This Valentine’s Day, celebrating couples (or anyone, really) can feed their love of chocolate the ethical way with fair trade and organic chocolate. For the uninitiated, “fair trade” refers to goods that are produced under fair labor standards and with workers receiving fair wages at all stages of the process. Since cacao only grows well in tropical climates, it’s important that standards are in place so that we can trust in the process from afar. “Organic” refers to the lack of harmful chemicals used in the growing process. Both standards are worth considering when selecting the best chocolatey gift for your loved one.
Consider taking your valentine on a tour of a socially responsible chocolate manufacturer. In Seattle, Theo Chocolate makes organic, fair trade treats. Take a tour any day of the week for $6, and learn about where the cacao comes from, the difference between milk chocolate and dark chocolate, how chocolate is tempered, how truffles are made, and more. Then taste test all the varieties of chocolate in the store, and buy your sweetie his or her favorite bar.
Based in San Francisco, TCHO is a socially responsible business dedicated to a “no slavery” policy in sourcing its cacao. This company offers free daily tours of its factory, where you can learn about TCHO’s partnerships with farmers and how the raw beans turn into chocolate bars. Afterwards, visit the factory store for chocolate drinks and samples.
In Boston (Somerville, to be exact), Taza Chocolate makes organic chocolate and is committed to other environmentally sustainable standards. Factory tours are offered five days a week for $5 per person, but note that you will only see chocolate being made during weekday tours. Compare tastes with the free samples in the store, and then buy your date some artisanal treats.
And in Brooklyn, New York, the Mast Brothers Chocolate factory gives tours for about $10. Mast Brothers partners with small, cooperative farms that produce organic cacao. The end result is artfully packaged bars that make beautiful gifts, as well other fresh treats that you can try at the tasting room, open six days a week.
Besides factory tours, you could also attend chocolate tastings in other settings. Look for events that pair beer and chocolate, or wine and chocolate, to bring bliss to your taste buds and minds during your Valentine’s Day date.
During San Francisco Beer Week this year, the schedule includes plenty of chocolate-themed events, especially since the festival overlaps with Valentine’s Day. Sign up for an event where you can make your own chocolates using ingredients brought from home, or pair TCHO chocolate with craft beer and artisanal cheese.
In New York City on February 9, d.b.a. and Mast Brothers are coming together for a craft beer and artisanal chocolate tasting event. The creative mixtures of bitter, sweet, salty, nutty, and fruity flavors on your palates will give you and your sweetheart something deep to discuss.
Or, if you can’t find a chocolate tasting near you, consider hosting your own chocolate tasting to educate yourself and friends about the most ethical ways to produce and buy chocolate. This guide from the Global Cocoa Project includes details on how to pair wine and chocolate and how to engage all of your sense while tasting chocolate.
Joanna Eng is a New York-based writer and editor who covers travel, green living, food, careers, entrepreneurship, and more. Her travel experiences have ranged from hostel hopping in Mexico to staying with distant relatives in China to renting a beach apartment in New Jersey.