates with Different Percentages of Chocolate Liquor"

Quote from the abstract:
"The Criollo genus resulted in a significantly greater caffeine content in dark chocolate when compared to a product prepared with similar weight percentages of chocolate liquor from the Forastero genus. Conversely, the Forastero genus produced a chocolate that was significantly greater in theobromine when compared to a Criollo product with similar weight percentages of chocolate liquor.

INIAP (2007) "Project to Establish the Physical, Chemical and Organoleptic Parameters to Differentiate between Fine and Bulk Cocoa - PROJECT COMPLETION REPORT"

Quote from the abstract:
"The results of the project clearly indicated that the physical parameters measured had proved to be inconclusive in differentiating fine from bulk cocoas. On the other hand, the theobromine/caffeine ratio had proved to be a clear indicator in differentiating fine cocoa from bulk cocoa."

Langdon Stevenson
@Langdon Stevenson
12/21/10 04:18:59PM
51 posts

Cocoa butter and cocoa solids


Posted in: Tasting Notes

Lowe, in the linked thread about migraines, Clay said that "Cocoa butter has more than fat in it in the same way that butter has more than fat in it".

This is incorrect. Minifie, Beckett, and the USFDA all agree that the term "cocoa butter" means the _edible fat_ obtained from cocoa beans.

It might be difficult (or even practically impossible) to remove 100% of the non-fat compounds from cocoa butter, but that just means that your cocoa butter is "contaminated" with other compounds. It doesn't mean that cocoa butter isn't pure fat.

By contrast, "butter" in the more common sense of the word refers to a dairy product made from cream. The butter in my fridge is only 81% fat (most of the rest is water). Dairy butter also naturally contains a small percentage of protein and carbohydrates.

Also, Lowe, I've taken a look at the file on your website labelled "Cocoa Fat in Chocolate", and I have a couple of questions and suggestions.

First of all, it would be helpful for the columns to include clear unit measurements.

For example, what exactly does "Percent" indicate? And how about "Cacao fat"?

The lack of clear explanation of these terms makes the data confusing. For example, I don't know what you mean when you state that Green & Black's white chocolate is:

Percent: 30
Cacao fat: 47
Non-fat solids: 0

If the bar is 30% cocoa solids, and 100% of the cocoa solids is cocoa butter, then how did you arrive at the 47% figure? The only way that figure makes sense to me is if you've included milk fat in the "Cacao fat" column.

Also, you asked: "So why do think there's generally higher fat content in higher percentage bars? By adding extra cocoa butter the makers are decreasing their profit margin."

1. You can't simply assume that "higher fat" means "added cocoa butter" (for example, many bars also contain milk fat, and/or other vegetable fats, e.g. Green & Black's white chocolate, as mentioned above).

2. A bar with a higher percentage of cocoa solids would naturally contain a higher percentage of cocoa butter, if expressed as a _percentage of the total bar_ (this is because pure cocoa liquor is always roughly 55% cocoa butter - hence, the more cocoa liquor you use, the more cocoa butter comes along for the ride).

So, an 80% bar with no added cocoa butter would contain about 44% cocoa butter, while a 60% bar with no added cocoa butter would contain only about 33% cocoa butter.

3. Cocoa butter isn't necessarily a more expensive ingredient than cocoa liquor. For example, if you produce your own cocoa liquor on a relatively small scale from whole beans, you can probably purchase cocoa butter from a large manufacturer for a fraction of the price that it costs you to produce your own cocoa liquor.

4. A lot of people (women especially, I've noticed) prefer the taste and mouthfeel of chocolate with a generous amount of added cocoa butter - so it sells very well in certain demographics.

