Mama Earth, Dipped in Chocolate
If you encounter a vision of the earth dipped in chocolate the next time you’re in San Luis Obispo, do yourself a favor and stop in for a chocolate tasting paired with good karma. The chocolate dripping off Mama Earth? Fair Trade, of course. Mama Ganache Artisan Chocolates, a San Luis Obispo-based chocolate company with a retail shop, an online store, and associated wholesale and philanthropic ventures, identifies itself with this image that links flavor and pleasure to social justice and self respect.
We support this San Luis Obispo chocolate venture for so many reasons: the truffles are outstanding, the owners are friendly and proponents of education, while the Fair Trade chocolate they use directly benefits cocoa farmers who produce the agricultural commodity that ultimately emerges as fine chocolate. Owners Tom and Eve Neuhaus and Tom’s sister Joanne Currie continue to invest their positive energies in making the world a sweeter place for everyone from cocoa farmers in the developing world to Central Coast visitors with a sweet tooth.
Richard Chong of Chong’s Home Made Candies
For a brief time (as Sweet Earth Chocolates), they also ran a Chorro Street shop . During their grand opening party, we learned more of this neighborhood’s candied past. A couple of shops away, Chong’s Home Made Candies inhabited the red brick building at 798 Palm Street for 28 years and now, with the opening of a downtown store, sweets expertise had returned to this intersection of Palm and Chorro.
A SLO-town resident who knew Mr. Chong offers this story:
“I remember Mr. Chong so well. When I started working at the Chamber of Commerce on Chorro St., in January of 1973 Mr. Chong brought some candy by to welcome me to my new job. From that day forward until his stroke he brought candy for me and my two co-workers every single day. He always had a cheerful greeting, brought forth in his very distinctive, high voice.
“At the time of his death there was still a great deal of candy in the store. Concerned that this candy would be discarded, Brian Lawler convinced a local businessman (his boss Richard Blake) to buy it all. Then Brian distributed it for free around town with a note that said ‘from the sweetest man in town, Richard Chong.’” [DG]
A busy opening night party for the Chorro Street store
Tom Neuhaus with painting by Abbey Onikoyi
During the opening party for this new shop, chocolatier Tom Neuhaus told the story of local artist Abbey Onikoyi and his Spirits of Africa gallery generously lending one of his vibrant paintings that sing of Africa’s beauty. Like a chocolate lover mulling over too many options, Tom surveyed several of Abbey’s canvases and selected this one to hang in the new shop. Tom recalls, “Since I’m so involved with cocoa farmers in West Africa, I wanted a painting that represents the spirit of West Africa. Abbey Onikoyi is an important member of our community: he’s Nigerian and therefore West African. I loved that painting because it represents to me village life, the colorful vibrance of West Africans, and the importance of ancestors to the present.” This colorful painting keeps company with the paintings of another Neuhaus friend and artist, Lee Lawson. This company recognizes the power of art in our community and works to incorporate creative works in their sweet midst.
Abbey Onikoyi and the Spirits of Africa Gallery
Project Hope and Fairness for Cocoa Farmers
Beyond their use of Fair Trade cocoa products, Mama Ganache Artisan Chocolates further contributes to supporting social justice for cocoa farmers in the developing world through their collaboration with Project Hope and Fairness, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that promotes sustainability of cocoa farmers through direct assistance in addressing needs that promote farmer independence. This organization also educates American consumers about injustices endured by cocoa farmers and encourages producers of cocoa products to adopt Fair Trade policies.
The praised arrival of a cocoa-weighing scale in Bateguedea
By supplying cocoa farmers with protective boots, cocoa-weighing scales, dryness meters, and specialized storage bags for product preservation, Project Hope and Fairness seeks to empower and protect the cocoa farmer, the primary producer of the product that, once refined, so many of us crave and adore. Traditionally, these farmers have had to rely on scales belonging to buyers that frequently appear weighted in the buyer’s favor. Lacking bean preservation systems, these farmers have generally sold their cocoa beans with every other cocoa farmer at the depressed prices encountered during cocoa bean gluts. Without dryness meters, “the farmers don’t know the exact moisture level of their product” when they sell it, according to the Project Hope and Fairness website: “A tool such as this, which is relatively inexpensive, helps the farmers bargain from a position of knowledge. When the pisteur or middleman bargains with someone who understands the concept of weight, dryness, and quality, there is greater pressure to pay a higher price.” When farmers become more empowered, they are treated more fairly by other stakeholders in the process of refining quality chocolate from the raw agricultural commodity. Sweet!
The farmers of Bateguedea, Côte d’Ivoire holding up their new rubber boots
Make your chocolate intake count: purchase Fair Trade chocolate to share the wealth from this most decadent of natural food products. If you can, contribute to the efforts of Project Hope and Fairness to make your next taste of chocolate the sweetest yet.
More about Mama Ganache on CCFoodie
Mama Ganache Artisan Chocolates website
Project Hope and Fairness
Richard Chong photo: SLO Tribune
Cocoa farmer photos: Project Hope and Fairness