General News

Fine Chocolate Gift Ideas for a Safe Halloween 2020: Part 2

My October 6 blog post about Fine Chocolate Gift Ideas for Halloween received so much positive feedback that I wanted to share a “Part 2” listing of gift ideas for a safe Halloween 2020.  Fine chocolate is a truly great alternative to supermarket candy.  There is still time to make purchases online so you will be ready for October 31!  Ordering from Make Mine Fine helps to support artisan chocolate makers and farming communities who grow cocoa responsibly in the tropics. 

Here is my second list of gift ideas for Halloween: 

Bite Size Chocolates

As you look through Make Mine Fine company websites, notice that many offer bite size chocolate which are perfect for Halloween. Prices are comparable, in many cases, to the mass market candy and chocolate sold in convenience stores. This is the perfect trick-or-treat alternative!

Trick or Treat Bars

Chocolate bars are great gifts for any holiday.  Here is a list of five FCIA companies offering online chocolate bars.  Order soon! 

Delicious Bonbons and Truffles 

Maybe your preference is bonbons or truffles.  Make Mine Fine listings have many company products with unique flavors that are perfect to enjoy on Halloween.  

Chocolate Assortments and Specialty Retail

Are you seeking even more varieties and combinations?  Here are two companies offering a wide range of chocolate products from different chocolate makers and chocolatiers.

 Bake It Yourself!

Why not make chocolate from your own home? FCIA members make this easy for you to do with online classes and chocolate baking essentials. You can also purchase chocolate making equipment to help you make from home.  


Chocolate and Biodiversity — A Sustainable Pairing

Rainforests in Africa, Asia and Latin America are home to some of the most unique animal and plant life on earth. As many of us know, these fragile ecosystems are under severe threat from illegal logging, hunting and agriculture. Unless better environmental protection measures are followed, many flora and fauna species will be lost forever. 

The humid tropic regions are also the only places where cocoa grows.  

Cocoa farming can be either destructive or helpful to the environment, depending on how the crop is cultivated. When cocoa is grown in forest reserves as a monoculture, it can deplete soils and destroy habitats.

lizard from Madagascar
Photo credit: BFREE

On the other hand, when grown responsibly, cocoa can provide a home to native plants and animals normally dependent upon tropical forest.  Russell Greenberg from the Smithsonian Migratory Birds Center writes that “this enhancement of biodiversity in the agricultural landscape occurs primarily on a local scale—providing homes and food for more generalized forest species that are intolerant of pastures or farm fields.”    

The Fine Chocolate Industry Association (FCIA) and our members are committed to making the best quality chocolate available in the market. Our companies equally care about protecting the environment where cocoa grows.  Here are two great examples:

Madagascar: FCIA member Beyond Good was featured in a recent article explaining how they are working with local researchers at the Bristol Zoological Society in Madagascar to protect habitat for Lemurs. Dr. Amanda Webber of the Bristol Zoological Society highlighted the conclusions from their research. “The findings are exciting as they suggest that these highly threatened animals can live in human-dominated areas and cacao could be an example of a crop that, when grown sustainably, has the potential to benefit wildlife and people.”

Photo credit: Beyond Good
Montezuma’s Oropendola
Photo credit: Wikimedia

Belize: FICA partner  BFREE Foundation in Belize is growing HCP designated criollo cocoa in a mixed agroforestry setting. BFREE Biological Field Station and Privately Protected Area is home to over 80 migratory and resident bird species including the Scarlet Macaw and Montezuma’s Oropendola. It is considered one of the most acclaimed birding sites in Belize.

The next time you purchase chocolate, take a moment to check where it was sourced. To order online fine chocolate from our member companies and learn more about the cocoa supply chain, please explore our Make Mine Fine website.

Chocolate Buying Guides Chocolate Gifts

Fine Chocolate Gift Ideas for a Safe Halloween 2020

This Halloween will be like no other. Given the concerns of COVID-19, many families are preparing to celebrate the October 31 holiday at home. Rather than purchasing candy from your local supermarket or drugstore, why not order quality chocolate online that tastes better and is better for you? By doing so, you are also helping to support artisan chocolate makers and farming communities who grow cocoa responsibly in the tropics. 

The Fine Chocolate Industry Association (FCIA) launched this marketplace website, Make Mine Fine, to help fine chocolate companies of all sizes with direct consumer sales. Fine chocolate is higher in cocoa content, lower in sugar, and is offered in a variety of sizes, shapes and price points. Here are some ideas to get you started as you prepare for Halloween.

Bite Size Chocolates

As you look through Make Mine Fine company websites, notice that many offer bite size chocolate which are perfect for Halloween. Prices are comparable, in many cases, to the mass market candy and chocolate sold in convenience stores. This is the perfect trick-or-treat alternative!

