The tour, given by this cordial, knowledgeable young man, started with a history and background of the company and Mr. Askinosie (who left his job as a criminal defense lawyer to make chocolate). These are the candybars they sell in their store front and in local establishments. Most of them are vegan, but several are not. They are pricey at $8.50/bar.
Hi, cocoa pod!
I asked him several questions about the "may contain milk" label, and I felt satisfied by his assurance of cleaning practices. This was very good for me to see it in person because I am someone who is sometimes too grossed out to eat something that says "may contain milk" no matter how much I know it probably doesn't. (I am really trying to get past my OCD on this.)
Although they are not organic certified or fair trade certified (so the farmers do not have to go through the required financial obligations), they claim to be directly involved with the growing practices and pay above fair trade prices: "We go to great lengths to make sure the farmers do not use chemicals and pesticides; not only do they sign a contract, we visit these farms yearly and can personally verify their practices. We also make sure that our beans are shade grown and that the cocoa trees are intercropped with other trees and crops. Our cocoa beans are not certified, however, in part for the same reason we aren’t Fair Trade certified—the certification process for the beans is very expensive and our farmers can’t afford it. Though we are not certified organic, our beans can be traced completely back to their origin. We have the name of every farmer who contributed to each crop."
Chocolate University. They involve local elementary and middle schools in different worthwhile programs. Local high school students get the opportunity to travel to Africa to learn about not only chocolate growing and Direct Trade practices but ways to inspire their own community and become more socially responsible. Factory Tour proceeds go toward Chocolate University.
An interesting fact is the strings that tie up the packages are made by women from a local shelter. They make the strings from the bags (see below) that hold the cocoa beans shipped to the factory.
We walked a few doors down to see the building where they store their cacoa beans.
Thank you, Askinosie Choclate, for the fun tour and for making vegan chocolate in a seemingly very nice way.