Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Valentine's Chocolate Choices

A better, luscious, chocolate choice for Valentine's Day

Chocolate is a beautiful thing. Aside from the fact that it tastes good, chocolate, especially dark chocolate, contains a dizzying mix of over 300 naturally occurring chemicals and compounds including high concentrations of flavonoids, (plant-based pigments that act as antioxidants, decrease inflammation, and lower blood pressure and cholesterol). 

Chocolate also is known to make us feel less depressed (thanks to substances that stimulate a pleasure center in the brain), and more alert (due to a substance often confused with caffeine).

But while chocolate has all these amazing qualities, there is a dark side (pun intended). Chocolate as most of us grew up with in the U.S., contributes to deforestation, loss of wildlife habitat, pesticide use and injustices such as forced slavery and child labor. Makes the idea of chocolate as a gift, a little less sweet.

Fortunately, more and more companies are voting for people-, animal- and planet-friendlier practices when it comes to chocolate and sourcing cacao from ethically and ecologically sound sources.

There are three things to look for if you want to choose chocolate with a clear conscience:

1.      Certified Organic means not only that the cacao beans are organic, but other ingredients like sugar and flavorings are as well.

2.      Certified Shade Grown. The reason? When forests are cleared in order to grow cacao, more chemicals are necessary and migratory birds are deprived of territory and begin to disappear. Shade grown coffee creates habitat for birds and contributes a diverse ecosystem. (Look for the Rain Forest Alliance Certification.)

3.      Fair Trade Certified. Workers harvesting the beans are paid and treated fairly

Is triple certified chocolate more expensive? Often, yes. But here's a suggestion. Instead of purchasing a heart-shaped box filled with chocolates that are not so good for your love or the planet, buy fewer, but make them count. 

Place them on a beautiful dish and set aside a time to enjoy them together with your love on Valentine's Day. Make eating them a premier event. Notice how beautiful they are. Unwrap each carefully, Inhale their aroma, then slowly let them melt on your tongue. Talk to your love about the sensation. A single chocolate--shared--and enjoyed in this full-sense way, can obliterate any thought of a big red box.

For the consumer this Valentine's Day, it's easier than ever to find chocolate that is Certified Organic, Fair Trade Certified and even Certified Shade Grown (though the last is not as commonplace as the first two). In this case, more is better. When you find chocolate with all three certifications, you know you've chosen the best, safest and most ethically produced chocolate for your love. 

But if you can find chocolate with two or even one certification, you're still making a better choice. And while you're buying, you can always suggest to the chocolate maker that you'd love to see their chocolate triple certified. 

You can make a difference by buying chocolate! Who knew? 

Top picks for great chocolate choices this Valentine's Day
  • Lavender truffles from Sjaaks
  • Dark ornage chocolate from Equal Exchange
  • Dagoba's raspberry bar
  • Endangered Species milk chocolate with peanut butter

    Lynn Colwell and Corey Colwell-Lipson are mother and daughter and co-authors of Celebrate Green! Creating Eco-Savvy Holidays, Celebrations and Traditions for the Whole Family, available at  

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