We tend to think of chocolate making as an assembly-line process. Most people picture automated presses plopping out candies onto conveyor belts at speeds unmatched by humans.
But before cacao reaches the machinery of a chocolate factory, it must first pass through the hands of a farmer.
Making chocolate takes years of manual labor.
Like most agricultural crops, cacao must be closely monitored by farmers. They regularly walk their fields and check for pests, molds, and diseases that can potentially wipe out a whole harvest.
In addition, a farmer must spend three to five years caring for young cacao trees before they’ll produce their first yield.
Cacao harvesting is done by hand.
Unlike many contemporary crops, cacao can’t be harvested by machines. Each thick pod growing off the trunk and branches of the cacao tree must be plucked by hand.
Cacao farming has faced many labor issues.
Because it takes lots of backbreaking work from many people to care for cacao, workers rights were often a major concern for cacao farmers. At one time, European countries even resorted to slavery as a way of supplying cheap labor for crops like cacao.
Stage 1: Harvesting Cacao
The first stage in turning cacao into chocolate candy requires humans, not machines. Farmers must harvest pods and prepare seeds for shipment by hand. This labor-intensive process is long and difficult, but necessary to turn this rainforest plant into chocolate.
Because it takes so many people to raise and harvest cacao, labor issues have historically been a serious concern for cacao growers.
Stage 2: Selling Cacao
The second stage in turning cacao into chocolate takes place when farmers sell their crops through the Coffee, Sugar, and Cocoa Exchange.
Like many agricultural products, cacao is traded on the futures market. People—candy manufacturers, cocoa importers, exporters, and representatives of trade houses—buy and sell contracts for cacao...