The search for ethically sourced chocolate has spawned a new bean-to-bar trend that’s poised to transform the chocolate industry.

Lindsay Westley

The search for ethically sourced chocolate has spawned a new bean-to-bar trend that's poised to transform the chocolate industry. See How to Make Chocolate Truffles

Move over, Willy Wonka. A budding class of chocolate makers are cutting out the middleman to create a more ethical product. Entrepreneurs like Joe Whinney at Theo Chocolate in Seattle are sourcing cacao directly from farmers, paying the growers a fairer price and also raising that price when the quality of the beans improves.

Translation: tastier chocolate and better pay for farmers. This is especially important in places like the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo (where Theo sources beans for its Eastern Congo Initiative line).

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The process of transforming cacao from tough, leathery seed pods to truffles is, unfortunately, not always quite so sweet.

Cacao farmers in South America, Africa and Indonesia typically sell to large distributors who pay according to the fluctuating cocoa market. The farmers sometimes receive fair wages for their beans-but not always.

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Luckily, the bean-to-bar trend is growing fast. You can now find chocolate made with direct-from-the-farmer beans in shops and supermarkets across the country from the likes of Amano, Taza, Askinosie and Blue Bandana chocolate.

In your hometown, keep an eye out for chocolate with a direct-trade or Fair Trade label. Ethical practices and fair prices for growers make any bar taste just a little bit sweeter.

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January/February 2015