Cocoa beans are produced in pods on the cocoa tree. The pods range in colour from red to yellow to green and are shaped like footballs. Cocoa pods take five to six months to ripen enough for harvest. The cocoa tree originated in South America and was also cultivated in Central America, where the Mayans used cocoa beans as currency. After European explorers arrived, they brought cocoa back with them to Europe, where it became a drink served only to royalty in locations such as Spain. No longer reserved for the wealthy, cocoa beans can be purchased in a variety of places for culinary use.
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Seek out websites and brands that participate in fair trade partnerships. Because approximately 75 per cent of the world's cocoa production occurs on small family farms in Africa, with a total of 5 million families in Africa, the Americas and Asia raising cocoa beans, fair labour practices and child labour are industry issues. Some companies that participate in fair labour practices include Cadbury and Nestle.
Locate fair trade merchants in the United States that sell fair trade cocoa. You can find a list of such merchants on the website Green America Today.org.
Seek out local markets where vendors sell cocoa beans. Mexican and Latin markets may be a good source, especially for markets that serve Southern Mexican customers. Search local community newspapers for times and locations for farmers markets and produce locations.
Visit speciality stores that sell global products, such as the grocery chain Whole Foods or speciality gourmet stores. Look for brands like Scharffenberger or Valhrona. If you cannot find actual cocoa beans, consider cacao nibs, which are very similar.
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