Delicious Combos and Infusions

Maybe your preference is more combos or infusions with other flavors. Make Mine Fine listings have many company products with unique flavors that are perfect to enjoy on Halloween.  

Gift Boxes and Baskets 

Many of our company members offer gift boxes with a variety of chocolates. This type of gift can be shared among family members and friends.

Bake It Yourself!

Why not learn how to bake chocolate at home?  Our company members sell chocolate making equipment and baking kits, as well as online webinars to teach you proper techniques. You can also purchase chocolate making equipment to make from home.


Climate Change and Chocolate

Climate change is impacting agricultural production around the world. Tropical crops such as cacao are particularly sensitive to even small changes in temperature and rainfall. In a recent article, Nick Hines at the Matador Network explains that the majority of cacao trees farms around the world are rainfed. As topical areas become dryer, there is a direct negative impact on cacao production, which in turn harms farmer livelihoods. Cocoa bean quality and flavor is also diminished.

What can be done to protect cocoa and the fragile environments where it grows? 

A man crosses a stream in a cacao grove in Belize
Photo credit: Maya Mountain Cacao, Belize

First of all, FCIA and our company members are committed to addressing these problems. We have partnered with experts to promote stronger environmental stewardship and agroforestry systems on cocoa farms and support farmers by offering better prices for quality cocoa. It is important to read the labels on chocolate you purchase and to visit company websites to learn more about how and where they source cocoa.

Secondly, cocoa researchers from institutes such as the Cocoa Research Center in Trinidad and CATIE in Costa Rica are breeding cocoa through natural means that are more drought tolerant or resistant, while maintaining flavor. This is a much longer term investment, but will help future farmers.

General News

Fine Chocolate in the Era of COVID19

Fine chocolate companies, like other business sectors, have been negatively impacted by COVID19 in 2020.  Prior to the pandemic, craft chocolate makers such as Dandelion Chocolate, Fruition Chocolate Works, French Broad Chocolates, and LetterPress Chocolates were seeing a strong growth in demand. Mark Hamstra, a regular contributor to the Speciality Food Association (SFA), wrote about this in a recent article: Specialty Chocolate Hits a Sweet Spot

Since the pandemic, companies are adapting to changes in the marketplace by offering curbside and online sales.  They continue to innovate by exploring new sourcing prospects, creating more origin-specific bars, and working together to tackle business obstacles.

By purchasing chocolate from these companies, you are not only rewarded with quality chocolate, but you are also helping support small businesses in your community as well as farmers in cocoa producing countries.

For true chocolate enthusiasts, this is an excellent time to try your own hand at making chocolate at home.  Our member companies sell specialized equipment to help you become a chocolate chef in your own home.

General News

Welcome to Make Mine Fine

Two years ago, I was hired as Executive Director of the Fine Chocolate Industry Association (FCIA), the only organization focused 100% on supporting fine chocolate professionals. The 300+ members include fine flavor cocoa growers, chocolate makers, chocolatiers, suppliers of ingredients, packaging and equipment, pastry chefs, educators, marketers, and specialty retailers. FCIA members are dedicated to improving quality cocoa and chocolate products, representing the top tier of the market. They tend to be innovative, creative, and passionate about their products. 

Bill Guyton
FCIA Executive Director Bill Guyton

So, what is fine chocolate? FCIA defines it in terms of flavor, texture and appearance, as well as how its limited ingredients, high cocoa and low sugar content, are sourced and processed. A more complete description and list of our corporate company members can be found on our the FCIA website. In simple terms, if the chocolate has superior flavor, is ethically sourced, and has cocoa listed as the primary ingredient, you are probably eating fine chocolate.  

As part of our COVID-19 response, our association launched Make Mine Fine to showcase our members who offer online sales of fine chocolate and chocolate-making equipment to consumers.  To date, nearly 100 companies are listed on the site and more are being added on a continual basis.

Where does fine cocoa grow? Cocoa quality depends on genetics, terroir, and post-harvest practices such as proper fermentation and drying. The majority of fine cocoa is farmed by small-scale producers in Latin America, 20 degrees north and south of the equator. It is important to note, however, that fine cocoa can also be found in Southeast Asia and parts of Africa. Cocoa farmers typically grow other tree crops and food crops on their landholdings.  We have added a section to Make Mine Fine — Learn About Cocoa — that highlights the unique flavor qualities and history of cocoa in a variety of producing countries.

How is fine cocoa sourced? Fine chocolate companies are committed to sourcing the best quality cocoa and pay premiums to farmers. They also support sustainable farming practices and seek more direct relationships with their supply chain providers.  

In future posts, we will introduce you to some of the farmer groups and companies who are helping to bring you some of the finest chocolate products in the world.