Let’s make a trip down memory lane – let’s start by reminiscing about how we spent Valentine's Day this year. Do you have any recollection of that? Truth to be told – it seems to be a distant memory gathered about a million years ago. Why is that? The answer is obvious and we all are painfully aware. The COVID-19 virus that brought the world down to its knees has not only taken nearly a million lives from across the globe, but destroyed the livelihood of many more millions as well.
We are witnessing the impact and we can’t do anything but feeling helpless. Local shopkeepers, boutique restaurants, specialty shops, family owned repairing outlets, coffee bars, the mini fruit and veggie shop around the corner of the high street, etc are the worst hit businesses. Then there is us – chocolate makers and chocolatiers. Let’s take a look at what the chocolate authorizes have to say about the business we call ‘craft’ to make people happy rather a ‘business’ to make us fat with money - a recent research conducted by the Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute on 150 small chocolate businesses worldwide has found the following:
- All of the companies have lost half or more of the total sales.
- Around 80% are contemplating either the closure of the business or will have to endure dire financial hardships.
- Many shut down production, staff are laid off, close the store front and cancel events, with no clear government initiatives to reimburse costs incurred or loss suffered.
- A fortunate few are investing in starting up an online order and delivery of chocolates.
In the above mentioned bleak situation that many chocolatiers have found themselves, the glaring exceptions are the ‘big, fat’ supermarkets. Their offers are neat, cheap, handy and user-oriented. I have to admit that as a true lover of chocolates and everything ‘chocolaty’, I can’t complain too much about them flourishing even in the midst of a deadly pandemic. But, the question we need to ask ourselves is that should we be too worried about the Nestlé’s of this world? Don’t they have collected more than enough fats on their bones already? Will this pandemic have any significant effect on their yearly profit margins? We all know the answers of those seemingly serious questions.
What Can We Do?
The answer is that we actually can do something to help those who rightfully need it. Let’s stop thinking for a moment about the generic taste that we gobble unknowingly. Rather let’s start thinking about doing something conscientiously to help those who are in the business for the love of chocolates. Let’s try handmade premium chocolates to cheer us up, to get blanketed by warmth of comfort, to get smitten by the sweet indulgence. Let’s go online to support the craftsmen.
But Why Should You Choose Different?
Let me enlighten you a little about handmade premium chocolates. And you will find your answer along the way.
A bit of a darker note to start with – a well known but knowingly ignored fact is that, whenever a customer outlays a dollar for chocolates, someone else entirely unrelated pays for it almost every single time.
But handmade chocolates are free from that aphorism.
Unlike ‘the big boys’ in the chocolate industry, the handmade chocolate makers collect the precious beans directly from the farmers. And they do it from small farms located in South American countries like Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia focusing primarily on flavor. The industrial chocolate makers, on the other hand, source it from West Africa – from countries like Ivory Coast, Ghana, etc. – emphasizing on substantial produce of crops ensuring harder cacaos which are heavily disinfested to make them free from diseases. So, the difference of the two varieties of ultimately the same product is pretty obvious. And it's a given that the end product would also be far different from each other.
Another aspect of handmade chocolates which trumps over supermarket offerings is that handmade chocolate only consists of cocoa beans, cocoa butter and cane sugar. Cocoa butter provides a smooth texture which artisanal chocolate makers collect by making it from the same batch of beans that are being used for making the chocolates as well. That is an expensive process to go through but this amplifies the quality of the star ingredient – the cocoa itself.
That can’t be further from the ways through which supermarket chocolates are made. The reasons are simple and obvious. To get industrial quantity, the process should be mammoth and small batches of production is not feasible. Then there is the use of ‘lecithin’ - a widely used chemical renowned for delivering the same texture as cocoa butter. Also soy lecithin, additives, food colorings, etc are abundantly used in supermarket variations. These ingredients may seem to refine the taste but at the same time, obliterate the uniqueness of the cocoa beans.
If you still aren’t convinced completely, how about a chocolate-tasting done by you? The process should be simple and won’t cost you anything extra that you have probably already decided about spending. Get yourself a good craft chocolate. And then get the chocolate that you regularly choose from the supermarket shelves. Eat them one after the other. But do remember the feelings you get after tasting each one. Now close your eyes for a second, let the tastes work their magic on you and ask your soul. That’s it, tasting is done - now be the judge and you should know what you should do.
Dear fellow chocolate lovers, we are not sure when the pandemic might finally let us be free or how long it will take to get everything back to normal. Right now everything seems uncertain and many are suffering. But fortunately for those who get hit the most, you have something entirely in your power to help a few of them to get back up. Reinvent your love for chocolates by treating yourself with handmade chocolates. And along the way, help a craft chocolate maker to stay afloat, and thus help a small-scale farmer so that he can continue to harvest the food that God has given to us.