Fair Trade Easter Eggs
Explain the process of making and selling chocolate Easter Eggs, beginning with the picking of the cocoa beans and ending with the sale of the eggs in our local shops.
Introduction – the cocoa bean
Cocoa is grown mainly in Ghana, Ivory Coast and Nigeria – in Africa – and in Malaysia and Indonesia. The cocoa beans grow on trees which are generally four to ten metres high, and are about 1cm long. They are found in clusters of 30-40, inside egg-shaped pods hanging from the trunk and branches not on stems, like apples or oranges. Cocoa trees begin bearing fruit after about five years, and yield the best harvests around the age of 30 or 40. They can live up to 100 years.
The production of chocolate
Ask children to come to the front in turn to represent each stage in the process:
- the harvesters : who use machetes to cut off the pods on the lower branches, and long-handled knives to
cut off those on the higher branches;
- the "breakers": who use machetes to split the tough shells of the pods, and remove the beans and pulp;
- the people in charge of fermenting : he beans and pulp are wrapped in banana leaves or placed in chests, and left to be naturally fermented by bacteria. Fermentation takes between 4 and 9 days, and the mass of beans and pulp heats up to about 50 degrees centigrade.
Fermentation removes the bitter taste of raw cocoa beans, and develops the first elements of the familiar chocolate taste. When fermentation is complete, the beans are a rich brown colour.
- the dryers : after fermentation the beans must be dried, otherwise they will not keep.
The traditional method is to lay them out on boards or bamboo mats in the sun for up to two weeks. Farmers turn the beans frequently, and remove damaged beans at the same time. In very humid areas, it may be necessary to dry the beans artificially, as they will not dry thoroughly in the open.
- the packers: When the beans are dry, they are packed into bags for shipping to the processing centre.
- the cleaners: On arrival at the processing centre, the cocoa beans are cleaned.
- the roasters : the beans are then roasted. Roasting is crucial to the development of chocolate flavour, and also loosens the shells from the kernels inside.
- the shellers: after roasting, the beans are shelled.
- the graders: the beans are then graded, according to their quality.
- the factory workers: these perform a series of tasks to turn the beans into the chocolate which we can eat:
- the kernels are ground into a paste called 'cocoa liquor' or 'cocoa mass' - this is a mixture of cocoa powder and cocoa butter.
- the cocoa mass is squeezed using hydraulic presses, so that the cocoa butter runs off. The remaining mass is pulverised into cocoa powder. Most of the cocoa butter is used in the manufacture of chocolate, although some is used in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. Cocoa powder is used in drinks and for cooking.
The cocoa mass is mixed with sugar, milk and extra cocoa butter , and kneaded for hours (or even days) to give the finished chocolate the desired texture. The final processes bring the chocolate to the right temperature and pour it into moulds , where it hardens ready for packing.
The bars of chocolate, the boxes of chocolates
or the Easter eggs are then put into boxes and
driven to the various shops and supermarkets,
where they are sold.
Fair trade for the cocoa farmers
As you can see, there are many different stages in the process of making chocolate. Everyone who plays their part must be paid, and the process needs each of these stages. But it is often those at the very beginning of the process who receive the least. Of the cost of a one pound Easter egg, only 7 pence is the cost of the cocoa – and only part of this 7 pence goes to the farmers themselves. Moreover, the price of cocoa can vary enormously, depending on world market conditions.
It is now possible, however, to buy chocolate which guarantees a fair wage to the cocoa farmers. For just a few pence more on the price of a bar of chocolate, or an Easter egg, we can make sure that those people who produce the cocoa can receive a fair wage for their work. For example – if we added 7 pence to the cost of a one pound Easter egg, and made sure that this seven pence went directly to the cocoa farmers, it would make very little difference to the price of the egg, but would double the farmers’ income.
Some producers of chocolate are now doing exactly this: charging just a little more for the bars of chocolate they produce, but making sure that this goes all to the cocoa growers and farmers. (Some of them also use part of the higher price to help provide wells and other social improvements in the farmers’ villages).
So look out for Fair Trade chocolate in the shops. Try to buy a Fair Trade Easter egg (eg Green and Black’s). The message of Easter is one of new life and new hope: by supporting fair trade, we can play our own part in bringing new life and hope to the cocoa farmers in Africa – without whom our Easter would be very different.
Give fair trade mini-eggs to the children.