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Archive for Fair Trade




TOP PHOTO: Almonds with a sriracha kick.
Photo courtesy Blue Diamond. BOTTOM
PHOTO: Bean & Tortilla Chips from Food
Should Taste Good.


Brands we enjoy and have previously reviewed are busy launching new lines. Here’s what we tasted lately.


Companies that have jumped on the “hot” bandwagon have figured out how to make products hot enough to please hotties, but not so hot that they loses sales from the other segments.

These “bold” roasted almonds are delightful, and not as intense as the can indicates, or we would not have been able to eat them (medium salsa is the hottest we go).

Consider them as stocking stuffers. Almonds are a healthful nut, so this is a guilt-free snack. The line is certified kosher by OK. More information.

Our favorite line of tortilla chips, known for deftly combining other foods with corn-based tortilla chips, is now adding beans to the mix.

Food Should Taste Good Black Bean Chips and Pinto Bean Chips combine nutritious, fiber-filled beans to deliver real bean flavors.

Food Should Taste Good Bean Chips are gluten free, have zero grams trans-fat and are certified kosher by OU. More information.

We must shout out to the line of tortilla chips in flavors galore. Beyond Cantina chips, there are Cheddar, Falafel, Guacamole, Harvest Pumpkin, Jalapeño, Jalapeño With Cheddar, Kettle Corn, Lime, Multigrain, Olive, Sweet Potato, The Works and White Cheddar.

Love those chips!




Who says tofu isn’t flavorful? Nasoya, the country’s largest producer of tofu, has added a new flavor to its line of TofuBaked.

Chipotle TofuBaked is ready to eat, sliced cold into salads or sandwiches, or heated for scrambles, omelets and Tex-Mex favorites (burritos, fajitas, tacos). Recipes on the website include Seven Layer Chipotle Dip, Southwest Breakfast Bake and Chipotle Tortilla Soup.

We’re also fans of Ginger TofuBaked.

The product is USDA certified organic and certified kosher by Star K.

More information.

Quite hot, if not crazy hot, these chips are also quite tart, with as much vinegar as heat.

In addition to red chili pepper flavor, there are hints of Cheddar cheese. We think it’s a winner for hot stuff lovers.

The line is certified kosher by KOF-K and certified gluten free. More information.

Runa Clean Energy has no sugar added iced teas, which, thanks to the guayusa from which the tea is brewed, has a natural sweetness as well.

The line is certified kosher by OU, Fair Trade Certified and a Certified B Corporation.

In 8.4-ounce/250 ml cans, flavors include Berry, Orange Passion and Original. More information.



popchips-crazy-hot copy-230

TOP PHOTO: Spicy tofu, ready to eat from Nasoya. BOTTOM PHOTO: More hot stuff, this time in crunchy potato chips from Popchips .




GIFT: Madécasse Artisan Chocolate Bars


Madécasse chocolate bars can be gifted individually or in boxed sets. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.


If you’re looking for something special for a chocolate lover, check the chocolate section of Whole Foods Markets. In addition to other fine brands, they carry Madécasse chocolate bars, made in Madagascar from locally-grown cacao and vanilla beans.

The fairly traded chocolate is made with a rare native heirloom cacao, so people who really like to taste the differences in cacao by terroir will have a field day.

You’ll find flavors such as:

  • Espresso Bean Chocolate Bar, made with 44% dark milk chocolate that has caramel notes, and blended with a coffee crunch.
  • Salted Almond Chocolate Bar, 63% semisweet chocolate, sprinkled with roasted almond nibs and sea salt for.
  • Sea Salt & Nibs Chocolate Bar, 63% semisweet chocolate with added crushed cocoa bean nibs and a light dusting of sea salt. It was the winner of “Best In Show” at a recent Paris Salon du Chocolat.
  • Toasted Coconut Chocolate Bar, made with a 70% bittersweet chocolate with fruity notes, topped with crunchy flakes of toasted coconut.
  • Special Holiday Bars, Orange Cranberry and Hazelnut, both 63% semisweet chocolate.
    Other options include plain 70% and 80% cacao bars, Cinnamon & Chile Pepper, Citrus & Pink Pepper. There are gift sets at Each bar retails for $4.99.

    For holiday gift giving, you can replace the straw tie in the hole punched in the top of the package with a festive ribbon, tie a bar onto a larger gift box, or even hang it from the tree!


    Madécasse Chocolate is a Brooklyn-based chocolate manufacturer established in 2006 by two Peace Corps volunteers who served in Madagascar. Their mission was to improve economic opportunities for farmers and villagers in the region. The name Madécasse refers to an inhabitant of Madegascar.

