Real dark chocolate is incredible. It triggers feel-good chemicals, is full of antioxidants and minerals, and boasts much healthy natural fat, making it a better choice than almost any other sweet option. But chocolate is also complicated. With the new vegan project highlighting the environmental impact and ethical issues relating to animal-derived products, non-animal based items with very similar issues have less light shone upon them and are happily accepted by vegans and omnivores alike.
But if we’re serious about making food decisions based on these concerns, then we should also carefully check out the chocolate we’re buying. Deforestation and ethical employment are the two issues that would benefit from our scrutiny. Confusingly, what’s good gastronomically (usually expensive) doesn’t necessarily mean good in other ways, and vice-versa. Cadbury is rarely my chocolate of choice (unless faced with a fondant-filled truffle), and yet it has a wide range of products certified as Fairtrade, which many more premium brands don’t.
Sustainable agroforestry also needs to be supported: this helps to regenerate land and protect biodiversity, provide multiple employment streams, and sequester carbon. Even these enterprises aren’t always the fairy story they claim to be. The issues are complex and it’s pretty much unavoidable that you’ll need to do a little research on anything you buy.
Do an online search for good local producers — Beyers Chocolates, Honest Chocolate, CocoaFair, and DV Chocolate, for example — the latter being my pick. Hunt in posh grocery shops and delis, or even order a 2.5kg bag of Callebaut’s darkest chocolate chips and hand that over to your beloved.
Burgener is owner of and chef at The Leopard, 44 Stanley Avenue, Joburg.