Langdon Stevenson
@Langdon Stevenson
06/06/09 08:33:31AM
51 posts

FAIR TRADE AND ORGANIC CERTIFICATION FROM THE EYES OF A PRODUCER


Posted in: Opinion

Hi AlanSounds like you have a good project going there. We would be interested to hear more about it if you care to share. Hope that it works out for you and the growers you are working with. Education for these people has to help and if you can find them direct markets then that is a really good achievement.What you say about shortening the supply chain is fair enough and the more the better. However only a relatively tiny percentage of the cocoa harvest goes to bean to bar manufacturers (and probably ever will). Therefore to improve the return to more growers, an approach that works within the existing system seems, to me, to have the best overall potential.Langdon
Langdon Stevenson
@Langdon Stevenson
04/01/09 06:38:31PM
51 posts

Is Taxing Chocolate A Good Way to Help Fight Obesity?


Posted in: Opinion

Lol - I can tell you the result of that study right now (not pretty at all).Sadly we are not currently in production, so even we don't have any Tava bars at the moment :-(
Langdon Stevenson
@Langdon Stevenson
04/01/09 08:09:34AM
51 posts

Small time cacao and fruit grower in Costa Rica


Posted in: Allow Me to Introduce Myself

Hi JesseWelcome to the group. I would be interested to hear any comments you have on your experience of restoring your plantation. There are a lot of abandoned trees in the South Pacific, so rehabilitation is an interesting topic for us and growers we are involved with.Also, do you do your own fermentation and drying?
Langdon Stevenson
@Langdon Stevenson
03/23/09 12:07:33AM
51 posts

Is Taxing Chocolate A Good Way to Help Fight Obesity?


Posted in: Opinion

As noted in other replies here chocolate isn't "the problem". People putting too much food in their mouths (of all sorts) and not exercising enough is the problem.So either Dr Walker is a stupid as the media who have picked up his comments (unlikely), or he was just baiting the media for his own ends (like saying something controversial to raise the profile of the Clydebank conference he will be speaking at).
Langdon Stevenson
@Langdon Stevenson
03/19/09 03:28:24AM
51 posts

Lindt to close most US Stores


Posted in: News & New Product Press

It will be interesting to see if the Australian stores close too. Given the poor service, poor quality food and high prices (in the Australian stores that I have been to), I would not be surprised to see them follow their US counterparts.
Langdon Stevenson
@Langdon Stevenson
03/12/09 11:10:01PM
51 posts

How is cocoa butter produced?


Posted in: Tasting Notes

No worries. Happy to help.Langdon
Langdon Stevenson
@Langdon Stevenson
03/12/09 09:30:20PM
51 posts

How is cocoa butter produced?


Posted in: Tasting Notes

Hi Lemm> What do you mean by recovery rate?Sorry, should have explained in more detail. Cocoa liquor is about 50% fat, so "recovery rate" refers to the fraction of that 50% that the extraction technique can get out of the liquor. Industrial hydraulic presses can recover most of it (say 12% remaining). Solvent extraction can then get a bit more perhaps.> The idea of deodorizing is relatively new to me. What's so bad in the cocoa butter that requires it to be deodorized? and what causes it?A lot of cocoa that is pressed for cocoa butter is poor quality. The best beans are turned into chocolate, everything else gets pressed for butter. So you have lots of off flavours and normal cocoa flavours in the beans that are passed along to the cocoa butter. Many people (like the cosmetics industry) want cocoa butter that has no flavour at all. So deodorizing removes the flavours (good and bad).> What sort of chemicals are we looking at here?No idea sorry, I have stayed right away from this sort of thing, so don't know what processes they use.> How do I tell whether I have a nasty cocoa butter? (This last question is especially important to me, since I use cocoa butter often now).If cocoa butter smells like mild cocoa and has a nice pale white/yellow colour then it is probably untreated. If on the other hand it has a grey tinge and smells like something other than cocoa (or doesn't smell at all), then it is likely to have been deodorised.I expect that most cheap cocoa butter will have been deodorized. So have a look at the price you are paying. The cheaper it is, the more likely that it has been deodorised. You get what you pay for.Langdon
Langdon Stevenson
@Langdon Stevenson
03/12/09 07:16:54PM
51 posts

How is cocoa butter produced?


