San Churro, if you don’t know, make the best hot chocolate in the world. The Azteca is full of chili and very thick hot chocolate goodness. A few weeks ago after a session of indulgence, my friend asked me how my drinking chocolate fit into my chocolate slavery morals when it comes to eating chocolate? I hadn’t thought about it. But drinking it, or even cooking with cocoa – it’s all part of the same problem.
So… another letter, and another reply:
Firstly, let me thank you for your enquiry and your concern for cocoa growers is most definitely noted. I want to assure you that we are very aware of the issues in producing cocoa around the world and we are working to bring in Fair Trade certified chocolate from Spain.
I think it is important that I clarify at the outset that we are not actually manufacturers of chocolate but rather importers. We source our chocolate from a boutique manufacturer in mainland Spain. We have been lobbying them to produce a Fair Trade line of chocolate for some time now but, because of their size, and the requirements of certification, it hasn’t been economically viable for them. Unfortunately, Fair Trade is not really as high profile issue in Spain as it is here and the UK. What we have been assured by them though is that they have visited the growers at the farms they purchase their cocoa from and made sure that the working conditions are of a Fair Trade standard.
I know this may sound a little hollow, and if it were coming from a larger company I would be more sceptical, but our CEO has met with the directors personally and they are genuine people and have their heart in the right place. We are endeavouring to get a Fair Trade bar on to our shelves to give people the choice, but there is literally no one in Spain offering this product. We sell ourselves as a Spanish chocolate option, so it’s a big decision for us to get our chocolate from sources outside Spain.
Having met with both Susan Mizrahi, the Head of Human Trafficking for World Vision, and Cameron Neil from Fair Trade Australia we have discussed this issue in great depth. They also understand the difficulty involved in producing this product at a commercially viable price at a standard that is acceptable for our consumer. With Cadbury finally committing to Fair Trade (on Dairy Milk bars), this will undoubtedly draw more attention to the cause and increase the availability of the Fair Trade bean for everyone. With Cadbury becoming part of Kraft foods, Kraft has now become the world’s largest purchaser of cocoa product.
As I touched on before, there is also the issue in finding any suppliers making a product that is of a high enough quality to sell in our shops. Our chocolate is a high grade couverture, the same as used in many top restaurants around the world, and to date we haven’t actually tasted anything Fair Trade that stands up to this. There is a major risk, that if we put an inferior product on our shelves, we would actually put people off the idea of Fair Trade altogether. Fair Trade has been fighting public perception about their quality since its inception and I’m very conscious of doing anything that may harm the brand. Once again, greater availability should also see more quality producers and a rise in standards of product.
Whilst we are actively working behind the scenes to get these changes through, what I am excited to say is that we will shortly be launching Fair Trade coffee in all our stores. We are aiming to have it rolled out by October/November so all our coffee will be 100% certified Fair Trade. Unlike many other companies that offer it only as an option or not at all, it will be our only choice. Whilst we are a chocolate shop, coffee actually makes up a significant part of our product mix, so I hope you see this as a step in the right direction. We are, as far as we know, the only chain that will be serving solely Fair Trade coffee in our stores.
We are comfortable with our suppliers assurance of their line of supply, and whilst certification would be fantastic, it’s simply not viable immediately with the additional costs and limitation it puts on their production ability. We will continue to lobby and raise awareness of the need for Fair Trade and over the coming months you should start to see some Fair Trade options on our shelves.
Once again, thank you for your email, it’s nice to know that there are consumers that think about what they buy. The more of you we have, the easier it becomes to make change happen.
PHONE 03 9641 6888 | FAX 03 9640 0244
SUITE 103, 425 DOCKLANDS DR, DOCKLANDS, VIC 3008
(Note: I have permission to publish this letter)
The whole fair trade situation really is difficult and complex.
I can’t stand that humans beings are treated so badly for something that I enjoy so much, but I am also aware of how limiting our system is… all we can do is try. I am happy to know the efforts companies like San Churro are making toward fair trade and the cessation of slavery. I think Kylie is right – the more people that become aware of the issues, the easier it will be for real change to occur.
The guilt I’ll feel next time I drink an Azteca will be more to do with the gluttony (there is A LOT of chocolate in one glass) than the slavery behind the beans. I trust the intentions of this company so I will continue to enjoy the luxury I have access to, without guilt but still with continuing concern. And I will continue to work within my means toward the structural changes in our system that may actually address the roots of the problem. As with all endeavors I think it’s important to keep motivated, to encourage one another, to share information, and to enjoy the process as we move (albeit slowly) to a better, fairer world.
Or… am I (like someone commented on another of my chocolate blog entries) being too relaxed about this issue?
Love to hear your thoughts…
Photo: my beautiful mum relaxing with my gluttonous dog Bella.