Making Chocolate, Making Change

A chocolate-tasting workshop may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about human rights education, but today, Peacebuilders campers got a taste of how interesting the right to a fair wage can be! Two guests from Xocolatl Small Batch Chocolate shared with us how their work empowers farmers in South and Central America and Africa by providing a fair market for the cacao beans they grow. While companies like Hershey’s and Nestles have come under fire for their use of child labor and other abuses, small chocolate companies like Xocolatl develop personal relationships with the people who grow the cacao they use and make sure they are paid fairly for their work.

Our Chocolate

To begin our program this morning, Xocolatl co-founder Matt Weyandt taught us how cacao beans are grown, harvested, and processed. It’s a labor-intensive process, and the conventional way that cacao is marketed leaves those laborers impoverished. Direct trade between farmers and buyers like Xocolatl not only upholds the right of the farmers’ and workers’ right to a fair wage, but also honors their right to dignity and a decent standard of living.

Meeting with us on Zoom, Matt shares photos and talks us through the cacao harvesting process.

With that background information, Matt’s colleague Dan Henson led us through a chocolate roasting and tasting workshop. Xocolatl had provided campers in advance with two types of cacao beans, chocolate nibs from three sources, and samples of the finished chocolate. Campers preheated their ovens and put the beans in to roast, filling their kitchens with a lovely chocolate aroma!

While they waited for the beans to roast, they sampled the nibs and chocolate and recorded their impressions on a tasting worksheet. They identified a variety of tastes, from sweet like dried fruit to smoky, and shared their comments in the Zoom chat. The chocolate from Madagascar got the highest accolades, and most campers agreed that it took an acquired taste to appreciate the nibs!

When the beans were done roasting, Dan showed the campers how to separate the hulls and pull out the nibs. They got lots of practice with this process as the conversation and questions continued. Xocolatl even provided recipes for using the nibs to make hot chocolate, chocolate banana bread, and herbal cacao tea, so campers can enjoy the results of their work in the days to come!

We’re so grateful for the generosity of Dan, Matt, and all of our facilitators who have made Peacebuilders Camp on the Web a great success these past two weeks! Besides providing incredible experiences in our virtual space, these inspiring guests have shown that there are ways to leverage all kinds of skills to create positive change in our world. It takes all of us — chocolatiers, artists, ultimate frisbee coaches, attorneys, musicians, lobbyists, students, and everyone in between — to ensure that the rights of all people are honored and upheld.

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