    Madécasse is the only company producing bean-to-bar chocolate and vanilla products that are grown, harvested and hand-wrapped entirely in Madagascar. The chocolate is made from the world’s last remaining genetically pure cacao beans.

    All Madécasse products are Fair for Life certified, a certification similar to Fair trade, but which offers four times the economic impact.

    Learn more at



    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: barkTHINS Chocolate Bark


    barkTHINS: thin and rich. Photo courtesy
    Ripple Brands.


    There are several reasons to love barkTHINS:

  • The delicious varieties, crammed with inclusions* (see the list below).
  • The thin pieces that, unlike conventional bark, let you have half as much.
  • The Fair Trade certification ( that helps poor farmers.
  • The everyday affordability (yet it’s great for party favors and stocking stuffers.
    October is National Fair Trade Month, the perfect time to feature barkTHINS as a Top Pick Of The Week (here’s more about Fair Trade certification).

    The line debuted in 2012. Unlike traditional chocolate bark that is thick and hard to break, barkTHINS are thin slivers of chocolate that are easily snap-able—easier to eat, fewer calories in your chocolate fix, more flexibility as a dessert garnish (well, that probably wasn’t their intent but it’s a use we employ regularly, by crowning a scoop of ice cream or breaking into pieces for mix-ins).


    *The industry term for what many people call “mix-ins.”



    Each variety is as delicious as the next, depending on your flavor preferences. We were personally thrilled with Dark Chocolate Peppermint Pretzel, a limited edition for holiday season. The packages have a shelf life of 12 months, so if you can’t live without it, you can stock up until the new batches arrive for the next holiday season).

    Feast upon:

    • Dark Chocolate Almond With Sea Salt
    • Dark Chocolate Blueberry & Quinoa (sweetened with agave)
    • Dark Chocolate Mint
    • Dark Chocolate Peppermint Pretzel (Limited Edition)
    • Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Seed
    • Dark Chocolate Toasted Coconut With Almonds
    • Milk Chocolate Peanut


    A great party favor, stocking stuffer, teacher gift, etc. Photo courtesy Ripple Foods.

    The bags stand upright for presentation as party favors. You can stick a place card on the front; you can tie a ribbon through the shelf-hanger opening at the top for added festiveness or to hang on the tree.
    Check the store locator for a retailer near you (including Costco, H-E-B, King’s, Stop & Shop, Wegmans, Whole Foods Market and numerous others), or head to

    A Fair Trade certification guarantees consumers that the farmers who grow the product are getting paid a fair price. In many areas of the world, middlemen buy up crops at a price that often is the same or less than what it cost the farmer to grow it, resulting in a cycle of poverty. Under Fair trade, farmers can increase their incomes and gain afford education and healthcare for their families.

    When you make a conscious decision to seek out Fair Trade products, you are helping hard-working people raise their standard of living. You can feel good about every bite and every sip (look for Fair Trade coffee, tea and hot chocolate, too).

    Fair Trade certification also means that the farmers are following good agricultural practices and are investing in their farms and communities. To learn more, visit



    GIFT: Gourmet Cocoa And Hot Chocolate

    Winter Hot Chocolate is a classic cocoa mix
    with a touch of vanilla. Photo courtesy Lake
    Champlain Chocolates.


    “Forget Christmas gifts this year,” said our friend Gerard, when he called to invite us to his annual party and gifting frenzy. “At this point in our lives, none of us needs another scarf, another basket of Kiehl’s products, another tzotchke, another random book.”

    “Can we bring some gourmet cocoa?” we suggested. “Sure,” he responded.

    That’s why we love food gifts. They can readily be consumed by the recipient, his guests or his family members.

    And you don’t have to go far to find something good. Any upscale supermarket has gourmet chocolate bars, fine olive oil and gourmet hot chocolate.

    We passed by all of them at Whole Foods yesterday, including these gifty hot chocolate canisters from Lake Champlain Chocolates (also available directly from Lake Champlain Chocolates). They’re just $10.50 for a festively-designed one-pound canister (one pound makes approximately 21 eight-ounce servings). You can package the gifts with some handmade marshmallows in the confections section.

    Lake Champlain’s hot chocolate is certified kosher by Star-D, and is Fair Trade Certified, which means that it’s a feel-good product, right for the holiday season.

    Fair trade certification allows farmers to receive higher prices than they would in the conventional market. It means that the farmers are paid a fair price for their product and are not exploited by middlemen who pay them less than their crop is worth.

    Read more about Fair Trade.



    From adding flavors—banana, cinnamon, chai, hot spices, mint—to liqueurs, we’ve got 25 ways to make an already delicious cup of cocoa even more memorable.