Posted in: Tasting Notes

Hi Lemm> someone mentioned that it was not possible to produce cocoa butter unless it was pressed at least 140 F (???)Yes it is possible. It is just less efficient (slower and lower recovery rate) the cooler the liquor is. I have pressed cocoa butter at body temperature.> If there's such a thing as "cold-pressed" cocoa butter, what temperature is considered "cold". Is it 115 F, 122 F,...etc.> Does the definition of "cold-pressed" oils when applied to olive oil apply to cocoa butter?No idea. In the cocoa industry, this is usually driven by people into "raw food", which I am not involved with. In the olive industry it's about not denaturing or harming the oil which is less stable that cocoa butter. Since olive oil is liquid at room temperature, the definition of "cold pressed" for olive oil is more logical.> And about the Broma process, which I understand is a dripping process in a warm room; at what temperature is this room?The hotter the better. Same rules apply as with a hydraulic press. The hotter the fat is, the more easily it flows and separates. Our experiments have shown that low temperatures (between 40 and 50 degrees C perhaps) will work with the broma technique, but the recovery rate is nothing like a hydraulic press or screw expeller can achieve (which is logical).> Are there really any additional health benefits to get cold-pressed cocoa butter versus the regular one.Not that I know of, but people into raw foods will have an opinion. What I would be worried about is the secondary processes (like deodorisation, or chemical extraction) and the chemicals that they involve rather than the temperature of the operation. I have samples of some pretty nasty cocoa butter that has been through deodorisation.Langdon
Langdon Stevenson
@Langdon Stevenson
02/18/09 09:01:58PM
51 posts

Starting out now - what are the essentials?


Posted in: Tech Help, Tips, Tricks, & Techniques

Nice job all round then. Premises can be one of the hardest things to get (expensive if you are renovating, or doing it yourself). Sharing is a great idea if the hours suit.:-) I was in Melbourne in the 90's, but moved north following work. Ask your partner if she knows where a number 6 tram goes from and to - that will give you a good idea of where I used to live and work ...
Langdon Stevenson
@Langdon Stevenson
02/18/09 08:17:32PM
51 posts

Starting out now - what are the essentials?


Posted in: Tech Help, Tips, Tricks, & Techniques

Thanks for the feedback Devil, much appreciated. Necessity is the mother of invention and it sounds like you have come up with a pretty neat and affordable solution for tempering.
Langdon Stevenson
@Langdon Stevenson
02/18/09 06:42:21PM
51 posts

Starting out now - what are the essentials?


Posted in: Tech Help, Tips, Tricks, & Techniques

Hi Devil, can you tell us how big a batch you can temper? When you say manual, do you use a jacketed pot and automatic stirrer/scraper, or is it all by hand?
Langdon Stevenson
@Langdon Stevenson
02/18/09 05:19:08PM
51 posts

Source of Small Scale Cacao Processing Equipments


Posted in: Classifieds

Hi ErnestoThanks for your interest. Sorry for my lack of clarity. Yes, we are aiming for under USD $1000 per kg per week. We expect that whole system should allow two people to produce at least 50kg of finished chocolate from a weeks labour, however, it may be possible (with more labour) to produce more. The cocoa butter press for instance could consume up to 150kgs of cocoa liquor per day, capacities can be very hard to match. So the complete system should cost somewhere round USD $50,000. How much product you can squeeze through is then up to you and how much energy you put into it :-)Note that this system is not currently complete, it is in development. So a final price and specification is still some months away.Regards,Langdon
Langdon Stevenson
@Langdon Stevenson
02/18/09 04:23:11PM
51 posts

Starting out now - what are the essentials?


