It doesn’t sound right, given what I know about illegal drugs and drug addiction in general.
But apparently, it’s true. Farmers in regions infamous for producing coca leaves, the base product of cocaine, are turning away from this type of farming and growing cacao trees instead. It’s a great thing for chocolate lovers, but cocaine should be a more lucrative crop. Why are growers dumping cocaine and turning to cocoa beans?
The bloodshed and violence involved in coca production is well-known and widespread, but over the years, it has escalated to the point where innocent family members have been killed or sent to prison, and farm land confiscated. In Colombia alone, there have been almost half a million drug-related homicides and 81,000 hectares of land lost to coca production since 1990.
The loss of cocoa production in other countries once well-known for their beans. Ghana and the Ivory Coast, once prolific cocoa producers, have seen their crops reduced due to the effects of El Niño, aging trees and a diminished population of farmers.
With the loss of cocoa beans from familiar countries, buyers are looking for new sources, and they are finding them in Colombia, Peru and Bolivia. While the drug war will likely never fully be won by the good guys, the fact that farmers are taking a stand and converting their land, investing the time and plantings and then waiting up to five years for their first cocoa harvest (coca leaves, on the other hand, could be harvested up to three times a year from a single planting) shows not only goodwill, but good sense when it comes to investing in a sweeter and safer future for everyone.
A few bars I found recently:
Sucre Candied Violet Bar – Made by a Nigerian-born chocolate maker who lives in Louisiana, it’s tropical in its fruit flavor, and the candied violets a crunchy bit of fun. It’s a nice bar to break up and have with coffee as a dessert.
Chocomize – New York-based company that lets you create and order your own bars online, but I found a few varieties locally. The one I tried had unsalted pecans, hazelnuts and almonds. The chocolate itself is on the sweet, mild, milk chocolate end of the spectrum. The whole nuts were a novelty you don’t often find in even the better bars.
Domori Arriba Ecuador 70% – The biggest problem with this little .88-ounce bar is that there just isn’t enough of it. From the beautiful box and foil wrapper to the buttery, vanilla flavor of the dark bar, this is just a class chocolate act.