Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Chocolate Tasting, Rainforest Conservation, and The Golden Ticket

Awhile back we had a root beer tasting for family fun night and I remarked that it would be fun to do a chocolate tasting night. Well, that time has come! Little J gave me the perfect excuse. He's eating breakfast and he says, "I love hot cocoa. You know cocoa comes from the cacao tree. It's actually a bean. The tree grows in the rainforest along the Amazon". Me, "why do you know all this?" "I just do" he says.

So anyway, how can I pass up the chance to do a chocolate tasting now?

Little J's class just finished reading Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  With that and his interest in the rainforest, the cacao tree, and chocolate I thought it would be a perfect time for our family fun night.  We did a little more research on how the chocolate industry affects the rainforest as part of our Earth Day celebration too.

I slipped this ticket along with a Wonka Bar under Little J's door last night.  He was beyond excited this morning!


To prepare for our family fun night, Little J and I did some further research on the cacao tree, the rainforest, and the impact of chocolate on the rainforest.  I'm listing some great links below that we found very helpful.  It turns out that just choosing some chocolate to taste is more complicated than I thought.  Where the cacao tree is grown, how it is cared for, how it is harvested, and what ingredients are added to it to make it edible chocolate all can have an impact on the rainforest and the inhabitants of it. 

According to our research, the best chocolate to purchase with rainforest conservation in mind is organic, shade grown, fair-trade chocolates, and does not contain palm oil.  Whew, there's a lot to think about. 

Why care about the rainforest anyway?  I wasn't aware of this statement, but find it very fascinating, is that rainforests make up only 6% of land in the world, but are thought to be home to over 50% of all species.  Wow.

Well, back to the fun part!  Our chocolate tasting night!
I can think of dozens of ways to do a chocolate tasting, but I wanted to keep it simple, fun, and educational for us.  Little J's favorite chocolates are plain milk chocolate, so I started with that.  A local gourmet food store has a fabulous chocolate department with a knowledgeable staff.  They helped me choose three milk chocolates some of which are shade grown, organic, and/or are fair trade.

Divine Milk Chocolate bar. 
Fair trade, cocoa from Kuapa Kokoo in Ghana.

Chocolate Santander.  Cocoa from
small farms in Columbia, South America.

We didn't do a score card for this tasting.  We simply enjoyed the chocolate and talked about the appearance, smell, and taste of each bar.  We started with the bar with the lowest percent of cacao and worked our way up.  We sipped water or milk between bars to clear our palates  We enjoyed all the chocolate, but our favorite ended up being the Divine Chocolate bar.  Their little faces and hands were smeared with chocolate, I think they had fun.

Here are some links to rainforest information and conservation if you are interested. 

1 comment :

Christianne @ Little Page Turners said...

That's my kind of sensory activity! What a great tie-in to Earth Day and the novel. Way to go, mom!