Posted in: Tech Help, Tips, Tricks, & Techniques

Hi Andre, these things don't necessarily have to be expensive. With tasks like cooling and tempering, the most important thing is to understand what the tool is doing and how. This is just some basic chemistry that will have been explained by people like Minifie and Beckett (who have published books on the subject). So start with some study and research to get a grip on what is going on.Once you understand that, you can look around for cheaper, or free alternatives. Often other industries have very similar equipment that is available cheaply second hand and can be adapted. You may even find that you can do things like tempering by hand, or partly by hand (of course this is dependent on the quantities that you are working with).
Langdon Stevenson
@Langdon Stevenson
02/17/09 07:10:56PM
51 posts

Source of Small Scale Cacao Processing Equipments


Posted in: Classifieds

Hi Clay,No final figure yet, but, I think that US$1,000 per kilogram is likely.The system will be covering all of the steps listed above (as well as pressing cocoa butter), but capable of being deployed in segments as well. Some of the applications in the South Pacific will only require the first four steps.Langdon
Langdon Stevenson
@Langdon Stevenson
02/17/09 05:35:29PM
51 posts

Source of Small Scale Cacao Processing Equipments


Posted in: Classifieds

PS - I note in the Hershey thread that you mentioned extracting cocoa butter, we are currently prototyping a micro hydraulic press for cocoa butter extraction (processing up to 150kgs of liquor per day) as part of our system.
Langdon Stevenson
@Langdon Stevenson
02/17/09 05:31:31PM
51 posts

Source of Small Scale Cacao Processing Equipments


Posted in: Classifieds

Hi Ernesto,This sounds like a really exciting project. Love to hear more details about your farm and your plans.I am working with another company here in Australia to put together a complete set of machinery for small scale production (approximately 50 to 150kg per week capacity). The aim is to operate these plants in various South Pacific nations, so this might be suited to your situation. There are a few questions to ask though, probably the most important (as Duffy alluded to) is what is your budget?The company that I am working with are considering various micro-finance and leasing arrangements to help make this system affordable to small groups, so perhaps we can offer some options to you.Do you have a market in mind for your finished product? It may be possible to tie you in with our partners trading system.Regards,Langdon
Langdon Stevenson
@Langdon Stevenson
02/12/09 04:51:37PM
51 posts

Mixed News From Hershey: Recession is Good - Closing Plants


Posted in: News & New Product Press

I think you have highlighted my point nicely Gwen. Joseph Schmidt got his golden handshake deal and walked away to do whatever he chose. But what about the staff and customers who helped to get him that deal? What do they get other than redundancy?As a business owner I feel a sense of responsibility to the people who help to make me successful. I wouldn't sell out and walk away knowing full well that my employees will end up redundant.We set up our business in a small town in a rural area because we want to make a difference to this community (which has an unemployment rate of around 40%). I would not take a big buy out and walk away knowing what that would do to the community. That's just my personal ethic Gwen.Perhaps Joseph Schmid did do something for his staff to mitigate the inevitable. I certainly hope so.
Langdon Stevenson
@Langdon Stevenson
02/11/09 06:49:10PM
51 posts

Mixed News From Hershey: Recession is Good - Closing Plants


Posted in: News & New Product Press

Gwen, what you are suggesting is a lame excuse for Hershey.Scharffen Berger were able to ship their product to the east coast of America prior to being bought out by Herchey, after all, they opened a shop in New York in 2004 (have a look at the press release http://www.scharffenberger.com/NEart13.asp). So claiming that a giant like Herchey can't is a bit rich.The decision to close the California factory isn't an economic imperative, it is about rationalisation and making bigger profits. Is this evil? I hadn't thought of it that way until you brought it up, but considered in the light of the sub prime mortgage crisis and the misery that is causing, perhaps it should be.I find it sad to see a company like Scharffen Berger (or the Natural Confectionery Company) swallowed up and any values they may have had (like loyalty to the community, or staff that made their business possible) thrown out the window just because transport costs eat into profit.
Langdon Stevenson
@Langdon Stevenson
01/29/09 06:08:58AM
51 posts

