Saturday, October 25, 2008


I went to Choctoberfest today. This was a great idea - held by a store named Ten Thousand Villages which describes itself as a Fair Trade Retailer. Their website says "Your fair trade purchase of handmade jewelry, home decor and gifts helps improve the lives of thousands of artisans in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East." Now that is a very PC idea. And hey, it sounds like capitalism to me and I'm all for capitalism.

I'll be honest, it's not really my kind of stuff. I buy things like they sell if I actually travel to the places they are made. I don't normally shop there. But I'll go anywhere for something called "Choctoberfest!" It was held to promote one of their fair trade companies - chocolatier Divine Chocolate. It was a great marketing idea. You went in and they handed you a little quiz about Divine Chocolate which could easily be answered if you walked throughout the store to find the answers. If you filled it out correctly, you got a tiny free sample.

Hey - free is good! The square was about one inch long and one half inch tall, and wrapped just like a big bar. Nice. The 70% dark was nice and smooth, but maybe a little boring? Very mild for a 70% dark. But very healthy!! And if you don't normally like dark chocolate, this may be the one for you!

They also were going to have a drawing for a cookbook, but when I tasted samples of some of the recipes, I had to buy one (I believe no chances should be taken where chocolate is concerned). These samples were my favorite thing - they were chocolate pumpkin spice cake (you know I was all over that!), No-Bake Chocolate Treats (these were like chocolate and oat balls), and I'm not exactly sure what the other two were. (I was hovering too much and I think the staff was on to me.) I think one was a zucchini chocolate cake and the other was another no-bake recipe. All were delish.

And the cookbook (The BitterSweet World of Chocolate, sumptuous recipes using fair trade chocolate) is cool - it's got great pictures of all the recipes (I HATE cookbooks with no pictures). And there are great articles and pictures about chocolate in between the recipes. (See link to your right - check it out!) Now this cookbook is $6.00 MORE at Ten Thousand Villages that it is on So much for fair trade.

Divine Chocolate had a nice display and I bought three of their bars.

I like the wrapper design - apparently those designs are traditional West African Adinka Symbols each with its own special meaning. (I have no idea what the meanings are mind you.) When you open the wrapper, the whole inside is covered with the Divine Chocolate story - heavenly chocolate with a heart. It's a great idea - growing cacao beans is hard - the trees are fragile and prices can fluctuate and it can be hard to make a living. By forming a cooperative, several Ghanaian cocoa farmers can make a living producing this chocolate and they get to decide how to reinvest the profits in their communities.

That's all good and the chocolate is very affordable compared to some other fancy bars. These were $2.75. Vosges Bacon Bar was closer to $7.00!!

I already told you my thoughts on the Divine dark bar. The silver bar in the picture is milk chocolate with crisped rice. This was my favorite. These bars are way better than say a Nestle Crunch - the chocolate is much better, much smoother, but it doesn't blow you away. The brown wrapper in the picture is Hazelnut Milk Chocolate. Not bad at all, but again, doesn't blow you away. My least favorite was the Fruit and Nut Dark Chocolate. Boring dark with not enough fruit and nuts.

The verdict - perfectly good chocolate bars, but not spectacular. If you want a reasonably priced, decent bar that helps a good cause - go Divine.

More important to me was the event itself. I wasn't there very long, but what a blast! I was introduced to a new chocolate line and learned more about cacao farming and fair trade. I tried four different chocolate treats and got a cookbook. It was fun!! I'm telling you - get a hobby that captivates you and make some time to participate in it - everyday. Pick something that you think is fun and brings you joy. This is YOUR life - when are you going to start living it?

1 comment:

Heidi said...

I'm so glad you discovered Ten Thousand Villages! I found out about them about 10 years ago when I was working in Philadelphia. It's a fantastic organization, and you did a good job of describing it -- the nice thing is that when these artisans or farmers form a cooperative, whatever they sell in the United States goes immediately to them. So although they are probably in a Third World Country, they have the opportunity to have pride in making a living rather than receiving a missionary handout. It really empowers these folks, especially the women.
I tell people, if you shop at Pier 1, consider transferring your business to Ten Thousand Villages, because at least the sales there go to the people that made the products. It's a wonderful organization.
I'm glad the fair was fun! The cookbook sounds great. Even though it sells more at Ten Thousand Villages than on Amazon, don't feel bad -- the money is going to a good cause. Consider it a charitable donation. ;-)