A Lesson on Ghana Chocolate

Chocology is proud to present another article by Meaghan Sugrue. She is in France working on her studies in food science. We are proud to have Meaghan on our team. Thank you Meaghan for keeping us up to date on all you are learning in France!

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Dear Chocology readers,

As I sit here at my desk savoring some delicious Belgian dark chocolate a friend brought home from her holiday in Brussels, I think of the incredible journey across continents that this treat probably took to become melt-in-your-mouth gold. Just recently, I discovered one of my classmates, Raphael, a friend from Ghana, had worked in the chocolate industry. As a quality manager, he was responsible for evaluating cocoa butter, cocoa powder, cocoa liquor and several other cocoa products to make sure these commodities were uniform and optimal quality for the industries and consumers they were sold to. Hearing this story briefly, I knew I had to learn more from him about the chocolate industry from the ground up.

We agreed to meet later to talk chocolate and Ghana. During our conversation, I quickly realized how truly global the chocolate industry is and how for Ghana cocoa is more than a commodity but a keystone enterprise and source of national pride. The first thing Raphael told me about working in the cocoa industry was how in demand cocoa products were. Most Ghanaian cocoa is grown and processed in Ghana and then shipped to Europe and the Western world where it is modified further or sold directly as the chocolate you may have enjoyed this past Halloween. Upon further explanation, I realized that cocoa is like oil or electricity, purchased ahead of time in mass quantities, not an investment but an essential. Not only that, but chocolate is integral to Ghana, considered a source of national pride. On February 14th, when most of the world scrambles to impress their significant other, Ghana celebrates National Chocolate Day. Here stores proudly sell chocolate saved from foreign buyers for a celebration of national and economic unity. However, even this day is subject to international demand, as there have been years where chocolate was sold out, come February 14th.

I also learned cocoa butter is in high demand within the cosmetics industry, containing compounds vital to anti-aging creams. This also made me aware of how unique and efficient cocoa processing is, where each component of the coco bean has a specific and valuable use. As we continued our chat, I learned that in Ghana the Cocoa industry is one of the most regulated ones, where the federal government funds progressive research, subsidizes crop prices and provides farmers with proper training to grow cocoa beans, making sure they are well off and able to sustain the industry for generations to come.

When Ralph and I finished our conversation, I asked him how he felt about being in France and seeing a renowned chocolate industry, knowing much of the raw material may have come from Ghana. He said he felt elated. As someone who has never been to Africa, I felt the same way, finally understanding the dynamic story behind each and every chocolate thoroughly.

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