Mixed News From Hershey: Recession is Good - Closing Plants


Posted in: News & New Product Press

Sigh, that's a sad development, but not unexpected. Given the way large corporates work, it is probably more of a surprise that it didn't happen earlier.A similar scenario played out here in Australia a while ago with a small manufacturer of sweets called The Natural Confectionery Company. They were bought by Cadbury principally for their recipes. Cadbury then tried to shut down their plant and absorb the production into other plants. The staff and management got together and offered Cadbury a deal: If they could make their plant the most profitable in the company within a year, then they would not be closed.Cadbury took them up on it expecting them to fail (but having nothing to loose by letting them try). One year later Cadbury were more than a little surprised to find that The Natural Confectionery plant was the most profitable in their operation. It really goes to show that a determined team of managers and staff in a small operation can compete with the big boys. Small doesn't have to mean inefficiently.I think that it is a real shame that the physical operation of Scharffen Berger, including the people who worked so hard to make the product and the brand, was given so little value by Hershey.I would expect that while the (technical) quality of the product may not suffer from the change, it is almost inevitable that the "qualities" of the product will change over time. I can't see Hershey sticking to the Scharffen Berger core values in the long term (since the core values of that business were driven by the creators of the company).Still, Scharffen Berger have shown us the way, so hats off to them for their achievement and here's more incentive for those of us following in their footsteps.Langdon
Langdon Stevenson
@Langdon Stevenson
01/23/09 02:52:33AM
51 posts

Valrhona Carre Guanaja Pieces


Posted in: Tech Help, Tips, Tricks, & Techniques

As Devil said, I think that you are going to find it very hard (if not impossible) to replicate the Valrhona product - especially taste. There are some things that you mention though that can be explained:Melting in mouth: this is at least partly due to the piece of chocolate being thin. A small, thin wafer will melt quickly where as a thick piece will not.Silky finish: this is likely to come from small particle size and extra cocoa butterLangdon
Langdon Stevenson
@Langdon Stevenson
01/21/09 05:09:46PM
51 posts

wine pairing


Posted in: Tasting Notes

I have never been a fan of pairing wine and chocolate personally, but I made a discovery last night of a rather nice combination.Over the weekend Sam made a micro-batch (1 kilogram) of 70% dark chocolate. I was nibbling on a few squares last night and decided to pour myself a glass of liqueur muscat from a bottle that we had recently opened. This particular muscat is an '84 vintage and comes from a certified organic vineyard called Thistle Hill, close to Mudgee in NSW (Australia) near where we live. This is a desert wine that is quite sweet with a rich fruity taste (and about 21% alcohol). You only need to drink very small glasses of it.I found that the strong chocolate notes of the bar worked really well with the rich fruitiness of the liqueur. Sam pointed out that the sweetness of the two matched each other quite well.All in all, I would consider it a good pairing.Langdon
Langdon Stevenson
@Langdon Stevenson
01/14/09 11:16:46PM
51 posts

FAIR TRADE AND ORGANIC CERTIFICATION FROM THE EYES OF A PRODUCER


Posted in: Opinion

Duffy, I agree that we will find the farmers, as you say, we are looking for them.As for trusting the middleman though, I am skeptical. I think that this kind of system should discourage "hearsay" and encourage verifiable fact at every step. If one or more people visit a farm, or co-op and see good practices (and documents them with photos or videos for instance), then I will have more confidence.Langdon
Langdon Stevenson
@Langdon Stevenson
01/14/09 09:29:21PM
51 posts

FAIR TRADE AND ORGANIC CERTIFICATION FROM THE EYES OF A PRODUCER


Posted in: Opinion

Hi Duffy,Sam and I have spent a fair bit of time researching this issue over the years. The rules vary from country to country. The US (due to its excellent freedom of speech laws) give the greatest protection to the person making the statement.The bottom line (from our research) is if what you are saying is:1. Demonstrably true2. Publishing the information is in the "public interest" (i.e. exposing deceptive practices that may harm customers)3. Is a personal opinion that you actively believeThen it will be virtually impossible for someone to successfully sue you for defamation in the US, UK, or Australia (these are the jurisdictions that we have researched). The Wikipedia entry on defamation is a good resource if you are interestedhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DefamationTypically defamation is used as a form of bully. Most people have no idea of their rights and when faced with an enraged corporation threatening to sue, will just back down. So the bully knows that it is unlikely to ever have to go to court.In the case of the system that we are discussing it would be well worth while to find or hire some legal advice to clarify this issue as part of the system design.Contributors should be educate about what can and can't be said, and how comments should be phrased to avoid defamation. After all, we don't want to defame anyone. We want rational criticism, debate and transparency.Potentially controversial posts (where someone is rated low) can even be flagged for moderation before posting to help pick up obviously defamatory comments leaking in. On the flip side, anyone who receives a bad comment should be given the chance (and encourage) to defend themselves.With enough input the system will become a lot like ebay's feedback pages. Both the crank reviewers and the deceptive suppliers will become obvious thus allowing consumers at every level to make better choices.
Langdon Stevenson
@Langdon Stevenson
01/13/09 08:39:02PM
51 posts

