The demand for Organic chocolate is only growing year after year, especially here in Europe. But what do we actually mean by “organic”?
In general terms, the word organic refers to cacao that has been grown without chemicals or artificial fertilizers. In the US, Europe and Australasia there are sever regulations about the use of this term on a label (for example, the product inside must contain at least 95% organic ingredients and be certified by a recognized organization).
Organic cocoa represents just 0,5% of production today, according to the International Cocoa Organization. Most of this organic cocoa comes from countries associated with fine flavor such as Madagascar, Bolivia and Costa Rica, while countries like Ivory Coast and Ghana, which together produce 70% of the world’s cocoa, are nowhere to be found on this list.
Contrary to popular belief, the key benefit of organic chocolate is not in its taste, but it is an environmental matter. Most cocoa farmers live on or below the poverty line, in areas where there is little education. So they are often motivated to use fertilizers and pesticides to significantly increase the productivity of their trees and their overall annual yields. Without controls or training, chemicals can be misused and harm the farmers, the environment, and even find their way into the chocolate.
However, keep in mind this: getting certified organic is extremely expensive for farmers already living on the poverty line. Since most organic certification programmes require an expensive fee from cocoa farmers, it makes sense for them to get certified only if they can get paid a premium price for their cacao, which happens very rarely. Therefore, despite the benefits of carrying an official organic logo, many small producers find that its cost isn’t worth the correspondent advantages.
For this reason, you can find a lot of chocolate on the market, especially craft bean-to-bar, that might be organic “by default” even without a certification. So stay open-minded on this subject.