    Check ‘em out.

    December 12th is National Cocoa Day. What’s the difference between cocoa and hot chocolate?

    Most people use the terms interchangeably, but they’re actually different.

    Cocoa is a drink made from cocoa powder.

    Hot chocolate is a drink made from actual chocolate, usually ground or shaved into small bits. Chocolate has more cocoa butter than cocoa powder, so it makes a richer drink, all things being equal (the same type of milk, e.g.).


    Enjoy Peppermint Hot Chocolate for the holidays, with hints of vanilla and cinnamon. Photo courtesy Lake Champlain Chocolates.


    To make any cup of cocoa or hot chocolate richer, you can:

  • Use half and half, or half milk and half cream.
  • Stir in a pat of unsweetened butter—really! It’s a chef’s secret trick.
    Visit our Cocoa Section for brand reviews, recipes and more about man’s favorite chocolate drink.

    Or take our Cocoa Trivia Quiz.



    GIFT: Divine Fair Trade Chocolate

    Most of the world’s farmers live in poverty. They’re forced to accept whatever brokers want to pay them for their crops.

    Fair Trade ensures that farmers are paid fair value for their crops. This affords a minimum standard of living, money for adult (instead of child) labor and the ability to farm with sound (sustainable) agricultural practices.

    Fair Trade is the trademarked term of nonprofit organization that audits transactions between U.S. companies offering Fair Trade Certified products and the international suppliers from whom they source. It is one of several organizations working all over the world to certify fairly traded goods. Here’s more on Fair Trade.

    In the case of the the world’s greatest chocolatiers, an elite group, Fair Trade is a moot point. The chocolatiers are already paying top dollar to secure the limited supply of the world’s ultra-finest cacao beans.

    But there’s a lot of chocolate, even in the premium category (not the mass marketed bars), that comes from farmers who sometimes have to sell their crops for less than it costs to grow it.


    Special holiday flavor bars and foil-wrapped dark and milk chocolate coins. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.


    If only all farmers had the ability to emulate the Kuapa Kokoo farmers’ co-op in Ghana. The name means “good cocoa farming.” Instead of exclusive ownership under a corporate board of executives or a family who has handed down the business from generation to generation, the business is actually owned partly by the 40,000 small farmers who grow, harvest and partially process the cacao.

    The cooperative works at improving the social, economic and political well-being of its members. Women cacao farmers play significant roles at all levels of the organization, and the co-op encourages environmentally sustainable production.


    Christmas tree boxes filled with chocolate
    Christmas trees. Photo by Elvira Kalviste |


    And, their cacao beans are used to make the Fair Trade Certified line, Divine Chocolate.


    This very reasonably priced line, beautifully packaged, offers a nice choice stocking stuffers, teacher gifts or office gifts. Each purchase supports these farmers and their excellent mission.

    If you like, you can use the gift to teach your family, friends and colleagues about supporting Fair Trade, and. They’ll feel good about every bite.

    There’s something for every chocolate-lover in Divine Chocolate’s collection:

  • Advent calendar, $4.55
  • Chocolate bars: holiday special 38% Milk Chocolate With Spiced Cookies and 70% dark chocolate with hazelnuts and cranberries, plus 13 year-round flavors, $3.99
  • Chocolate coins in milk or dark chocolate, 1.75 ounce mesh bag, $3.99
  • Christmas tree box filled with Christmas tree chocolates, 3.5 ounces, $8.49

  • Dark Chocolate Mint Thins and Ginger Thins, $8.49
  • There are savings with the purchase of multiple pieces of the same item, as well a gift baskets with an assortment of products.

    See all the holiday specials and the entire product line at Divine

    —Steven Gans



    TIP OF THE DAY: Buy A Fair Trade Product

    October is National Fair Trade Month, so today’s tip is to buy something that’s fairly traded.

    Most people don’t understand Fair Trade. One of the reasons is that, unlike the USDA Certified Organic Seal that appears on all organic product packaging—regardless of the particular certifying agency (there are certifiers in every state)—the different Fair Trade-related certifying organizations have their own logos. Some, like Equal Exchange and Rainforest Alliance, aren’t even called anything related to “fair” or “trade.”

    Rather, the complexity is more like kosher certification, where hundreds of different kosher certifiers are involved, each with their own logo or mark (called a hechsher, pronounced HECK-sure). Consumers decide if they want to buy products certified only by the largest and best-known, or if they’ll trust a hechsher they don’t know—or recognize that it’s a hechsher in the first place.


    Pick just one product you use regularly, and make it Fair Trade. Photo courtesy Green Mountain Coffee.