WSJ: Premium Chocolate Holds Steady in Tough Economy


Posted in: News & New Product Press

"It's just too weird to seriously consider M&Ms - whatever flavor - a premium chocolate product."Perhaps that is more of a reflection on consumer perception than anything else :-) That being the case we have a long way to go with educating the public ...Langdon
Langdon Stevenson
@Langdon Stevenson
01/13/09 08:34:16PM
51 posts

FAIR TRADE AND ORGANIC CERTIFICATION FROM THE EYES OF A PRODUCER


Posted in: Opinion

Hi Duffy,My guess is that the biggest threat this system will face is the people out there who won't accept critical comment about their business or product. And rather than rebutting the comments logically and sensibly, will just threaten legal action against the person who made the comment and the operator of the site.After all, why is there inequality in this industry? Because people with power are happy to take advantage of people without power (usually growers). When someone comes along who threatens the status quo, then threats of legal action are common.The reason I am posting this comment is not to be discouraging, but to get a potential major issue on the table. Having bought it up, I will say that I think the problem can be dealt with. It requires that the ground rules for using the system are solid, with good legal advice backing up the rules.Langdon
Langdon Stevenson
@Langdon Stevenson
01/13/09 08:18:44PM
51 posts

FAIR TRADE AND ORGANIC CERTIFICATION FROM THE EYES OF A PRODUCER


Posted in: Opinion

Hi Clay,I don't think that it should cost a lot of money to operate a system like this. Software must be written and a website kept operational, but given that the information is being provided for free, the ongoing costs should be quite minimal.Langdon
Langdon Stevenson
@Langdon Stevenson
01/13/09 07:55:21PM
51 posts

open book accounting


Posted in: Opinion

Hi Sarah,The practice of open book accounting is fairly simple: you make your financial records available for some form of external scrutiny (like showing them to your suppliers). The point being that people can see what you spend your money on and what profit you take. You are then forced to justify your actions. If people think that you are ripping them off by paying peanuts for beans and reaping huge profits, then they can are in a stronger position to negotiate with you.Langdon
Langdon Stevenson
@Langdon Stevenson
01/13/09 07:51:00PM
51 posts

FAIR TRADE AND ORGANIC CERTIFICATION FROM THE EYES OF A PRODUCER


Posted in: Opinion

I agree with Duffy on this issue Eric.What you have just done (post some information about your business and its practices in a central location) is an embryonic form of Duffy's idea. It's a form of transparency. The more we have the better. As Duffy said:"Just from this thread I now know more about one farmer and two producers and this information will be used if/when I next make purchasing decisions."Keep it coming I say :-) If enough small players are involved, then the our customers can put pressure on the big players to lift their game since there is an alternative available.Langdon
Langdon Stevenson
@Langdon Stevenson
01/12/09 02:53:35AM
51 posts

Is like or dislike for dark chocolate genetically determined?


Posted in: Tasting Notes

Hi Steve,Your comments above made me remember an incident with a Japanese exchange student I once met years ago. We swapped foods: she gave my family dried seaweed, we gave her Vegemite (Australian spread made from yeast extract. Yes it is an acquired taste, preferably from birth for best results). The look that came over her face just from smelling the stuff said it all, there was no way she was going to try it. We didn't fare any better with the seaweed.The point of the above is that while I agree that genetics will make you more or less able to detect taste and odors, what I think matters most is what you have learned to enjoy during your lifetime. Vegemite is similar in falvour and strength to other products like Promite and Marmite, but I can't stand either of the latter. Vegimite is just what I was brought up to eat.So here's a question for you in return: did your wife and daughter grow up only eating milk and white chocolate (as many of us did)?It would be interesting to do a test with your family (if such things are ethical!) I have heard it said that children need to try a new food at least six times to learn to enjoy it. Perhaps you could try this with 60% dark chocoalte over a week or two with your family and see what happens?Langdon
Langdon Stevenson
@Langdon Stevenson
01/11/09 10:02:23PM
51 posts

