Few products showcase the controversies of globalization as clearly as chocolate. Its growers are poor, and its consumers are rich - this simple fact summons issues of supply and demand, free trade vs. fair trade, slavery, corporate greed and capitalism to name a few. Large chocolate companies struggle with the challenge of secruing cacao beans for a competitive price, through brokers and farmers cooperatives, supporting their partners in the developing world, navigating the bureaucracy of exporting an agricultural product, shipping large quantities great distances, finessing flavor quality in multiple countries and finally, advertising, supplying and pleasing people with chocolate.
For centuries, food drove exploration. The spice traders who traveled from the Orient to the Middle East to Mediterranean created an appetite and a marketplace for the culinary riches of other lands. When the Spanish discovered the chocolate of the Aztec in the 1590's, chocolate became part of the global food chain. It went from what is now Mexico to Spain to Italy to France and to England. Chocolate crossing international boundries and cultures is nothing new, but the complexities now are staggering. Civil wars in Africa, devastating diseases for the cacao trees in Brazil, the demands of the international commodities market, and many others. Now is a good time to learn more and get invested in the future of chocolatee.