    So the Fair Trade challenge is that there isn’t one logo or mark that consumers can instantly recognize as a fairly traded product. The consumer has to do the work to figure it out.

    But let’s start with the basics.


    Fair Trade International, Fair For Life, Rainforest Alliance and other certification organizations ensure that farmers are paid fair value for their products. Without Fair Trade, brokers can strike deals that pay the farmers less than it costs them to grow their crops.

    Fair Trade affords money for adult (instead of child) labor, sound agricultural practices and a minimum standard of living, including healthcare and education for their families.

    The term “Fair Trade” is used generically, but it is a trademarked term authorized by TransFair USA, a nonprofit organization that audits transactions between U.S. companies offering Fair Trade Certified™ products and the international suppliers from whom they source.

    TransFair is one of some twenty members of Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO), and the only third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the U.S.


    Buy Fair Traded products so retailers will
    know consumers want them, and keep
    them in stock. This product is also organic. Photo courtesy



    Fair Trade is completely separate from organic certification. Some products pursue both certifications.


    You are one of the stakeholders in Fair Trade. In addition to helping some of the world’s poorest people improve their lots, you help with sustainability.

    Small actions build into large ones. You can help the Fair Trade movement buy buying just one Fair Trade-certified product. Whether it’s your coffee, sugar, or anything else, your purchase tells retailers that Fair Trade products are important to consumers.

    If no one buys them, they won’t stay on the shelf.

    So browse your store shelf and buy one—or more—items. Help to make the world a better place.

    NOTE: If you can’t find Fair Trade Certified products in your supermarket, try a natural foods store.




    TIP OF THE DAY: Buy A Fair Trade Product For World Fair Trade Day

    Look for a small Fair Trade logo that
    identifies fairly traded products. Photo
    courtesy Green Mountain Coffee.


    Today’s tip is to purchase a Fair Trade product. May 11th is World Fair Trade Day.

    Fair Trade is a practice that seeks to aid economically challenged, small-scale farmers around the world. Many of them labor in poverty to produce the cacao, coffee beans and other crops we take for granted. Because of the “system,” they often earn less than it costs to produce the crop.

    While America’s small farmers often endure severe economic hardships, American children go to school and families have access to public health care and other assistance. In third world countries, however, these “essentials” can be hard to come by. And since school is not mandatory in certain countries, many children instead work in the fields to contribute to the household income.

    Why is the situation so bleak? Most small family farmers live in remote locations and lack access to credit, so they are vulnerable to local middlemen who offer quick cash for their crops, at a fraction of their value.

    Fair Trade guarantees farmers a set minimum price for their crops, which covers the cost of production and some profit. It links farmer-run cooperatives directly with U.S. importers (who in turn sell to manufacturers/packagers), cutting out middlemen and creating the conditions for long-term sustainability.

    Through Fair Trade, farmers and their families earn better incomes for their hard work. This allows them to hold on to their land, keep their children in school and invest in the quality of their harvest.



    Use your purchasing power to make an impact on the lives of small farmers and their families.

  • Find A Retailer. While your main supermarket may not carry Fair Trade products, check at your natural products retailer or local food co-op. Chains such as Whole Foods Market, Sprouts Farmers Markets and Earth Fare are supporters of the movement.
  • Make One Product Switch To Fair Trade. It could be your coffee, your chocolate chips, your honey. Beans and grains, cocoa, coffee, fruits and vegetables, honey, nuts and seeds, sugar and tea are all fairly traded.

    Certified Fair Trade products now comprise a multi-billion dollar industry, with over 10,000 products in the marketplace. Consumer demand for fairly traded products has steadily risen over the last decade, thanks to the tireless work of dedicated advocates and advocacy organizations, committed companies and student activism.


    Fairly traded chocolate is delicious. Photo courtesy Divine Chocolate.


    Fair Trade is a business practice that protects the environment while improving livelihoods.
    The fair trade movement, which includes different certifying agencies, has a vision of a world in which justice and sustainable development are at the heart of trade structures and practices, so that farmers can maintain a decent and dignified livelihood. Read more about it at

    You’ll see different logos on Fair Trade products: There are many organizations around the world dedicated to the promotion of fair trade and its values. In North America, the leading organizations are the Fair Trade Federation (FTF), TransFair USA, and the Fair Trade Resource Network.

    Internationally, the big names are World Fair Trade Organization and FLO International. Here’s more about Fair Trade certifying agencies and the logos to watch for.

    Thanks in advance for pitching in this great cause.