FAIR TRADE AND ORGANIC CERTIFICATION FROM THE EYES OF A PRODUCER


Posted in: Opinion

Interesting thought Clay. If we manage to make it to Bolivia, then perhaps we could do both. No guarantee though as money is always the issue.Langdon
Langdon Stevenson
@Langdon Stevenson
01/11/09 09:50:05PM
51 posts

FAIR TRADE AND ORGANIC CERTIFICATION FROM THE EYES OF A PRODUCER


Posted in: Opinion

Hi Clay, I will post a couple of replies as there are a few issues to address in your post. You asked:"how do you envision getting retailers to agree to pay premiums and then how do you see the mechanism for getting those premiums to the farmer?"The answer that our friend here in Sydney has developed is that his organisation handles both ends of this problem. He buys the beans at world price (so the status quo is maintained through the supply chain). He then arranges shipping, distribution etc. When he sells beans, his customer (as part of the sale contract) agrees to hold back a percentage for the grower.The top-down margin money then goes into a trust fund from which his organisation returns some to the growers as cash and more in developing services like schools, local infrastructure, business and agriculture education.This is something of a simplification, but that is the basis of how his system works. The "top-down" premium doesn't always come right from the top (retail), but every step in the chain that the premium skips can return more dollars to the farmer.It is a novel approach, and one that requires more effort to implement than a bottom up certification. However it has the added advantage of allowing for transparency along the whole supply chain.What this system does not do is make any provision for inherent agricultural, or ethical standards (as organic and Fair Trade do). That is another longer term goal of the project to pick up those aspects as well to try to address the problems that Jim has pointed out.You could say that the aim of this project is to combine the (financial) power of Trade with the ethical goals of NGOs. It has the potential to be very effective system in my opinion.Langdon
Langdon Stevenson
@Langdon Stevenson
01/11/09 06:45:46PM
51 posts

FAIR TRADE AND ORGANIC CERTIFICATION FROM THE EYES OF A PRODUCER


Posted in: Opinion

Hi James, I tend to ignore the other players in the chain as many of us are first world, or wealthy/educated third world companies or individuals (therefore we should be able to look after our own interests). However your point is taken. The supply chain should be fair for all involved.I really love the thought of brining the story of the farmers out and making it a part of the product. Jim's story is awesome. I may never get to visit his farm, but I feel like I have had a small holiday just hearing about it and seeing the photos. As consumers we have so little knowledge of where our food comes from these days. I would love to see the farmers being given the credit that they deserve.Langdon
Langdon Stevenson
@Langdon Stevenson
01/11/09 06:37:14PM
51 posts

FAIR TRADE AND ORGANIC CERTIFICATION FROM THE EYES OF A PRODUCER


Posted in: Opinion

Hi Devil, I just re-read my last reply and think it may sound a bit abrupt. Just wanted to clarify that I think you are raising good points and am not trying to shut you down or anything. Keep it coming :-)Langdon
Langdon Stevenson
@Langdon Stevenson
01/11/09 06:35:09PM
51 posts