    PRODUCT: Chocolate Covered Banana Bites

    Kopali Organics specializes in chocolate-covered snacks: banana, cacao nibs, espresso beans, goji, goldenberry, mango, mixed fruits, mulberry and pineapple.

    The products are also Fair Trade Certified, which means that the enterprise supports thousands of family farmers and communities worldwide (more about Fair Trade certification).

    Plus, 100% of profits go to The Sylvia Center, a garden-to-table program that inspires young people to discover good nutrition on the farm and in the kitchen. You can feel good about your purchase.

    We’re become enamored of Kopali’s Organic Chocolate Covered Banana snacks, bits of banana covered in delicious semisweet chocolate.


    Even better than a plain chocolate snack! Photo courtesy Kopali.


    For a limited time, you can save more than $1 a bag by purchasing a 12-pack of Kopali Chocolate Banana (normally $3.99 a bag, now $2.92). Buy them directly from the company website.

    Don’t worry that 12 bags might be too many. These treats may become your favorite snack…and are certain to earn the appreciation of any friends you share them with.

    Learn more about Kopali Organics snacks at



    PRODUCT: Equal Exchange Fair Trade Chocolate

    Make your daily chocolate nibble fairly-
    traded. Photo of Equal Exchange Minis by
    Elvira Kalviste.


    This year, we went Fair Trade for Halloween. That means that the chocolate we handed out was ethically produced.

    While you won’t see many articles about it, cacao is an agricultural product that uses child slave labor in the fields. Just search for “chocolate slave labor” and you’ll read all about it.

    Start with this article from CNN. The journalists document that “child labor, trafficking and slavery are rife in an industry that produces some of the world’s best-known brands.”

    So, with a small effort to help make the world a better place, we buy Fair Trade/fairly traded products whenever we can. Especially for Halloween, we don’t want to give kids chocolate that enslaves other kids.

    Equal Exchange chocolate is a producer/packager of chocolate, cocoa, coffee and tea, supporting small-scale farmers and their families in the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Panama and Peru.

    All of the products are organic as well as fairly-traded. The company motto: “Small Farmers, Big Change.”


    Fair Trade ensures that farmers are paid fair value for their beans. In more than a few situations, brokers buy up crops for less than it costs to produce them, keeping small farmers in an endless loop of poverty.

    Fair value affords money for adult labor (enabling the farmers’ children to go to school instead of working in the fields), a minimum standard of living and sound agricultural practices that protect both workers and the environment.

    This issue impacts mass-marketed chocolate brands. In the case of the expensive gourmet chocolate, the chocolate makers are already paying top dollar to the best farmers (those fortunate to have the land in the areas that produce the best beans) to secure the limited supply of the world’s finest cacao (so you can feel good about paying $6.00 or more for that chocolate bar).

    “Fair Trade” is a trademarked term authorized by TransFair USA, a nonprofit organization that audits transactions between U.S. companies offering Fair Trade Certified™ products and the international suppliers from whom they source. TransFair is one of 20 members of Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO). Read more on the issues of Fair Trade.


    Only products certified by TransFair USA can use the trademarked term, “Fair Trade.” Products certified by other organizations must call themselves “fairly traded.”



    If you want to buy products that are ethically sourced, Equal Exchange and other producers are more than happy to provide them.

    Equal Exchange has candy bars for stocking stuffers, boxes of minis (single bites of chocolate) for those who like to nibble and tins of cocoa, along with tea, coffee and gift baskets.

    Shop online at

    And spread the word about Fair Trade.


    Equal Exchange’s fairly traded, organic candy bars. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.



    PRODUCT: Lychee White Tea

    Fragrant and luscious, this tasty tea
    needs no added sugar. Photo courtesy
    Choice Organic Tea.


    The lychee (pronounced LIE-chee, not LEE-chee, after the Chinese lai chi) is one of the most popular fruits in Southern China. The evergreen grows wild in southern China, northern Vietnam and Cambodia, although there is evidence that it has been cultivated since around 2000 B.C.E.

    Lychee tea is highly esteemed in China. Following an ancient process, tea leaves are infused with the succulent juice of the lychee. The lychee is also a symbol of beauty. This tea has delicate woody overtones with a hint of sweet lychee flavor.

    Alternative spellings include lichee, litchi and other variations.

    We’ve been enjoying Lychee White Tea from Choice, a line of tea that is certified organic and Fair Trade Certified.


    Blended with the exotic flavor of lychee fruit and osmanthus flowers, the tea is lush and aromatic. It’s a beautiful tea to drink plain, without sweetener. The lychee supplies its own delicate sweetness, and the tea can be enjoyed hot or cold.

    Choice Lychee White Tea is available online.

    Learn more about Choice at



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