FAIR TRADE AND ORGANIC CERTIFICATION FROM THE EYES OF A PRODUCER


Posted in: Opinion

Hi Duffy,This idea of "incidental" assessment of cocoa farms is an interesting one. Sam and I spent some time talking it over on our walk this morning. I am not about to shoot you down in flames, I think that the idea has merit. There are plenty of stumbling blocks and issues with a system like this, but the fundamental concept is sound in my opinion.Ultimately, what you are talking about is transparency. If farmers and co-ops are prepared to allow people to see what they do (and photograph it), then there is pressure on them to do the right thing (i.e. not employ child labour, ferment and dry cocoa fully etc). Jim is already doing this off his own bat by posting photos here. The same applies to manufacturers. As manufacturers we (Tava) try to be transparent. If people want to know where our cocoa comes from, then we tell them. If they want to know that our factory is nut free, then we are happy to show them.Ultimately certification systems are about trust. The logo on a product tells you something about its origin. The big downfall of this though is that you have to be able to trust the label (and know what it really stands for!). Sadly that trust isn't always warranted as big corporations want weak standards (so that they don't have to pay more) and there are people out there who see the opportunity to make money from setting up certification systems with nice logos, but no substance to their standards.So, I think that it is definitely possible to set up a system like you suggest to register farms (that will allow visits), then allow visitors to report on what they saw. The key issue here will be that the visitor has to understand what they see and know what to look out for (not easy, but not impossible). Frankly, I think that it would be as good a system as any and be better than some.The same system could (should) also be applied to manufacturers ...Langdon
Langdon Stevenson
@Langdon Stevenson
01/11/09 05:53:26PM
51 posts

FAIR TRADE AND ORGANIC CERTIFICATION FROM THE EYES OF A PRODUCER


Posted in: Opinion

Hi Jim,You have blown me away once again with you scope of vision. To elaborate as requested: the list of players I mentioned above is what I would expect for us (Tava) buying cocoa in Vanuatu and selling beans on to the whole food industry here in this country. The chain could be longer, but is unlikely to be much shorter. Sam and I try to make direct sales to the customer where possible to eliminate the last two links in the chain (we act as the manufacturer in that scenario).As a manufacturer we receive beans in 60kg hessian sack. The beans are pretty clean, but we still have to process them to remove dust, broken beans, any small beans that crept through the grading in Vanuatu and any extraneous matter like placenta material that may have made it into the finished product. From what you say and the photos that you posted I can see that you are aiming to reduce these requirements to zero, or as close as possible, which is great! This is value adding, something that most farmers (even in the first world) don't understand, or even care about.As a manufacturer, Tava produces and sells cocoa in all forms: raw beans, roasted beans, raw nibs, roasted nibs, bulk cocoa liquor (just ground cocoa), and finished chocolate.A wholesaler adds no value to the product, but they serve as an easy supplier for retailers and resteraunts who only want to deal with one or two suppliers. We have found it very hard to get retailers to deal with us direct. So the wholesaler is difficult to avoid rather than a necessary player.I think that you are absolutely doing the right thing in having your own export license. Not being at the mercy of buyers is one of the key factors if getting a better price for cocoa - as you are well aware and have mentioned. Given that you can manage transport and export yourself you can offer manufacturers a lot of security and stability in their bean supply. And confidence in quality and ethical standards.You are spot on about providing an example through what you do for small growers. One of the (very) long term projects that we are looking at is helping grower communities in the South Pacific by building business centres with them. A business centre would provide education and information about cocoa processing and production (to help improve quality and quantity), education about the industry that they supply (so that they understand where their cocoa goes and what happens to it), communications via Internet, phone, and fax (to give them access to pricing information, customers etc) and more. I think that what you are doing can serve a similar purpose for growers in your area too.I don't know if I have answered your questions above, just let me know if I haven't.Langdon
Langdon Stevenson
@Langdon Stevenson
01/11/09 05:12:37PM
51 posts

FAIR TRADE AND ORGANIC CERTIFICATION FROM THE EYES OF A PRODUCER


Posted in: Opinion

Hi Devil,The nice thing about the top down system is that the middlemen don't actually loose any money, it's just that they don't get more as a result of the certification. This is a big benefit as middlemen who feel threatened can do some unpleasant things (usually economically) to growers (which we have heard tell of in Vanuatu).It's a sad day when compassion is at odds with good business (or profit). I look at this situation and think that a manufacturer who looks after growers (his/her supplier) is working to ensure the companies long term success even if it costs some profit initially. But then the current economic situation really does show how little most companies think about the long term.
1